New England Revolution

3 takeaways from the Revolution’s 2-1 win over Orlando City

Matt Turner saved yet another penalty kick to help preserve the win.

Matt Turner
Matt Turner saves Nani's penalty kick to help preserve a 2-1 Revolution win over Orlando City. Mark Stockwell/Boston Globe

The Revolution officially set a regular season club record for points with a 2-1 win over Orlando City on Saturday. It takes the team to 19-5-4 on the season, 18 points clear in the Eastern Conference.

Revolution forward Adam Buksa was directly involved in both goals, scoring the opener after just nine minutes on a cross from Gustavo Bou, and forcing an Orlando own goal in the 35th minute as he fought to latch onto a Tajon Buchanan cross.

U.S international Daryl Dike scored Orlando’s lone goal of the night in the 18th minute, but the visitors were unable to make the most of their chances. The turning point of the game arrived in the 73rd minute when Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner saved a penalty kick, preserving the 2-1 lead.

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Strangely, New England won the game despite technically recording only one shot on goal, though the stat belied the Revolution’s quality in the attacking third.

Along with the own goal (which doesn’t count on the statsheet as a shot), Bou rocketed a shot off the crossbar in the 86th minute in what very easily could have been a third for New England.

The Revolution conclude a busy run of four games in 12 days on Wednesday when they travel to Montreal to play the Impact. But when asked in a postgame television interview if he was already thinking about the matchup, Revolution coach Bruce Arena was characteristically nonchalant.

“I’ll start thinking about that after a beer or two tonight.”

Here are a few takeaways from the game:

The Revolution’s ideal starting XI is becoming clearer.

After going more than five months of the season without naming the same starting XI twice, Arena appears to be settling on an ideal lineup.

Just as he did against Columbus in the 1-1 draw on Sept. 18, Arena picked a team that included Turner in goal, a back four of Brandon Bye, Andrew Farrell, Henry Kessler, and DeJuan Jones, a midfield of Buchanan, Matt Polster, Tommy McNamara, and Gil, as well as a forward duo of Bou and Buksa.

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It is, by any measure, a powerful lineup in comparison with New England’s MLS rivals. Curiously, it doesn’t appear to be a group wedded to a single formation, a fact which Arena is happy to point out to reporters whenever he’s asked.

Nominally listed as a 4-3-1-2 (with a midfield diamond), it more closely resembles a 4-2-3-1 in reality, with Polster and McNamara sitting deeper in midfield — especially when out of possession — and Buchanan pushing higher upfield.

There’s a fluidity to the front four, with Gil and Bou especially adept at drifting in and out of different positions on the field. Buchanan has also become increasingly capable at roaming into space, periodically leaving his favored role on the wing to dribble infield.

Arena let the group play together for most of the game, holding off on substitutions until the 84th minute despite the close scoreline. Asked earlier in September if — given the team’s depth — the concept of a “Best XI” might not matter, Arena offered an interesting response.

“It matters, but it can change on a weekly basis depending on players coming back that have been injured or the form of other players,” the Revolution head coach explained. “It’s evolving and that’s probably why we’re able to rotate our team as well. We won’t worry about what we think our best 11 is until we get into the playoffs.”

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Given the continuity in lineups in two of the tougher recent games against Columbus and Orlando, it’s fair to say that this group might be Arena’s early guess at what his playoff lineup may look like.

Matt Turner does it again.

For the third time in his career — including a pivotal moment in the 2020 MLS Cup playoffs — Turner saved a penalty kick taken by legendary Portuguese winger Nani.

After Farrell clipped Dike in the box in the 73rd minute, Orlando was handed a golden opportunity to grab an equalizer. The 34-year-old Nani is usually one of the more reliable players in the league from the penalty spot, utilizing the technique that once made him a starter at Manchester United.

But Turner was alert when Nani tried to fool him and shoot the ball down the middle. Though he began his dive to the goalkeeper’s right, Turner was able to halt well enough to get a hand to the ball and deflect it over the net.

In what has become almost routine, Turner’s penalty kick save proved to be the difference on the night.

It was fitting that on the game’s final act (an Orlando corner kick) it was Turner who leapt forward to claim the cross and end the threat.

The dominance at Gillette Stadium continues.

Despite the conspicuous presence of football lines on the field (ahead of Sunday’s 1 p.m. Patriots kickoff), the Revolution found yet another winning performance at home.

New England is 11-1-2 at Gillette Stadium so far in 2021, a vast improvement on the team’s underwhelming 2-3-5 mark in 2020. The uptick can be attributed to a number of factors (including the return of fans), but the result has been most noticeable in front of goal.

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In 2020, the Revolution were held scoreless at home five times. This year, even with more games on the schedule, New England has only been held without a home goal once (in an August 0-0 draw against Nashville).

The pronounced home-field advantage adds stakes to the remaining games. If Arena’s team can secure a top playoff seed (and the Supporters’ Shield trophy for best record in MLS), it would mean home games throughout the playoffs, including — if they can get there — MLS Cup.

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