In the Revolution’s last two MLS home games, the team couldn’t quite hold onto a late lead and had to settle for a draw.
The second of these two games played out at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday night against the Philadelphia Union. After taking a 1-0 first half lead, New England surrendered an 84th minute goal as the game finished 1-1.
The Revolution remain second to last in the Eastern Conference, but have undoubtedly improved under head coach Bruce Arena. The draw, after all, is a far better outcome than the 6-1 loss that New England suffered in its visit to Philadelphia (currently first place in the Eastern Conference) in May under previous head coach Brad Friedel.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
1. Progress, but no ‘parade’ yet.
The big picture is that the Revolution went toe-to-toe with the best opponent in their conference and were minutes away from a win.
New England now enters one of its busiest stretches of the season, with six games over the next month, including another home match on Saturday against Houston. For Arena, the team’s performance has been a sign of progress, but he knows that work remains.
When reminded that he hasn’t lost a league match in charge of the Revolution, Arena quipped, “I’ve only been in two of them, it’s not like we’re going to have a parade here.”
Still, as a veteran of numerous MLS seasons, Arena knows that the meaningful games start now.
“We’re officially in the second half of the season,” Arena said. “In MLS, the second half of the season is the season, so often. So, we have 17 games ahead of us. If we perform somewhat like we’ve performed over the last, I don’t know, five games of the league, we have a chance to make the playoffs.
“The way the team has played over the last month would suggest that there’s a chance we can get after it and have an opportunity to move up the ladder.”
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) June 27, 2019
2. The team’s end-of-game performance is still lacking.
While the Revolution’s defensive positioning appeared to be better on Wednesday night, issues still developed at the back during the second half as New England tried with increasing desperation to protect its 1-0 lead.
The team has yet to find a consistent group to start on defense, and the exploration looks to continue. After the Union subbed on attackers Fafà Picault and Ilsinho during the second half, the visitors looked increasingly threatening. Philadelphia found its equalizer after Picault darted from an inside position to the right wing and crossed back to the middle.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) June 27, 2019
Arena identified more than just the backline as being at fault.
“You like to believe that you can close the game out and walk off the field with three points,” Arena said in the postgame press conference. “But give Philadelphia credit. They pushed hard in the second half. I thought they got through the midfield too easy, and put our back line under pressure too often.”
On the other side, the Revolution are still yet to score a goal in the final 15 minutes of any league game this season. This has proven doubly costly as both of the home draws (to D.C. United on May 25 and the Union on Wednesday) happened after New England conceded late goals.
3. Teal Bunbury showed his work rate.
One notable contribution came from forward Teal Bunbury. Though his one league goal in 2019 is difficult to overlook, his versatility and work rate were on display Wednesday.
After looking lively in the first half as a center forward, Bunbury was asked to move to the left side to help track Union substitute Ilsinho. He energetically carried out his task, sprinting back to recover possession in his team’s own half in one example during the 83rd minute.
Of course, it was only a minute later that Philadelphia equalized. And as helpful as Bunbury’s versatility can be, Arena needs him to find the goal-scoring form that he briefly rediscovered during the team’s U.S. Open Cup win over the Red Bulls earlier in June.
With Arena openly acknowledging during a Thursday radio interview that the team is looking to acquire new players, the current roster remains in a mindset of auditioning for their own jobs.
“In all honesty, I still don’t know a lot of these players,” Arena said when asked about winger Cristian Penilla.
With a busy schedule of games coming up, Bunbury and the rest of the team will have a chance to show him.
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) June 26, 2019