All you need to know about the Revolution’s scoreless draw with Toronto FC in the MLS IS BACK Tournament group stage Tuesday morning in quickie form, complete with Bay State Soccer Sentinel insight and analysis:
Revs advance with five points in Group C: A scoreless draw in Orlando is the story of the morning, and it’s enough for New England to move on to the Round of 16 in the MLS IS BACK Tournament. It was a tale of two halves, as The Boys In Blue had difficulty getting out of their own half in the first 45 minutes, but looked pretty frisky in the second half. With the result, both Toronto and the Revs finish with 5 points and are currently 1-2, respectively, but with DC United and Montreal playing later tonight, that would change should United win by two or more goals given the goal difference at the moment. Should Montreal win, though, the Revolution go through second in C.
A better second half: You’ll read in a moment how Toronto owned the first half, but it was mainly New England in the second, forcing TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono and the defending work to keep it scoreless. The first 10 minutes of the second half saw Diego Fagundez and Brandon Bye — Bye’s try a solid off-the-ball run on a corner — have solid chances at goal. Matt Turner also came up with a big stop on Ayo Akinola, who has scored five goals in the group stages, after the youngster easily beat Henry Kessler. Pivotal moment, though, sees VAR reverse Jair Marrufo after he wrongly awarded a penalty to Toronto after DeJuan Jones fouled Akinola just outside the box late in the normal 90.
A lackluster first half: It was practically all Toronto in the first 45 minutes, as the Reds boasted 68 percent possession — it was at 72.5 percent after 24 minutes, and certainly felt like it — with seven shots, three on target. New England had come out of the gate pressing, but that really didn’t last long as the energy level appeared to dip a bit. The Revs had two shots late, one by Teal Bunbury and one by Fagundez, but both were blocked.
No Gil in squad: We figured it, given Bruce Arena’s comments post-match on Friday that Carles Gil had re-aggravated his earlier injury. He was listed as questionable on the Revs’ injury report, and he wasn’t in the squad for Tuesday morning’s finale; he was spotted on the bench in a walking boot. And Gustavo Bou started the game on the bench. That meant six changes total, as Fagundez slipped into the No. 10 role, with Tajon Buchanan making his first start in well over a year. Bunbury and Adam Buksa partnered up top. And there were three changes in the defense, with Jones, Kessler, and Andrew Farrell sliding in ahead of Alexander Büttner, Antonio Delamea, and Michael Mancienne, respectively.
HOW THE REVS SEALED THE POINT
In my view, it was the tactical subs of Wilfried Zahibo on for Scott Caldwell at halftime, followed by Bou in for Kelyn Rowe. That moved Fagundez — who did not have that bad a first half at the No. 10 — back to the defensive midfield.
Matt Turner: Certainly, especially when he made five stops, including the critical one on Akinola to save Kessler’s bacon.
Revs in the second half: Definitely a better 45 by the Revolution than the first, given eight opportunities, better chances created, and just tad more verve. Solid off-the-ball runs by Bye, some creativity by Fagundez, and once both Bou and Cristian Penilla got in there, it was a different game for Toronto.
Revs in the first half: Outside of early energy, the performance in the first 45 minuets just wasn’t acceptable; in my eyes, it looked like last year’s March game against Cincinnati at Gillette. Really no verve without Bou, and only two shots late.
LET’S TALK ABOUT STATS, BABY
Revs ended up with 40 percent of the ball.
10 shots, only two on target for the game.
75 percent passing accuracy.
New England won 50 of 92 duels.
Diego Fagundez: only seven missed passes. Here’s his passing map:
WHAT SWEENS THINKS RIGHT NOW
What to make of this group stage for New England? I think the positives are definitely having all three DP’s working in harmony to give defenses trouble, the growth of Brandon Bye, the motor of Kelyn Rowe, and the presence of Matt Turner (one goal allowed in the group, and it wasn’t even his fault). I still think the defense needs to get tighter; in all three games, the Revolution yielded acres of space down that right-hand side. I think Kessler will be excellent, but he has to recognize the skill of who is near him.
We’re now in wait-and-see mode as the last few groups need to finish up, but more than likely opponents include Philadelphia and San Jose.