Last-minute goal keeps New England alive in playoffs

By José Ríos

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After a shaky end to the regular season, the New England Revolution advanced to the Eastern Conference quarterfinals of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs following a last-minute goal sent them 2-1 past Montreal Impact on Friday.

Friday’s game saw a return to full health and rhythm for New England. The Revs didn’t have the prettiest ending to the regular season after struggling to successfully adjust two of their Designated Players, Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil, back into the lineup against the Philadelphia Union after recovering from injuries. Both were out of rhythm and did not play the full 90 minutes against the Union in the season closer, but it was a different story Friday night.

New England looked promising straight from kickoff, driving forward trying to take an early lead. Forward Adam Buksa nearly found the back of the net off of a corner in the tenth minute, but his header hit the crossbar and bounced out. The Revs continued to attack throughout the half, forcing Montreal’s Goalkeeper Clément Diop to make two good saves. Their relentless attacking paid off in the 37th minute  when Bou chipped the ball in from the edge of the box to Gil who volleyed it into the bottom right corner to take a 1-0 lead. 

The game slowed down until Montreal equalized in the 60th minute Amar Sejdic played a perfectly-executed free kick into the edge of the six yard box which was headed into the path of forward Romell Quioto, who buried it into the left side of New England goalkeeper Matt Turner’s goal.

New England showed a desire to score and advance to the next round as the match entered its dying minutes, constantly moving up the field and peppering Montreal with shot after shot. The game seemed to be going to overtime until DeJuan Jones played the ball to Bou, who smashed home a shot from outside the box past Diop in the 95th minute to win the game 2-1 for the Revs. The last-minute goal was the nail in the coffin for Montreal’s season, and New England stayed alive for at least one more week. 

The game in Foxborough showed a side of New England that was non-existent in the previous game against Philadelphia two weeks ago. The Revs dominated every aspect of the game, recording 66 percent of possession, nine shots on goal Montreal’s five, 25 shots in total opposed to Montreal’s nine, and 579 passes—273 more than the opposition. 

Another positive for New England was that Buksa, Gil, and Bou finally combined to provide fans with individual performances they are used to. All three were crucial going forward as Buksa was a constant threat, captain Gil opened the scoring, and Bou—who put in the best performance—assisted Gil and scored the late winner. This chemistry will be extremely beneficial as the team moves forward. 

New England now faces the Philadelphia Union in the next round in a rematch of the season closer. This will be the fourth time these teams meet this season, and Philadelphia has won two out of the last three games—one being a draw. Despite a negative record against the current Supporter’s Shield holders, New England may have just now gotten back into the rhythm needed to defeat the first-place Union. 

The last game against Philadelphia was uninspiring and left many asking whether New England would be able to beat Montreal. Those questions were answered, but there is still plenty to fix moving into the quarterfinal. The Revs are in a better position now and their attacking trio is working well, but playing against Philadelphia is a whole different game. 

If New England wishes to shock the league and defeat Philadelphia in order to advance to the semifinals, its defense has to perform just as well as its offense. You can score as many goals as you want, but  you won’t win if you concede just as many goals. This defense, which has been shaky at times this season, must be up to task. 

Kick off is Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 8:00 p.m. at Subaru Park in Philadelphia.