After failing to beat the Union in the teams’ first five meetings this year, the Revolution got their revenge in the biggest game of all.
New England’s Adam Buksa and Tajon Buchanan scored goals four minutes apart midway through the first half Tuesday night, then their team throttled the Union’s attack for the rest of the game in a 2-0 upset win at Subaru Park in the MLS playoffs’ Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
“A disappointing conclusion to a special year for the guys,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “Credit to New England, they made us uncomfortable. … We didn’t get the job done.”
Except for a fifth-minute shot over the crossbar by Jamiro Monteiro, the Revolution dominated the first half. It paid off in the 26th minute when Buksa headed in Carles Gil’s free kick, and again in the 30th when Buchanan waltzed past Kai Wagner and shot to Andre Blake’s far post.
The small crowd allowed in the stands tried to rally the Union after that, but it was to no avail. New England packed it in defensively and didn’t care how much of the ball the Union had as long as they couldn’t do anything serious with it.
Curtin pulled Jose Andres Martinez at halftime, sending in Ilsinho and switching the Union’s formation from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3. It was a big call, but Martinez really struggled to keep possession and connect passes.
In the 62nd minute, Curtin went back to a 4-4-2 by pulling Sergio Santos for Cory Burke and Brenden Aaronson for Jack Elliott, a move that brought Aaronson off the field in Chester for the last time as a Union player. Ilsinho went to the right side of the midfield diamond, Elliott to the bottom of it, and Monteiro to the top.
A moment later, the Union won a free kick that produced their first genuine scoring chance of the night, but Kacper Przybylko headed Monteiro’s service straight at New England goalkeeper Matt Turner.
The Revolution had the Union’s playbook figured out, and Curtin kept the one player who could change that on the bench until the 76th minute. By the time Anthony Fontana finally entered and replaced Ray Gaddis, it seemed too late. Ilsinho was the only player who successfully beat opponents off the dribble, and when he did his teammates didn’t capitalize.
The box score said the Union outshot New England, 15-11, outpassed them, 402-261, and held 58.3% of the possession. The shots on target were officially 4-4. But this was no fluke upset. It was a thorough loss, and from the moment the Revolution took the lead, it was rarely in doubt.
“It’s just hitting a lot right now,” a clearly distraught Aaronson said. “To go out like that when we haven’t really played like that all season … it’s just tough, man. It’s really tough.”
The Supporters’ Shield trophy that the Union won – and that sat in the River End stands during the game – was no fluke either. The Union earned it over many months. But the Shield winner has gone on to win the playoffs just seven times in Major League Soccer’s 25-year history. Now the Union are on the list of teams that came up short.
“I am incredibly proud for the year that we’ve had as a club, for all the effort that the staff and the players put into he year,” Curtin said. “To get the first trophy is big. But this one hurts.”