The Union narrowly escaped the New England Revolution Monday night with a 2-1 win in Foxborough, Mass., solidifying their hold on second place in the Eastern Conference but not looking good doing it.
New England was the better team for almost the entire game, especially the first 30 minutes. The Union (11-3-5, 38 points) were badly outplayed early on Gillette Stadium’s artificial turf, which was even harder than usual because of a Patriots game Sunday. The Revolution (7-5-7, 28 points) had nearly 60% of the possession, Brenden Aaronson had the Union’s lone shot on target, and Kacper Przybylko whiffed on a chance at the half-hour mark.
But a few seconds after Przybylko’s whiff, he managed to earn a corner kick, and on the ensuing play, the Union got a gift. New England cleared the initial corner, but Kai Wagner recycled the ball and went on to hit a cross from the left wing that Andrew Farrell put into his own net.
In the closing seconds of the first half, the Revolution’s Teal Bunbury fired a shot off a corner that hit Przybylko when his left hand was up against his chest. It wasn’t called a handball. Alejandro Bedoya must have been amused watching at home on his couch, being suspended for ball-to-hand contact in his last game that was even less intentional.
There were few incidents early in the second half. Ilsinho replaced Sergio Santos right on the hour mark, as the Union made their traditional shift from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1.
Bunbury came close to tying the game in the 65th minute with a close-range header, but Andre Blake dived low to his right to parry the ball away.
Anthony Fontana finally gave the Union breathing room in the 69th with a very nice chipped finish over New England goalkeeper Matt Turner. Jamiro Monteiro set the play up in one of the rare moments when he could settle the ball, floating a pass over six Revolution players and into Fontana’s path. Fontana had Matt Polster on his back right away, but he got out of the jam by jumping up and flicking the ball to the far post. Polster and Turner could only watch.
It was Fontana’s sixth goal in eight games, and his fourth all-time against the Revolution.
Eight minutes later, Cory Burke finally returned to the field for the Union, replacing Przybylko. Andrew Wooten came in as well, replacing Fontana.
In the 80th, New England finally got a goal it deserved. Tajon Buchanan charged forward on the right wing, and as Mark McKenzie and Wagner retreated, Buchanan ripped a shot from 20 yards that Blake had no chance at.
New England had a slew of chances to equalize after that. Buchanan was offside in the 83rd, Blake made a spectacular save on a Lee Nguyen free kick in the 85th, and Nguyen shot just over the crossbar in the 94th.
Blake made seven saves on the night, his most in a game since July 9.
The final whistle came after five minutes of stoppage time, and the Union could only be relieved.
“Our players bent but didn’t break,” Curtin said. “New England really pushed the tempo of the game, especially in the last 15 minutes there. But through some good goalkeeping and some last-ditch defending, our guys stuck together.”