Another week of Revolution soccer in the books, and it’s yet another win for the team from New England. The Revs grabbed all three points in Chester, PA on Friday in a tight 1-0 decision against the Philadelphia Union. This victory comes in spite of a 59th minute red card, shown to Arnor Traustason, leaving the visitors down a man for the final half hour. Oh, and there were shenanigans. There are, honestly, too many storylines from this match to cover them all but I’ll attempt to break down some of the major narratives.
Is the “Liberty Rivalry” gaining legitimacy?
MLS has earned a bit of a reputation for trying to preordain certain strategic rivalries between it’s clubs. Certainly, intense rivalries are good business for the league, but often they’ll try to push “rivalries” based upon geography alone. This year saw Austin FC enter the league as an expansion draft and, wouldn’t you know it, they’re already have not one but TWO rivals worthy of MLS Rivalry Week Presented by Heineken TM. They had never played either team before.
A few years back MLS sold some t-shirts advertising the “liberty rivalry” between the Revolution and the Philadelphia Union. This rivalry came as a surprise to both fanbases, since neither strongly considered the other a rival.
— Seth (@SethMan31) August 2, 2018
Welp. Maybe they were on to something? As alluded to earlier in the post, tensions were high to finish the game. The revolution were leading 1-0 but down a man late into the match when the ball went out for a throw. Henry Kessler, looking to take precious seconds off the clock, kicked the match ball away from the onrushing Alejandro Bedoya. Then… well then he also threw the backup ball into the stands.
Henry Kessler shithousing is above analysis pic.twitter.com/sDOi7Q9wbr
— chris russell (@watke_) September 4, 2021
This did not sit well with the Philadelphia Union players who spent the rest of the match getting into scraps and shouting matches with Revolution players. The fights continued after the final whistle and into the tunnel. While neither coach would admit that their opponent was a rival, the players seemed to harbor some residual resentment.
— Jeff Lemieux (@jeff_lemieux) September 4, 2021
While one game does not a rivalry make, there is some reason to think a legitimate rivalry may be brewing. The Revolution and Philadelphia played each other 6 times last year due to MLS COVID travel restrictions. The Union won 4 of the first 5 including a 2-0 decision day victory that earned them their first Supporters Shield. Since that game, it’s been all Revs, with New England winning 3 of 4 including a reciprocating 2-0 victory that knocked Philly out of the MLS playoffs last year.
A quick defense of Traustason
I will not be using this space to defend his terrible decision-making that lead to him receiving two yellow cards within 5 minutes in the second half. Both were poor fouls and he should receive a ton of criticism, especially since he was sent off just over 2 weeks prior after receiving 2 yellows against DC United. He should, probably, sit on the bench for a while until he can prove he’s capable of making smarter decisions.
What I will attempt to defend Traustason against, is the slowly building rumble among Revolution fans that he’s a poor player. This is starting to become more and more mainstream an idea. If you caught this game on TV in the Boston area, you probably heard a similar opinion from commentator and former Revolution striker Charlie Davies. To paraphrase his remarks, he indicated that the Iceland international hadn’t impressed him, and that most of his production came in one game, a 5-0 rout in Miami earlier this season.
While both of Traustason’s goals did come at Miami, he has also been productive in the buildup. His 6 assists this season are second on the team behind Carles Gil, and tied for the 4th highest number in the league. His .99 key passes per game is also good for 4th on the team among players with at least 3 full games worth of minutes.
While his red card was inexcusable, it likely overshadowed the fact that it was his service that gave New England the goal lead that would eventually deliver them the win.
Since Gil’s injury the Revs have been starving for quality service on set pieces, and this was certainly excellent from Traustason. With Bou, McNamara and Boateng all underwhelming on set pieces, Arnor deserves some credit here.
Speaking of Gil…
Gil makes his return
He’s baaaaackk!! Gil returned to the field in a Revolution uniform on Friday for the first time since July 31st. He came on as a sub in the 66th minute. There isn’t much more to say except that, even though he’s likely to play limited minutes, it’s extremely good to see him on the field again.