ORLANDO, Fla. – Matt Turner had done his homework.
All that was left was to trust his instinct, pick his direction, and follow through with his dive.
Orlando City SC’s Nani stood directly in front him at the penalty marker. The Portuguese winger shot, and immediately Turner dropped hard to his right, stretched out both arms, and parried the drive out to keep the New England Revolution up in Sunday’s Eastern Conference Semifinals. In the end, the New England Revolution advance to the Eastern Conference Final in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
New England Revolution advance to Conference Final, beat Orlando City
“Just doing the homework,” Turner said of his save against the illustrious Nani. “It’s doing your due diligence beforehand, knowing a shooter’s tendencies, knowing how long to wait, or if there’s a tell-tale sign of where he’s going. When I made the save, it felt really nice.”
Turner’s teammates rushed him twice in celebration Sunday. The first time was to acknowledge his critical stop in the 74th minute. The second time came after the final whistle, following his first post-game media interview, to celebrate the Revolution having advanced to the Eastern Conference Final thanks in part to his heroics.
Turner’s save from the penalty spot — the second of his career — was a decisive blow to Orlando in a 3–1 win for the Revolution, who took a winless, 0–2–4 record to Exploria Stadium on Sunday.
Carles Gil, Gustavo Bou provide goals for Revolution
Carles Gil converted a penalty of his own (17th) to open the scoring for New England. Gustavo Bou made it 2–0 by finishing off a 26th minute counter-attack, then iced the game with his second goal (87th) after Orlando’s Junior Urso cut the deficit (33rd) and Turner’s save on Nani’s spot kick.
Now the Revolution are headed for the Eastern Conference Final for the eighth time in franchise history. They’ll visit either Columbus Crew SC or Nashville SC next Sunday for a chance to play in MLS Cup, which they’ve never won.
“It wasn’t pretty, we had to work really hard against a real good team we played today,” said Revolution head coach/sporting director Bruce Arena. “Maybe the best team we’ve faced this year.
“Obviously the big play in the game was Matt Turner saving the penalty kick, but our guys hung in and had to battle in the second half. [Orlando] had more of the ball for a majority of the game, but they didn’t create too many chances.”
Tempers flared as referee Alex Chilowicz awarded two penalties, cautioned six players on 30 fouls, and ejected Mauricio Pereyra for a studs-up tackle on Matt Polster’s calf.
Arena: ‘Orlando lost their cool’
Arena said his team showed discipline by maintaining composure, even at times when Orlando controlled the game or badgered Chilowicz about his calls.
“Orlando was very aggressive in terms of expressing opinions of the officiating,” Arena added. “They lost their cool.”
New England found success early via Tajon Buchanan and Carles Gil.
Orlando’s Uri Rossell knocked Buchanan down in the box in the 15th minute, prompting Chilowicz to award a penalty. Carles Gil fired down the middle to beat goalkeeper Brian Rowe, in for starter Pedro Gallese (suspension), to make it 1–0.
Nine minutes later, Buchanan stripped Nani of possession in New England’s end near the near sideline. This started Buchanan on a long, 80-yard run which culminated in the Revolution’s second goal.
Buchanan first played Carles Gil in midfield before continuing his run into the right side of the box. Carles Gil then played Buchanan in the area, who squared the ball for Adam Buksa. Buksa hit the post, but Bou arrived to slam in the rebound with Rowe out of position.
Orlando rally for comeback down to 10 men
Orlando cut New England’s lead in half in the 34th minute as Junior Urso blasted into the back of the net after both Turner and defender Henry Kessler misplayed a cross hit by Chris Mueller.
“This would have been another rock-solid game for us if it wasn’t for the mix-up Kess and I had,” Turner said. “We’re going to look at the film and move on, just like we did right there in the game. It goes to show the resilience of this team. Last year we played a game here and were up 2–0 at halftime, then it was 3–1 in the second half, and then we tied 3–3.
“The guys in front did a great job today and everyone else left it on the field. I couldn’t be prouder of the guys.”
New England Revolution advance after scoring crucial third goal at the death
With Orlando threatening to tie the game, even down a player after Pereyra’s 60th minute red card, New England continued to battle in midfield and set about scoring a third goal.
The team’s deciding breakthrough arrived in the 87th minute after Brandon Bye won a header in midfield and sent Buksa, Carles Gil, and Bou toward Orlando’s net.
Bou and Carles Gil’s give-and-go ultimately led with Bou clean through and shooting through Rowe’s legs for the back of the net, ensuring the New England Revolution advance.
“That pass from Carles to Bou was outstanding,” Arena said.
“I’m happy to be in the conference final, and happy and proud of my team and our effort this year,” added Bou. “It’s been a tough season but our efforts are coming to fruition.”