After going two weeks without a game, the Union resumed their regular season Thursday night with an ugly but effective scoreless draw against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
“It wasn’t the prettiest, but ultimately it was a solid first game back,” defender Mark McKenzie said. “For a resumption, it’s not going to be the smoothest transition, but we did our best to get a point.”
It wasn’t a pretty game for either team, but it was pretty bad for the Union early. New England registered five of the game’s first six shots, and Andre Blake had to make two big saves in the first half-hour. McKenzie made four defensive stops in the 18-yard box, too.
The Union (2-1-3, 9 points) didn’t create any really good chances until the 29th minute. But the game started to get stretched after that, and Kacper Przybylko had a terrific look in the 35th that forced a save from New England’s Matt Turner.
At halftime, the shots were 7-3 in New England’s favor even though the Union had more passes and possession.
The Union started the second half better, highlighted by a 53rd minute buildup from Jamiro Monteiro to Przybylko to Brenden Aaronson. Przybylko’s pass ahead gave Aaronson a great look at goal, but Aaronson’s shot wasn’t great and Turner deflected it out.
“I probably could have taken another touch, but I was trying to lift it over him,” said Aaronson, who acknowledged that he “could have done better.”
Curtin made his usual first substitution in the 63rd minute, withdrawing Sergio Santos for Ilsinho. New England assistant coach Richie Williams, substituting for the suspended Bruce Arena, made two moves a moment later: DeJuan Jones for Brandon Bye at right back and Tajon Buchanan for Teal Bunbury on the left wing. (Arena was out because of the red card he was given at the end of New England’s MLS tournament loss to the Union.)
The move didn’t do much. The Union registered five shots in the second half before Ilsinho entered, and none from then until Curtin made a surprising double-substitution in the 76th. Andrew Wooten replaced Przybylko and Olivier Mbaizo replaced Matt Real, who started at left back for injured Kai Wagner -- and did pretty well. Curtin said Wagner got injured during a practice session last week.
It was Mbaizo’s first appearance for the Union since June 13 of last year. At the same time, New England (1-1-4, 7, points) sent Diego Fagundez in for winger Cristian Penilla.
Ilsinho stepped up in the 80th minute, springing Jamiro Monteiro in the 18-yard box. Monteiro was quickly swallowed up by Andrew Farrell, though, and the chance fizzled.
New England made its final substitution in the 86th, Justin Rennicks for Kelyn Rowe, as both teams tried to find a breakthrough. The Revolution almost got it seconds later, but Jack Elliott timed a slide tackle perfectly to deny Gustavo Bou. Curtin made his final substitution in the 88th, sending in Warren Creavalle for Aaronson and signaling it was time to finish the night.
In fact, the Union nearly stole a win in second half-stoppage time when Ilsinho and Monteiro teamed up for a nifty give-and-go. Farrell swept in to clear the ball, though, and a few seconds later referee Robert Sibiga decided that was enough.
“By committee, we got a zero,” Curtin said. “On a bad night, good teams get a point, and we did that.”