Untested goalkeeper, makeshift backline hold up for New England Revolution

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Up until March 3, third-year pro Matt Turner had never seen a second of MLS action. And, during preseason, most presumed he’d be the third-string goalkeeper behind 11-year veteran Brad Knighton and US national team January camp call-up Cody Cropper

But first-year head coach Brad Friedel handed the undrafted 'keeper out of Fairfield University his second straight start with the New England Revolution in Saturday's 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids, and was rewarded in a major way. Turner stopped a Jack Price penalty kick in the 54th minute, a feat that didn’t catch veteran left back Chris Tierney off guard in the slightest. 

“He’s a surprise to people maybe in the soccer community outside of [Gillette Stadium], but in this building it’s no surprise to us that he’s gotten the shot and that he’s performing as well as he has in these first two games,” Tierney said. “Credit to him.”

Despite Turner’s celebratory save, the Revs were forced to field a defense that was hardly first choice against Anthony Hudson’s Rapids. 

Andrew Farrell and Jalil Anibaba were thrust into center back roles due to Antonio Delamea and Claude Dielna receiving red cards in the opening-week 2-0 loss at the Philadelphia Union. With Farrell moving over to the middle, rookie Brandon Bye, a midfielder during his time at Western Michigan, was handed his first-ever MLS start at right back. Lastly, Tierney was subbed on in the 17th minute after offseason signing and left back Gabriel Somi went down with a head collision.

But despite being battered and unproven, the Revs' defense largely held its own, save for Rapids rookie forward Niki Jackson’s equalizing header in the 66th minute.

“Like I said earlier in the week, everyone on our team can do this job,” Turner said. “I think everyone communicated really well, and that was the biggest thing. They were all motivated to get the three points.”

Anibaba, an eight-year MLS veteran, said he wouldn’t call New England’s defense “makeshift,” but was nonetheless proud of their collective belief.

“Any time you’re somewhat successful defensively, it’s a team effort, not just the back line,” Anibaba said. “The guys did their job to win second balls and make it more predictable in the back.”

Looking ahead, Kelyn Rowe said the Revs still need to fine-tune their efforts, though. They’ll have to wait nearly two weeks to do just that, as New York City FC visit Gillette Stadium on March 24, with an attacking ensemble led by 2016 MLS MVP David Villa.

How the defensive group will look remains to be seen, however. Tierney revealed that Friedel doesn’t post his team sheet until game day, so there’s no telling if the Revs coach will reinsert the likes of Dielna and Delamea into the starting XI.

Whoever suits up, though, Rowe said the Rapids win leaves the group trending up.

“Look, we got two goals at home and we got our first win, so I think there’s a lot of positives to take from it,” he said. “We’ll look back this week with the weekend off and have a lot we can do. We’ll look forward to New York.”

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