New England continued their poor run of form over the weekend, losing their 4th match in a row. A stretch of 3 big losses in a single week defined this team’s March, and they had hoped to right the ship in April. Those three back to back losses in March preceded a break in the schedule to allow for CONCACAF world cup qualifying matches. The Revs were hoping the team could regain health and get things back on track after the layoff.
In an interview last week CB Henry Kessler said the following about how they were handling the time off:
“The message is to get back to where we were last year. You know, winning games consistently, giving up less goals and kind of get back to where we should be and really back to who we are.”
Sadly, Revs fans will have to file that under ‘Quotes That Precede Unfortunate Events’. A tough, physical 90 minutes against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday came and passed without a Revolution goal. That is, unless you count goals that go into your own net. Unforced. While you have a man advantage. New England would go on to lose 1-0 at home and extend their losing streak to 3 matches in MLS play. If that’s what Kessler means when he says he wants to get ‘back to who we are’, he’s not referring to last season.
#NERevs with their third straight MLS loss (fourth straight loss in all competitions). First time under Arena’s tenure they’ve had three losses in a row. Revs now 1-3-1 after five games. They had 5 losses all of last season and didn’t get to 3 until match 13 of the season.
— Sean Donahue (@SeanLDonahue) April 3, 2022
Fan reactions to the game ranged from embarrassment to dejection to (a strangely high amount of) self congratulations for being able to predict the Revs struggles. It was a tough game to watch as a fan, no doubt. That said there were some positives to go along with the obvious negatives. Let’s take a look at the good, bad, and ugly from the weekend.
On a night that ended badly for Revolution fans, the biggest highlight has to be the play of goalkeeper Brad Knighton.
Add it to the highlight reel pic.twitter.com/wmP529Lt6f
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) April 3, 2022
Knighton got the start in place of Earl Edwards Jr, who himself was filling in for an injured Matt Turner. It seems like Turner may be able to restart training again soon, but nonetheless it was good to see the veteran get back onto the field. At 36, Knighton isn’t a realistic option to be a long term solution for the Revs, but on Saturday he showed why he’s been their preferred backup for over 7 years. If not for a freak own goal in the 90th minute (I’ll get to it) Knighton would have been able to keep a clean sheet while making 5 saves and preventing 0.97 xG. He was smart and quick off his line to deal with crosses and he was surehanded on saves.
Perhaps another positive was that the defense in front of Knighton looked better than it has in weeks. Kessler and Farrell’s return to the starting lineup helped stabilize the teams defense. Outside of one big error (I’LL GET TO IT) they were clinical with their clearances. They did an excellent job in defense and in controlling the build up. They didn’t allow NY to disrupt play and run in behind on the counter. Most of Red Bull’s best chances came from distance, which gave Knighton a decent chance to react.
I supposed I have to talk about this, don’t I. I generally don’t like to dwell on mistakes. Especially not freak, one-in-a-million type catastrophic errors. What we saw on Saturday certainly was a catastrophic mistake. The Revs were up a player late in the match. They struggled throughout the game to break through RBNY’s press but with the extra man, they were pushing hard for a breakthrough goal. On the ropes, the Red Bulls got the ball and sent it forward in transition. To describe what happened next wouldn’t really do it justice. I’ll show the clip.
But first, you know what I like? The Office. You know, the tv show? I know it’s not like a new show or anything. I just find it comforting. And oh man, that dinner party episode am I right? Ha ha.
Ok fine I’m stalling.
Here’s the clip.
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) April 3, 2022
What’s so frustrating here is that the Revs have a major numbers advantage. They’ve got 4 defenders back. The Red bulls have nobody in the box at the time of the cross. Fletcher is pushed wide and is forced to send a hopeful ball toward an onrushing, but tightly covered Luquinhas. Unfortunately that numbers advantage turns into a disadvantage, as Farrell’s clearance bounces off of Matt Polster and backwards into Brad Knighton’s net.
Oh, by the way, Saturday was Andrew Farrell’s birthday. Probably not the gift he was hoping for.
I mean, it has to be the officiating, no?
The Red Bull ‘ethos’ has for years been to play a high energy, high pressing style of soccer that doesn’t shy away from committing a few fouls. In a way, it’s not surprising to see New York be the more aggressive side. The difference in fouls, however, is stark. The Red Bulls committed 23 fouls to the Revolution’s 13. Revolution players will be nursing some bruises this week, particularly Kessler who was fouled a game leading 6 times.
Hmmmmmmmm 🤔 pic.twitter.com/vmlqJjh83I
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) April 3, 2022
Less stark of a contrast was the difference in yellow cards given. The Red Bulls were issued 4 yellow cards to the Revolution’s 3. In his post game press conference Bruce Arena had the following to say regarding the officiating:
“Let’s face it, that was a poorly officiated game. It was a bit of a factor. I’m not saying it determined the outcome, but it was a really awkward game. Give them credit, they came in here to disrupt us and foul us as much as they could and take any kind of rhythm out of the game. I think they accomplished that.”
His comments aren’t a surprise, seeing as Arena himself received a yellow card for voicing his displeasure with the refereeing late in the game. Bruce is by no means an unbiased reporter of the facts here. Nor am I, for that matter. That said, I can’t help but agree with his assessment.
The Red Bulls came in to try to disrupt the Revolution’s build up, and fouling was a successful way of doing so. They fouled early and often. The referee tried to keep the game under control by doling out cards early to set the tone. He showed 3 yellow cards in the first half, but it didn’t seem to slow down the physical nature of the game. Later in the game there would be countless challenges that seemed worthy of a card, that either weren’t given or weren’t called. Frustration was mounting for the Revolution players at the perceived lack of calls.
It would all come to a head in stoppage time. Adam Buksa, who felt he had been fouled all night, reacted negatively to being elbowed in the face, kicking his boot out towards Sean Nealis. That would earn him his second yellow, and Bruce his first for his vocal disagreement.
— Seth (@SethMan31) April 3, 2022
New England will travel this weekend, without Buksa, to Florida to take on Inter Miami CF.