Last night’s match was far from what most Revs fans expected, I believe. The Revolution welcomed Toronto FC to Gillette Stadium, with the club having just suffered a 7-1 defeat to D.C. United. Following the sacking of former manager Chris Armas this season, interim manager Javier Perez has been tasked with righting the ship for the last-placed team in Major League Soccer. On the other hand, aside from a loss to FC Dallas, the Revolution have been rolling as of late and were looking to remain undefeated at home this season. With Matt Turner and Tajon Buchanan on international duty for the Gold Cup with the United States and Canada, respectively, head coach Bruce Arena was faced with the task of filling the vacancies left by the two. Brad Knighton, the longtime backup, slotted in goal. Teal Bunbury earned a start after some solid play off the bench in recent weeks.
Rolling out a 4-4-2 formation, one that the squad had only utilized once before this season (A 2-0 loss to Nashville on May 8th), it’s safe to say most, including myself, were skeptical of the decision. With an hour-long delay due to lightning and severe rainstorms in the area just before kick-off was scheduled to start, fans at Gillette Stadium retreated to find cover either under the concourses or in their vehicles. With the weather clearing up just before 8 PM, the match was able to kick off at 8:32 to a still fairly well filled Gillette Stadium.
The Revs came out unnaturally slow it seemed, failing to connect on simple passes and miscommunicating amongst their own teammates. It would inevitably be that same miscommunication that put the Revs at a significant disadvantage early on. After Toronto sent in a through ball that seemed to die down just before reaching Brad Knighton’s 18-yard-box, Venezuelan DP Yeferson Soteldo ran in front of the Revs keeper, nicking the ball around him, and putting home an easy opening goal for Toronto amidst a sea of boos from the Revolution supporters.
The goal was Soteldo’s first MLS goal, having only been signed by Toronto this past April. Upset from the error, fans at the stadium let out a hearty, and sarcastic cheer when Knighton was able to pick up a slow roller aimed at his goal following the initial concession. The Revs looked to change the flow of the match, pressing higher into Toronto’s half of the field in an attempt to pin them from the first whistle following the goal. While the tactic seemed to work for a few minutes, that chain was broken when Alejandro Pozuelo sprang Kemar Lawrence in on goal, before the Jamaican international rifled a shot short-side, over Knighton’s right shoulder. Only 15 minutes into the match, the Revolution found themselves down 2-0 to statistically the worst team in the league, but it can’t get much worse than that, can it? Oh boy, it sure can.
Almost immediately after Lawrence’s goal with play restarted, Alejandro Pozuelo continued his dominance on the field, sending a shot from distance directly at Knighton, who was able to control and handle the ball calmly. Fans again jeered the keeper with a round of sardonic “oo’s” and “aa’s”, before jumpstarting another Revs attack.
The Revolution finally managed to cause some trouble on Toronto’s end of the pitch, as Gustavo Bou sent in a looping ball into space in the box. Adam Buksa, who was starting his first match since May 29th, was able to get on the end of the ball but was only able to direct his header into the waiting hands of Alex Bono.
About two minutes after Buksa’s opportunity, Japanese forward Tsubasa Endoh got a hold of the ball on the edge of the 18’, and after shaking off DeJuan Jones, curled home a bending strike to extend Toronto’s lead to 3 now, with less than 25 minutes played. Ayo Akinola, Toronto’s diamond in the rough, nearly turned that three into a four, when in the 32nd minute the TFC Academy product got in close and sent a shot straight at Brad Knighton’s mitts before Andrew Farrell was able to clear.
The Revs returned to their high press after shying away early on, though this time their possession was far more controlled and concise, with much quicker and well-thought-out decision making.
Again, it was Adam Buksa who would find himself in a prime scoring position only a minute after Akinola’s chance. Carles Gil sent in a heat-seeking ball to the penalty spot, where a dashing Adam Buksa rose up to pound his headed effort off of the crossbar and out, agonizingly close to stopping the bleeding Toronto had been perpetuating for the prior 35 minutes. Gustavo Bou looked to do what Buksa couldn’t, as he found himself in space in the box before his own shot would ricochet off of the corner of the post and out of play, denying the Revs yet again.
As the time remaining in the first half continued to dwindle, the high press proved to be working, with the ball staying in Toronto’s half for nearly the entire remainder of the match. Brandon Bye found the ball, completely uncovered about 12 yards from the goal, but his strike flew over the crossbar and into the seats. Carles Gil would set Gustavo Bou up only moments later, just to have his shot pushed wide by an anticipating Bono.
Finally, the halftime whistle blew after an apocalyptic 45 minutes of play, with every fan in the building sharing the same dejected, confused emotions. I personally can’t speak for what happened in the home locker room during the break, but I can imagine Bruce Arena wasn’t using his inside voice, that’s for sure.
Heading onto the pitch to start the second half, the goal was clear for the Revs, don’t let Toronto win this match. Only 10 minutes into the half, and they were able to win a free-kick in a dangerous attacking position. With Carles Gil standing to the side of the ball, it seemed as if Gustavo Bou, who was lined up behind the spot, was slated to take the kick. After the whistle blew, Gil stepped forward before sending a perfectly placed, curving strike into the back of the net, firing up the Gillette Stadium crowd, before jumping and calling for the fans to get into it along the sideline.
Old friend Yeferson Solteldo looked to stifle any charge from the opposing end right away though, charging into the box and finding Alejandro Pozuelo in space, but his shot was batted down and cleared by Brad Knighton.
Looking to spark a comeback, the Revs opted to bring on Ema Boateng and Arnor Ingvi Traustason with half an hour to go, completely altering the attacking dynamic. Boateng’s blistering pace caused trouble for TFC very early into his showing, running around defenders and sending balls into dangerous areas. Those testing balls soon became statistics, when his cross in the 78th minute met the head of Adam Buksa who was finally able to pot home a goal, his first since he last started in May, a game-winner vs FC Cincinnati. Directly after the goal, a scrum ensued with Gustavo Bou forcing Alex Bono into the back of his goal, as the keeper refused to return the ball to the field of play, indicative of the shameful time-wasting tactics employed by the team, including a faked injury and dramatic exit across the pitch from Ayo Akinola towards the end of the match.
The Revolution continued their high press late into their 6 minutes of stoppage time, again and again just failing to make that one final pass or gather that one clean touch. Then, in the 94th minute, Adam Buksa got a golden opportunity to recover a point for New England, sliding through the d-line and receiving a ball that luckily found its way through the crowd, just to have his shot denied by the outstretched foot of Alex Bono at point-blank range. The team couldn’t find any offense after Buksa’s miss, and the match ended, a 3-2 victory for Toronto, and the Revolution’s first loss at home this year.
- Carles Gil. That’s the tweet. This guy isn’t from planet Earth. His ability on the ball is truly second to none, but in order for Carles to perform at his best, his teammates need to do a better job of giving him options and getting open for him. On countless possessions, Gil progressed up the field, just to be encased and surrounded by 3 opponents, with no ready passing options nearby. Oh, and yeah, his free-kick was sublime, if he doesn’t win the MVP I’ll be shocked.
- Adam Buksa’s inability to finish in close, or anywhere that isn’t off of a cross it seems, really should raise red flags within the organization, as this issue has now gone as far to endanger our ability to score goals when necessary, from the one position we expect it from the most. While his goal late was a great play, the three other misses Buksa had this game are unacceptable, and at least one of those three has to find the back of the net. Until then, starting Gustavo Bou as the striker has to be the course of action, as it has worked well this entire season.
- DeJuan Jones, Matt Polster, and Teal Bunbury all had uncharacteristically quiet nights, whether it was an inability to control, pass, or defend the ball, these three guys in particular all seemed to be just a step behind the remainder of their teammates during the match. Though excluding Bunbury, the other two aren’t usually on any stat sheets, their impact is usually felt in the midfield and in the flow of the game, though that influence was nonexistent.
- Brad Knighton had an incredibly shaky game, so much so that Bruce Arena said postgame when speaking about Knighton’s game, “Mediocre, to be honest with you. Nothing special. He’s an experienced goalkeeper. We shouldn’t be conceding that first goal.”. Though Earl Edwards Jr. is waiting in the wings, I don’t see Brad losing his back-up role so readily after one bad game, though there’s certainly a chance for Edwards to make his MLS debut in this short Gold Cup window.
- I’ve upgraded my level of concern over Andrew Farrell’s play lately, as his pace and ability with the ball at his feet have started to show early signs of regression, though it could always just be a funk he’s in. Either way, I see absolutely no harm in giving Jon Bell some minutes in the near future, whether it’s in place of Kessler or Farrell in order to add some pace to the back line.
The Revolution will travel to Georgia for their next match on July 17th, where they’ll be taking on Atlanta United FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with kickoff set for 5 PM.
Photo: (David Silverman/New England Revolution)
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