The New England Revolution defeated Minnesota United 2-1 Saturday afternoon. The result snapped the Revolution’s four-game losing streak and secured the team’s first win of the season.
Here are three takeaways from New England’s performance:
This time, work ethic
One week after getting criticized by their coach for not working hard enough, the New England Revolution responded with by far its most convincing performance of the season against Minnesota United. As goalkeeper Cody Cropper put it, the Revolution “played them off the field.”
The stats, in addition to the final score, indicate that’s the case.
The Revolution fought for 48.1 percent of possession over the course of the game and outshot Minnesota 19-10. New England defenders, plus central midfielder Scott Caldwell, put in a full shift marking the opposing attackers as well. Aside from a neatly-converted penalty kick, Darwin Quintero, arguably the most talented player on the field, had no shots and produced few attacking threats.
Meanwhile, Revolution players put in work on both sides of the ball. Look no further than a pair of defenders – Brandon Bye and Jalil Anibaba – bursting into the attack and coming up with both goals.
Carles Gil ignites
Darwin Quintero might have been the most talented player on the field Sunday, but you wouldn’t have known it thanks to Carles Gil’s sterling performance.
Gil dropped deep into midfield and served as both the Revolution’s playmaker and the glue that held the team’s possession game together. He accounted for a whopping 10 percent of the team’s possession – the highest on the team – assisted on Anibaba’s goal with a peach cross, and had six key passes (the entire Minnesota team only had four).
Gil was tightly marked in the Revolution’s first two home games, but dropping farther into midfield allowed him to get on the ball more and create chances.
Anibaba and Bye also said after the game that advancing into the attack as defenders is part of how Revolution coach Brad Friedel wants them to play. To be clear, the forwards put the work in, too. Teal Bunbury finished the with an assist after all. Meanwhile, both he and Juan Agudelo made runs throughout the game that overloaded Minnesota’s back line and opened up space for Anibaba and Bye to get in and score.
Kudos to Gil again for picking the right player to get the ball to on the opening score.
Friedel victory lap
Brad Friedel sounded a lot like Bill Belichick after Saturday afternoon’s game.
During a press conference that lasted less than four minutes (as opposed to the previous week’s 13 minutes), Friedel stoically and matter-of-factly responded to questions from the media, who had spent the previous week dissecting his claims about the team not working hard.
Two things about this.
First, the Revolution responded to their poor performance last weekend and a nightmare week of bad press in the best possible way. Friedel held a “closed-door” meeting with his players and found a way to motivate them. He also made six changes to the starting lineup that played woefully last Sunday against FC Cincinnati, including benching the team’s reigning MVP and starting a fresh goalkeeper, which, along with other moves, clearly sent a message that Friedel won’t tolerate a lack of work ethic.
Here’s Friedel’s reply to the second question posed in the postgame news conference.
“You guys, and a lot of experts out there, are probably surprised that we can motivate the players to work hard,” Friedel said. “But all those players, every single day, see them work hard. . . . A couple of first-half performances that we’ve had here that they haven’t been up to par shouldn’t be the focal point. Very proud of the players’ performance today.”
The onus is on Friedel and the players to make sure Saturday’s performance wasn’t a one-off. Snapping the four-game winless run to start the season is huge. But it’s a long campaign. At the very least, New England has some momentum ahead of Saturday’s clash at Columbus Crew SC.