It’s not how they planned it, but the New England Revolution are in. The club clinched an MLS Cup playoff berth Wednesday night despite also losing 1–0 to the New York Red Bulls.
The Revolution received an assist from Frisco, Texas, almost two hours after the final whistle blew at Red Bull Arena. FC Dallas beat Inter Miami CF, 2–1, a result which mathematically prevents the Revolution from finishing beneath the Eastern Conference’s tenth and final post-season slot.
New England (7–6–8, 29 points) have now reached the playoffs 15 times since launching with Major League Soccer 25 years ago in 1996. Bruce Arena, who took over as head coach and sporting director last spring, has now guided the Revolution to the playoffs in two straight seasons.
On the night they clinched last year, players clinked bottles of Corona and Bud Light and sang songs in the locker room.
It will almost certainly be less peppy this time.
“To be honest, I don’t think we’re going to celebrate it too much,” Revolution midfielder Tommy McNamara said before the Dallas-Miami score was decided.
“I mean, we just lost a game tonight and even if the results go our way and we get into the playoffs that’s well and good but we want to finish as high a seed as possible and not be dropping points before the end of the season, before we go into the playoffs.”
Aaron Long smashes it home in the 89th minute! The Red Bulls needed a win and it looks like Aaron Long just got it for them! Tim Parker on the assist.#RBNYvNE | 1-0 | #MLS pic.twitter.com/olowH6wmUD
— Last Word on Soccer (@LastWordSC) October 29, 2020
Revolution fall short at the final minute
Losing to the Red Bulls dropped New England to seventh place. New England can still improve its seeding with two regular season games remaining, but securing a first round bye by finishing inside the top four seems unlikely.
To accomplish that, New England would have to win both at home against D.C. United on Sunday and away at the Philadelphia Union on Nov. 8, then count on Columbus Crew SC and Orlando City SC losing out and New York City FC and the Red Bulls both dropping points.
“We want to finish as high as possible on the table to put ourselves in the best position possible going into the playoffs,” McNamara added. “On top of that, we want to build some momentum going into it. I think our performances have been pretty well in the past few weeks. But we just haven’t quite been able to figure out how to get three points, whether it’s something defensively or something offensively.”
New England scuffed shots, fired wide repeatedly and connected just one of 21 crosses against New York.
Arena tried to give the Revolution an injection of energy in the 63rd minute by bringing on attacking players Tajon Buchanan, Carles Gil and Lee Nguyen, but the tactical switch never paid off.
#RBNYvNE 📽 pic.twitter.com/9lMSxCaIFl
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) October 29, 2020
Revolution players, Arena not happy with VAR review
The Red Bulls weren’t much better, but withstood the Revolution’s pressure and converted off an 89th minute corner kick.
Tim Parker flicked Alejandro Romero Gamarra’s cross toward the center of the box, where Aaron Long arrived to knock the ball into the net after beating McNamara for position.
Both McNamara and Arena objected to the goal, saying Long fouled McNamara, with Arena taking aim at Video Assisted Review (VAR) after the game.
“Once again, we see, I think, absolutely inefficient use of the VAR,” Arena said. “Our player [McNamara] was fouled on the play. Was it a bad foul? No, but [Long] pushes him aside and scores a goal.
“I don’t understand why we have VAR… I’m very disappointed in that, and I don’t think we should even use VAR. It’s so inefficient, it really is. Anyway, on the night, the kind of game we expected. It was going to go down to the last minute, and it certainly did.”
With their victory and Dallas’ victory, the Red Bulls have also clinched a playoff berth.
The Red Bulls, who also leapfrogged the Revolution in the standings and now sit in sixth place, are unbeaten in 11 regular season games against New England at Red Bull Arena.