It’s one of those things you like to see, the New England Revolution playing like a more confident soccer team.
And suffice it to say, for most of whatever serves of this 2020 Major League Soccer season, the Revs have been pretty confident on the defensive side of things. Sure, there have been flubs. That happens with many teams in Boston not called the Patriots.
But on Wednesday, in the twilight at Gillette Stadium, the Revs scored three goals in just about half an hour of normal time to take all three points against the visiting Montreal Impact. The victory moved New England to 4-3-6 on the season (4-4-6 in all competitions), and for the time being moved The Boys In Blue into a tie for fifth in the Eastern Conference with New York City FC, which were in the midst of playing against Toronto FC in Harrison as our match on Route 1 came to a close.
And yes, outside of a couple of blips, it was a pretty dominating performance by the home side: upward of 62 percent of the ball in the first 45 minutes, 59 percent possession for the game. Twenty shots, seven on-target. An unheard of 85 percent passing accuracy. Goals by Henry Kessler — someone’s Rookie of the Year stock just went up — Gustavo Bou, and Diego Fagundez.
But maybe — just maybe — Wednesday evening could have been more than just a confidence boost. Sure, Montreal is just not a good team right now, having now lost four straight and is playing like a team ready to limp to the Nov. 8 finish line, playoffs or no. A win against a team like that is a confidence boost.
Wednesday evening, though… Wednesday evening should have been one of those matches the Revs were absolutely cutthroat, much in the same way some teams have been against them in the last few years. Do you recall the 3-0 game against L’Impact on April 24 last year, when Montreal arrived late and scored three late goals? Do I hear Philadelphia’s 6-1 win over the Revs last year on May 4? How about the 5-0 loss to Chicago four days later to seal Brad Friedel‘s fate? Does anyone remember 7-1 to Atlanta United to put Jay Heaps on the hot seat?
In short, New England had the chance not to just be dominating, and not to just get a boost of confidence, given the Revs had only scored 10 goals coming into Wednesday night.
No, the Revolution had a chance to be absolutely demoralizing.
We look to the first half, where New England had a number of solid looks at goal, but were just hesitant in pulling the trigger. We look at Bou’s chance in the 21st minute, as Scott Caldwell plays Tajon Buchanan for a little 1-2, buckle my shoe. Caldwell races into the penalty area, something as a defensive midfielder he doesn’t do very often, and crossed to a wide-open Bou.
Bou hesitates. All he had to do was take a touch and beat Clement Diop.
That hesitation — that indecisiveness — is enough time for Montreal’s defense to close down on him.
Fast forward to the 43rd minute, when first-half sub DeJuan Jones releases Bou well behind the Montreal defense. He takes a touch, Diop races off his line, and Bou, instead of using the outside of his right boot to put the ball into an open net, or tries to at the very least, peels away and waits for reinforcements. He passes to Lee Nguyen, who flops in the penalty area.
Quite simply, the Argentine needed to be more decisive in the first half. It could have been a 2-nil score line — and maybe more had any of Kelyn Rowe’s headers beaten Diop — before Kessler opened his account in first-half stoppage time.
At that point, it should have been 3-0. 4-0. Yes, maybe even 5-0 if the Revolution were absolutely cutthroat offensively.
And we’ll be honest: yes, they should have been cutthroat. They should have driven their heel into Montreal’s larynx and churned it into fine powder, given all the possession they had in the first 45 minutes. We here in Boston appreciate cutthroat offenses: A Patriots F.U. TD? Yup, we love them. Johnny Damon’s homers in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS? Yup, take that with your 1918 chants. Ray Allen’s 3-pointers against the Lakers in 2007? That should teach you not to leave him wide open. The Bruins punishing Toronto in the playoffs, well, any time?
And sure, a 3-1 score line is great, the first time the Revolution have scored three goals this season. I am happy about it. You should be happy about it. But had they been more cutthroat Wednesday night, Bou’s goal off Brandon Bye’s takeaway and Fagundez’s first of the season — huh, playing him in the No. 10? How does that work? — would have been enough to put the rest of Major League Soccer on alert: the Revs are coming. They aren’t the pushovers you think they are any longer. They have the firepower to punish teams that play lackadaisical soccer against them.
Of course, I’ll pump the brakes a little: It’s Montreal. I realize that. Up next is Eastern Conference cellar dweller D.C. United, a team that can’t defend a wet paper bag let alone the onion bag. Then it’s Nashville’s first-ever appearance at Gillette to kick off Phase 3.
This spell here is a chance for the Revs to really assert their offensive firepower against some pretty bad teams, giving them more confidence ahead of playing Philadelphia again, the New Yorks again, and Toronto, a team it hasn’t seen since the tournament.
And that, my friends, will be the real test. If they can win against those particular teams, then hope for a home game in the playoffs — something fans have wanted since 2014 ended — can be a reality.
And if not, well… we’ll always have Wednesday against Montreal.