FOXBOROUGH—In a Saturday night match with important playoff implications, costly mistakes led to the downfall of the New England Revolution.
The Philadelphia Union came out on top 3-2 at Gillette Stadium after capitalizing on two early mistakes by the Revolution in the first half. Philadelphia entered the game only two points behind the Revolution, who occupied the sixth and final playoff spot.
The game’s opening goal came from a set piece—a common theme in recent Revolution games—in the 14th minute. Cory Burke hit the post from close range and Matt Turner saved a follow-up shot, sending the ball went out for a Union corner. Philadelphia went short on the corner and a Harris Medunjanin cross found the foot of Jack Elliot, who beat his man to slot the opening goal past Turner for his first goal of the season.
Head coach Brad Friedel emphasized that taking care of set pieces was something that needed improvement going forward.
“It’s the ugly side of the game,” Friedel said. “It’s the side of the game that not one fan will remember unless you miss your assignment. Nobody will ever go home in the car saying ‘I thought so and so defended set pieces well’. It’s not what people look at but it’s a part of the game that is very important and has been with us in recent times.”
Brandon Bye said after dropping points last week against Orlando due to set pieces, it was frustrating to be undone by them again Saturday.
“It was frustrating absolutely, we focused on it during the week but we just weren’t good enough on the night,” Bye said. “Being part of the back four, it’s just not good enough from all of us and obviously, the result shows that.”
Elliot later doubled his goal tally in the 25th minute with an empty net tap in off of an unlucky bounce for New England. Fabrice-Jean Picault took a shot from outside the box which nailed the post and ricocheted off the back of Turner. The rebound bounced straight to an unmarked Elliot who slotted the ball into the back of the net.
After a lackluster offensive performance in the first half, the Revolution came out firing to start the second half.
Andrew Farrell put New England on the scoresheet with a rocket shot from outside the box in the 46th minute to make the score 2-1. Cristian Penilla fed Farrell the ball and he fired it passed Andre Blake thanks to a deflection off of Auston Trusty. Farrell nearly added a second goal in the 58th minute as he sent a Penilla rebound just over the bar.
New England equalized in the 64th minute thanks to a header by Wilfried Zahibo off of a set piece. Luis Caicedo drew a foul just outside the box which resulted in a yellow card for Picault. Diego Fagundez delivered the free-kick straight into the box and Zahibo rose above his man to head the ball home and make it 2-2.
While the Revolution certainly got off to a better start in the second half, Friedel said it was not much different than the first.
“The only difference from the first half to the second half was that we got the break and we got the goal,” Friedel said. “The first half we were fine. We conceded on two set pieces and gave [Alejandro] Bedoya another chance. If we score one of our chances in the early going then it looks like a great first half.”
In the end, the Revolution’s hot start came to a grinding halt in the 75th minute. After a strong Turner save on Picault, Antonio Delamea committed a handball off of the corner to give the Union a penalty. Picault stepped up and slotted the eventual winning goal past Turner to give the Union a 3-2 lead in the 76th minute.
Although the Revolution are winless in their last six matches, Friedel said the team has been quality all season and are not far off of a return to form.
“It really has been only one game this season whereby midway through the second half we were out of it and that was Montreal away,” Friedel said. “Every other game we could have or should have won. We’re not far off being a very good team and we have to keep working, pay attention to details and that’s where we’re at.”
With Saturday’s defeat, the Revolution are now out of a playoff spot and sit seventh place with 29 points and a 7-8-8 record. In their next game, New England travels to Washington DC to face off against Wayne Rooney and DC United at their brand new stadium Audi Field on Sunday, Aug. 19. Kick off is set for 7:30 p.m.