Without Carles Gil, Revolution lose focus in disheartening loss to Red Bulls


The Revolution (9-10-11, 38 points) – who had a member of the Gil family in the roster as younger brother Nacho made his MLS debut – squandered the lead and gave up the decisive goal on a penalty following a VAR call at Red Bull Arena.

Tommy McNamara opened the scoring in the 53rd minute, converting a pass from Gustavo Bou, clipping a shot after his late run beat two opponents. Arlington’s Noel Buck set up the streak, holding the ball against Aaron Long. But the Revolution failed to retain possession and became static defensively, allowing the Red Bulls (14-9-8, 50 points) to fight their way to the goalscoring position.

Cristian Casseres Jr. equalized, playing a round trip with Elias Manoel and then finishing alone against Djordje Petrovic in the 58th minute. Lewis Morgan broke the deadlock with a 78th-minute penalty, awarded after a review determined Morgan had been taken off by McNamara.

The Revolution, which visits the Houston Dynamo on Tuesday, switched to a two-forward setup in the final minutes. Giacomo Vrioni made his first appearance since July 30 and Nacho Gil was added on the right wing. Gil combined with Branon Bye to set up a corner after his first throw-in, but the Revolution failed to capitalize.

Both teams opted for a five-defender setup, producing little attack in the opening, although errors from behind almost led to goals. The Red Bulls could have taken the lead as Revolution’s Henry Kessler bounced off the post and Manoel failed to connect (19th), then Red Bulls’ Sean Nealis blooped one for Bou, who missed his shot ( 23rd) entering alone on Carlos Coronel.

Observations from Saturday’s game:

▪ Defining moment: Just before giving up the equaliser, the Revolution began to lose their composure and concentration, leading to a loss of possession. In the 57th minute, DeJuan Jones kicked an out-of-bounds clearance and then Bou failed to control Jon Bell’s long ball down the halfway line. (Bou nearly outplayed Nealis, who recovered in time to begin the scoring streak.) The Revolution either had to play from range or draw fouls to slow things down, exactly the type of play Carles Gil could have provided. By giving up the ball easily, they invited disaster.

▪ Difference maker: Video assistant referee. Red Bulls’ Luquinhas was disallowed a goal following a review, an obvious appeal after several players claimed to have handled it at least once before shooting (64th). On the deciding score, there seemed to be few complaints, although the slow-motion replay seemed to exaggerate McNamara’s shirt grab on Morgan.

▪ Tactical analysis: Both teams went with five defenders — three centre-backs — a formula for, yes, defensive football, and also one that aided the Red Bulls’ ultra-conservative plans. Without Gil, however, the Revolution had to change its strategy.

Revolution coach Bruce Arena might have added Wilfrid Kaptoum before the 80th minute to strengthen the midfield, but Kaptoum and Vrioni were limited as they returned from injury. Arena said Vrioni was not ready and using him “could have been a mistake”.

▪ Statistical Analysis: The Red Bulls’ defense-first philosophy could also be termed foul-first-shot-later. The Red Bulls committed 15 fouls, the Revolution seven; and the Red Bulls outscored the Revolution, 14-4. This season, the Red Bulls have more fouls (469) than shots fired (422); Revolution totals are 298 fouls, 384 shots. The tactic can pay off, as the Red Bulls are likely to get away with a few fouls as well. Going into the match, Nealis was credited with committing 46 fouls (five warnings); the four central defenders of the Revolution numbered 42 (six warnings).

Petrovic has saved three of 10 penalty kicks since joining the team in May. The Revolution did not award a penalty in the first 12 games of the season.

A lack of production through and through cost the Revolution. In the last 10 games, the only forward to score has been Justin Rennicks.

Defender Andrew Farrell performed well in his 300th MLS game for the Revolution and missed a chance to score when his drive was deflected by Nealis in injury time.

▪ Way to go: The Revolution could have all three named players (Bou, Carles Gil, Vrioni) for their final four games — in Houston, followed by home games against CF Montreal and Atlanta United, before a visit to the Chicago Fire.

▪ What they said: “If we’re a little smarter team, we have a chance to leave the field with three points and we end up with zero, so that’s disappointing,” Arena said. “Our guys played hard, not very smart at times in the second half. A few breakdowns resulted in goals. Carles Gil, of course, we missed him. He’s one of the best players in the league. »


Frank Dell’Apa can be contacted at [email protected]

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