New England stuns Philadelphia in conference quarterfinal

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By José Ríos

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The No. 8 New England Revolution defeated the No. 1 Philadelphia Union 2-0 win in Round One of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs on Tuesday at Subaru Park in Philadelphia to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinal.

After defeating the Montreal Impact in the play-in round on Friday, Nov. 20 thanks to a dramatic late winner from forward Gustavo Bou, the Revs were matched up with Philadelphia for the fifth time this season. New England looked to be facing an uphill battle against the Supporters’ Shield winners, who it had not beaten this season and lost 2-0 to in the final game of the regular season on Sunday, Nov. 8. However, it was clear from kickoff that the pressure was on the hosts to come up with something special as New England stole the show. 

The game started off with a terribly missed chance from Philadelphia in the fourth minute. After a good link up play, midfielder Brenden Aaronson played the ball to midfielder Jamiro Monteiro in the box who skyrocketed his shot over the goal. 

New England’s attacking trio of Adam Buksa, Carles Gil, and Gustavo Bou showed its efficiency once again as two of the three players combined for the first goal. In the 26th minute, Gil perfectly placed a free kick to Buksa who headed the ball past Union goalkeeper Andre Blake to take the lead. 

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The Revs kept the momentum gained from Buksa’s goal to score again just four minutes later. Forward Tajon Buchanan received the ball from Gil, drove into the box, dribbled past defender Kai Wagner, and slotted the ball past Blake to double New England’s lead in the 30th minute.

The game slowed down until the 51st minute when Gil almost scored a third goal for New England. The captain received the ball on the edge of the box and chipped Blake but was denied by the crossbar. 

Philadelphia eventually picked up the pace to go forward and try to tie the score. In the 63rd minute, in a play nearly identical to New England’s opener, Monteiro placed the ball in the box for striker Kacper Przybyłko but Revs goalkeeper Matt Turner secured it quickly and comfortably. 

This was Philadelphia’s only threatening chance on goal in the second half, and New England went on to upset the No. 1 team in MLS. 

Despite the loss, Philadelphia maintained 59 percent of possession and outshot New England 15 to 11—both teams had four shots on target. The Revs, however, were more dangerous in the attack, which resulted in their two goal performance.

This is a great improvement from New England’s previous performances against Philadelphia, where the team was unable to find its rhythm going forward. It also shows the quality and the improvement that the Revs’ three Designated Players—Buksa, Gil, and Bou—bring to the team when fully fit. Although Bou wasn’t involved in any goals this game, Buksa was on the scoresheet once again, and Gil’s ability to distribute and read the game was on display as he contributed two assists. 

This form up top will be essential as New England faces off against No. 4 Orlando City SC in the conference semifinal. Orlando City is coming off of an extremely tough 1-1 (6-5) penalty shootout win against New York City FC last Saturday. Orlando only recorded three shots on goal, and their only goal came from Nani’s penalty kick in the fifth minute. The equalizer for NYCFC came merely three minutes later. If it wasn’t for goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, who put in an extremely solid performance, Orlando would be out of the playoffs. 

Gallese, however, will not suit up against New England as he serves a suspension due to receiving a second yellow card and subsequent red card for coming off of his line before the ball was kicked in last match’s penalty shootout. Center back Rodrigo Schlegel filled in for him on the final penalty and made one of the most memorable saves in MLS history to win the game. Backup keeper Brian Rowe, who was not allowed to be substituted onto the field following Gallese’s ejection, will start against the Revs. 

The loss of Gallese may prove to be detrimental if Orlando plays the same way it did against NYCFC. New England must exploit this clear weakness in Orlando’s squad in order to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they would play the winner of No. 3 Columbus Crew SC and No. 7 Nashville SC. 

With Bruce Arena’s coaching and their Designated Player trio in form, the Revs have impressed this postseason and may be considered contenders to win the Eastern Conference and possibly their first ever MLS title if they can manage to defeat Orlando tomorrow. 

Kickoff is Sunday, Nov. 28 at 3:00 p.m. at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Fla.