CHESTER, PA. – The New England Revolution upsets the top seed as they advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. It took a 2–0 victory against its longtime boogeyman, the Philadelphia Union, at Subaru Park on Tuesday night.
New England Revolution upsets Philadelphia Union, moves on in playoffs
In what is the defining upset so far in the MLS Cup Playoffs, the Revolution managed to knock out the Union, who entered Tuesday with a perfect 9–0–0 record in home games this year and had the league’s best defensive and overall points records during the regular season.
The Union were also prohibitive favorites because of their recent success against New England. Prior to Tuesday, Philadelphia had gone 10 straight competitive games — including five this calendar year — without a loss to the Revolution, a run that dated back to July 2017.
That streak is over and the Revolution will now take on Orlando City SC next Sunday for a chance to play in the Eastern Conference final.
“I think competing against [Philadelphia] all season has been tough because they’ve definitely had a better hand on us, but in the playoffs it doesn’t matter what seed you are,” said Revolution winger Tajon Buchanan, who scored the team’s second goal Tuesday night.
“These games are do or die. Today we won the bigger game.”
Revolution take two-goal lead and don’t look back
Only for a little while did Union look like they’d offer New England more of the same.
Brenden Aaronson cut down the right flank in the fifth minute and found Jamiro Monteiro free in the box for a clean look on goal, but Monteiro sent his shot whistling over the bar.
That was pretty much it from Philadelphia’s attack, which produced a series of first half giveaways that doomed the team in possession and struggled to get behind New England’s back line after the visitors established their two-goal lead.
New England’s first goal arrived in the 26th minute. Carles Gil sent a freekick from just outside box hurtling into the area with his left foot. Adam Buksa rose above his marker to meet the cross, then headed powerfully past an outstretched Andre Blake, who was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year last week.
The Revolution put the nail in the proverbial coffin four minutes later. This time Gil orchestrated a goal by feeding a lethal pass to Buchanan off a counter-attack. Buchanan ran onto the feed, then zipped by Union defender Kai Wagner on the right side of the box before tucking a shot past Blake and inside the far post.
“I think the second goal broke their spirit,” Revolution head coach/sporting director Bruce Arena said. “Obviously both goals are important.
“We knew they were going to fight all 90 minutes. We had to make it ugly in the second half, but we managed to do that and got the clean sheet.”
Don’t call New England underdogs
The “ugly” Arena referred to was a fierce and physical midfield battle that featured plenty of clashes, arguments, and screams from both sidelines.
Gil provided a rare piece of respite when his neat chip from outside the area clanged off the crossbar in the 52nd minute.
From there, New England dropped back most of its players and held on to defend. Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin tried to break the Revolution’s shell with a series of substitutions — first by bringing on Ilsinho at halftime and later adding Cory Burke and Anthony Fontana — but no breakthrough came.
“Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler were rock solid,” said Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner of New England’s center backs. “I’ve worked a lot harder for clean sheets, let’s just put it that way.”
The Revolution, which entered the post-season as the eight-seed in the Eastern Conference, cleared a significant hurdle by knocking out their longtime nemesis, which also happened to be the best team in the league during the regular season.
Now the club’s attention turns to its visit Sunday in Orlando, where it has never won a competitive game. That said, Arena wants no part of his team being called underdogs, even if some of his players are relishing being given that status.
“I never heard that word spoken once in the last five days, and I don’t think those kinds of comments motivate athletes at the professional level,” Arena said. “We knew what kind of game this was, we knew the strengths and weaknesses or our opponent, and I know what we’re capable of: We went into this game knowing we could win, and we did.
“Obviously it’s a very good performance against a team that had a great regular season…that was undefeated here in their home stadium. It’s a tremendous win. Now we somehow have to recover and get the team ready to play Sunday.”