While it was another three-point night for the Philadelphia Union, who have now taken 10 of a possible 12 points from their last four matches, it was another frustrating home result for the New England Revolution, who are winless in their last three at Gillette Stadium despite being the better side for most of the evening. While the fifth-place Revs showed their ability to go toe-to-toe with the second-place team in the East, they'll be left lamenting the fact that they failed to draw a bit closer to a Top 4 spot and a home playoff match.
Here are three observations from Monday night's game in Foxborough:
Bounces go Union's way, literally & figuratively
One look at the final statistics, and you'd figure the Union shouldn't have been able to claim three points out of this one. They were outshot 22-7—with 3 shots on frame to New England's 8 — and were out-possessed by a 57-43 percent margin.
By the time Rubiel Vazquez blew his whistle for full time, though, Philadelphia held the edge in the most important stat of the night. And while their first goal was the result of a Revs defensive mistake, their second goal came on a pretty chip by homegrown Anthony Fontana, who took advantage of a perfect bounce off the Gillette Stadium turf to lob Matt Turner.
This one, though, came down to the slimmest of margins: moments after an absolute scorcher of a goal, Tajon Buchanan appeared to level the match in the 83rd minute, only to have it called offside by the slimmest of margins:
"We were pushing and playing well for [much] of the game, and it was just a matter of time before they were going to start breaking down," said Buchanan. "Once they started dropping off a little bit and they had the lead, the ball was going to be in our favor a lot more. We just got a little unlucky on our chances."
If it wasn't an absence of luck, it was a phenomenal effort by Andre Blake, who turned aside 7 of the 8 New England shots he faced. No save was bigger than the one he made on Lee Nguyen's free-kick attempt in the 85th minute, with the Texan firing a stoppage-time effort over the bar minutes later.
Understandably, Bruce Arena felt that his club deserved much more.
"They put us under pressure for the first 10 or 15 minutes and then we got ourselves in the game," the New England head coach said. "The own goal was obviously a big play ... and made us chase the game. I thought the second half we played well. On the whole, we should walk off the field with more than one goal tonight."
Meanwhile, Jim Curtin praised his team's tenacity, especially in the latter stages with the match still in the balance.
"Our players bent but didn’t break," he said. "There were some close calls there for sure, but this is what games that have a playoff feel to them look like and feel like — they’re not going to be easy.
"Some will probably say we got a little lucky tonight, but I’m a big believer that you create your own luck through the course of the season, and that we’re in a good spot because we’re a good team."
Fontana puts in another strong shift
With fellow Union Academy alum Brenden Aaronson bound for Red Bull Salzburg at the end of the MLS season, the 21-year-old Fontana appears set to see a much bigger role in Curtin's group next year. His chip shot past Matt Turner to give the Union a 2-0 cushion showed just a sampling of the Delaware native's abilities.
And Curtin sees a portion of Fontana's game that is reminiscent of a certain American star who was gaining his bearings as a 21-year-old MLS rookie in 2004.
"[H]is ability to arrive in the box at the right time and make plays reminds me of a guy who used to play here in Clint Dempsey, where he just had a knack for being in the right place at the right time, those deep runs that are hard to track for center backs," he said. "I’m not saying that’s what Anthony is or he’s that talented, but the similarities in their movement in the box is something that I think is a real comparison, and it’s a special one, to do it from a deep spot."
Fontana's versatility is certainly another part of his game that the Union will try to leverage.
"You can see how he can turn in tight spaces, he has some pretty good awareness as to what’s going on around him," Curtin said. "He can play as an 8, a 10 or even as a second striker...Probably under 400 minutes now, and he has six goals, which means he's doing his job."
Arena was shown on the NBC Sports Boston broadcast voicing his frustration toward the officiating throughout the evening, stating in an interview with Brad Feldman and Charlie Davies after the 1st half that he felt Vazquez and his crew were "inconsistent." And in addition to Buchanan's disallowed goal, Revs players may point to a foul by Jamiro Monteiro just a minute after he was shown a yellow card by Vazquez for throwing the ball away. The Cape Verdean international brought down Alexander Buttner while on the ground, stopping an attack in the Union half, which resulted in a foul but nothing more even as the hosts protested for Monteiro to receive a second caution.
Arena felt no need to expand much further on the topic when asked specifically about the Buchanan call, though left a pretty good indication of what he thought of the calls, saying, "You don't need me to analyze the referee. I think anybody who watched the game could make an assessment on that."
The Revs boss instead preferring to give credit to Blake's effort on the evening, one on which he also felt his defense wasn't at its best.
"The [Teal] Bunbury header and Lee Nguyen's free kick—those are two outstanding saves," he said. "That would have gotten us a point in the game. The own goal was big, and we could have done better on their 2nd goal for sure."