FOXBOROUGH — Of all the odd occurrences of recent months, the Revolution’s home-field paradox ranks among the most puzzling. The Revolution dropped a 2-1 decision to the Philadelphia Union Monday night, but remained in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, despite their second successive loss at Gillette Stadium.
The Revolution (7-5-7, 28 points), who visit Nashville SC Friday, have four games remaining in the season, one at home, where they have a 1-3-5 mark. The Union (11-3-5, 38 points) have not lost to the Revolution since 2017.
The Union opened the scoring on a first-half own goal, then extended the lead on Anthony Fontana’s 69th-minute score. Fontana chipped over Matt Turner from close range off a Jamiro Monteiro feed, a finish similar to one of his goals in a 2-1 win the last time the teams met. Fontana, 20, has scored four of his seven career goals against the Revolution.
Tajon Buchanan scored for the Revolution, running to the edge of the penalty area, then sending a shot off the underside of the bar in the 81st minute. Two minutes later, Buchanan appeared to equalize, but was ruled offside as he finished a Teal Bunbury cross. The Revolution had chances to even the score, but Andre Blake made a flying save off a Lee Nguyen free kick (85th) and Nguyen fired high from close range in added time.
The Revolution controlled possession and were raining crosses into the penalty area for most of the early part of the game. Then, the Union upped the intensity, setting a physical tone. The Union floored Scott Caldwell twice within seconds, the first of four fouls in a two-minute span. That seemed to defuse the Revolution attack, and the Union capitalized. Kacper Przybylko took a throw-in and found Kai Wagner, whose low cross from the left side of the penalty area was redirected just inside the near post and off Turner’s right hand for an own goal by Andrew Farrell in the 34th minute.
“The own goal was obviously a big play in the game,” Revolution sporting director/head coach Bruce Arena said. “It makes us chase the game. I thought in the second half we played well. On the whole, we should walk off the field with more than one goal tonight. I think the difference in the game was Blake. The Bunbury header [65th minute] and Lee Nguyen’s free kick — those are two outstanding saves. That would’ve got us a point in the game.”
Observations from Monday night’s game:
· The Revolution appear capable of finishing among the top six, the reward a first-round playoff bye. There is less likelihood of advancing to the top four, which would set up a first-round home match, but that might not hurt the Revolution’s postseason chances since they have compiled a 6-2-2 mark away from home this season. Incidentally, a Revolution victory in their final home game, against D.C. United Nov. 1, would give them 11 points in 10 games (1.10 per game), allowing them to avoid setting a team record for futility. The 2011 Revolution finished 4-7-6 (18 points, 1.06 per game) at home. “Unfortunately, I feel like it’s not where we want to be at home,” Nguyen said. “We want to right that wrong before the postseason.
· If this was a playoff preview, among the Revolution’s reasons to feel encouraged would be that odds favor them eventually winning the matchup. But the Union have had the Revolution’s number, compiling a 7-0-2 record since 2017. The Union have a 3-0-1 record in the series this season, and the teams will conclude the regular season at Philadelphia Nov. 8.
“I think we’ve shown that we can go toe to toe with some of the best teams in the league so far,” Nguyen said. “This was a taste of what the postseason is going to be. I think this is good for us to see what we need to work on to improve and how close we are. It was a good test, for sure.”
· Arena has taken steps to strengthen the midfield, and the Revolution have mostly controlled possession. But the Revolution appear vulnerable against hard-charging, physical foes. With Alejandro Bedoya out (suspended), the Union improvised in midfield, adding a strong presence with central defender Jack Elliott. The Revolution threatened with crosses, but the Union central defenders, along with the 6-foot-5-inch Elliott, are difficult to overcome in the air. Then there is Blake, a Jamaica national teamer and former UConn star who is among the region’s best at reaction saves. Referee Rubiel Vazquez allowed some rough play, which also could be a preview of how playoff games will be called, but could have issued a second caution to Monteiro for a late trip on Matt Polster. “You don’t need me to analyze the referee,” Arena said. “I think anybody who watched the game could make an assessment on that.”
· There were eerie similarities to the teams’ last meeting, when Fontana scored by chipping Turner off a back post run and Buchanan converted his first professional goal in the 81st minute. When the Revolution lost, 1-0, to the Union in the MLS Is Back tournament in Orlando in July, they concluded the match on the offensive, but were denied a chance to attempt a final corner kick, Arena disputing the decision and receiving a three-match suspension. In the first game following the tournament, the teams played to a 0-0 tie Aug. 20. Said Nguyen: “The first goal they scored is an own goal — that’s unlucky for us. Second goal, we’ve got to do a little bit better not to let [Fontana] get so open. But he did a great finish to get the ball over Matt there. Other than that, I feel like we controlled most of the game.”
· The Revolution match up well with most teams, but need their difference-makers — Gustavo Bou (undisclosed injury) and Carles Gil (Achilles’) — should they qualify for the postseason. Bou “is getting better,” Arena said. “He’ll be back soon.”
REVOLUTION: Matt Turner; DeJuan Jones, Andrew Farrell, Henry Kessler, Alexander Buttner; Tajon Buchanan, Tommy McNamara (Diego Fagundez 59th), Scott Caldwell (Matt Polster 60th), Lee Nguyen, Teal Bunbury; Adam Buksa.
PHILADELPHIA: Andre Blake; Ray Gaddis, Jakob Glesnes, Mark McKenzie, Kai Wagner (Matt Real 89th); Brenden Aaronson, Jack Elliott, Jamiro Monteiro, Anthony Fontana (Andrew Wooten 78th); Kacper Przybylko (Corey Burke 77th), Sergio Santos (Ilsinho 60th).
Referee: Rubiel Vazquez.
Goals: OG (Farrell) 34th, Fontana 69th, Buchanan 81st.
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