New England Revolution

3 takeaways from the Revolution’s back-and-forth 2-2 draw against the Chicago Fire

"We should have won that game."

Revolution Chicago Fire Draw
Chicago Fire midfielder Alvaro Medran curves a free kick past the Revolution wall, but couldn't beat Matt Turner, who tipped it over the bar. Photo By: Greg M. Cooper

After a scoreless opening half gave way to a four-goal second half, the Revolution finished with a 2-2 draw against Chicago Fire FC on Saturday.

Goals from Wilfrid Kaptoum (his first for New England) and Gustavo Bou both gave the Revolution a lead that appeared safe. But on each occasion, Chicago was able to exploit poor defending from the Eastern Conference leaders and respond with an equalizer.

The home draw in front of more than 28,000 fans at Gillette Stadium, while a disappointing outcome — given the disparity in the two teams’ positions in the standings — is not, as Emmanuel Boateng noted afterward, “a crisis.” The Revolution have already locked up the top playoff spot in the east.

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Still, it means that New England ends the season with two frustrating draws in three games against a 12th placed Chicago team in 2021 (along with a 3-2 win in Chicago on Sept. 22). A strength for Bruce Arena’s team this season has been its ability to avoid consecutive poor performances, something Boateng noted the team is keen to once again display.

“It’s just a bad result and we’ll be better in the next game,” he added.

Here are a few takeaways from an up-and-down night:

A slow start in the first half.

Having not played a game since the 4-1 win over Montreal on Sept. 29, the Revolution eased into the first half against Chicago with a usual share of possession for a home game (60%) but not much to show for it.

And after a few half-chances over the opening half hour, New England was on the backfoot as the visitors managed more than twice as many shots by the time the halftime whistle arrived.

Asked following the game if the long layoff between games (due to the international break) played any role in the slow start on Saturday, Arena simply replied, “No.”

“They played very well, I thought, in the last 15 minutes of the first half,” Arena explained of Chicago’s performance.

Two short-lived leads.

In response to a tentative opening 45 minutes, the second half erupted to life almost immediately.

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First, it was Kaptoum uncorking a perfectly placed low shot into the corner of the goal to give the Revolution the opening goal. The 25-year-old struck his first MLS goal in style, but he barely had time to celebrate before the game was once again tied.

As has happened multiple times to New England during the season, a hard-earned lead is quickly dashed by a loss of focus virtually off of the ensuing kickoff. Moments after the restart, Chicago’s Álvaro Medrán pounced on a cross to the far post, passing the ball past Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner and into the net.

The second round of goals followed suit, albeit on a slightly more drawn out timeline. A beautifully weighted pass from Carles Gil over the top to Bou was capped by an equally exquisite chipped finish from the Argentinian.

But additional chances — which could have created a vital two-goal cushion — weren’t converted by New England, who eventually paid the price for not putting the game away.

On the visitor’s second goal, it was Chicago winger Ignacio Aliseda who found the net, maneuvering to get a shot past both Revolution left back DeJuan Jones and Turner in the net.

The squad rotation continues.

“We should have won that game,” Arena told reporters. “We had chances to get the third goal. We should have been better closing out the game at the end.”

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Of course, New England’s lineup in the final period of the game was not indicative of a team built to hold a one-goal lead. Second half substitutions removed both Kaptoum and Tommy McNamara for more attacking-oriented players in the form of Tajon Buchanan and Boateng.

The outcome of the strategic changes was that Matt Polster became the only true central midfielder on the field. Chicago’s tying goal in the 88th minute came as an indirect result of this. Polster was caught uncharacteristically out of position, and no other central midfielders were around to challenge Brian Gutiérrez, who dribbled unchecked down the middle of the field before finding Aliseda.

Neither Gil nor Boateng (playing as more attacking midfielders located higher up the field than Polster) were in position to break up Gutiérrez’s driving run towards goal.

Despite the result, Arena will likely continue rotating his lineup for several reasons. First, the rotation has been a staple of New England’s strategy all season, and the results speak for themselves. In addition, the approaching playoff picture means that several Revolution players are likely auditioning for postseason minutes.

And, once again, New England faces multiple weeks of midweek games, starting with a matchup against D.C. United on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

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