The New England Revolution lost to Los Angeles FC 2-0 at Gillette Stadium Saturday night. The result snapped New England’s 11-game unbeaten run in league matches.
Here are three takeaways on the game from New England’s perspective:
Hottest team vs. best team
Saturday night’s game was arguably the most anticipated fixture of Major League Soccer’s weekend slate.
At one corner sat Los Angeles FC, the league leader and the owner of the best offensive record, defensive record and the league’s top scorer. In the other sat New England, the host, which has fought its way back into the playoff picture in last three months under the guidance of new head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena.
In the end, LAFC easily handled the Revs and added three more points to its pile at the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings. Los Angeles looked the part of MLS’ best team as it bossed possession and ended the game with more shots, shots on goal and completed crosses.
Leading scorer Carlos Vela didn’t find the back of the net, but he still had three clear chances that required the best from Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner and central defenders Andrew Farrell and Antonio Delamea.
With Vela under tight watch, space opened up for LAFC’s other danger men. Inside the first eight minutes, Diego Rossi went in alone on Turner and gave the visitors the lead with a picture-perfect goal. Latif Blessing put the match out of reach in the second half.
The LAFC back line also halted most Revolution attacks when they started, as Carles Gil, Gustavo Bou and Cristian Penilla were largely neutralized throughout the night.
Teal Bunbury’s moment
While chances were few and far between for the Revs, they did come.
Their best came in the 50th minute when Teal Bunbury managed to sneak in behind LAFC’s back line off Penilla’s through pass and went in alone on Tyler Miller. Bou joined Bunbury in the attack, wide-open on the right with nothing but an open net in front of him.
This was the play of the game for New England, who were out-shot 22-10 and recorded just one shot on goal all night, as Bunbury had two options: shoot or pass to Bou for what likely would have been an easy finish.
Bunbury shot. His effort just missed the inside corner of the goal as Bou slammed his hands down on the turf in frustration.
Arena said after the game that Bunbury should have passed. Bou wasn’t asked, but his reaction in the moment indicated he wanted to see a pass, too. Bunbury said he and his teammates missed chances, but he wasn’t sorry for taking the shot.
“Ten times out of 10, I’d go and continue to shoot that one,” Bunbury said.
Passing was probably the better choice, but it’s also hard to judge an in-form striker (Bunbury entered the game with four goals in his past six matches) for wanting to shoot on a clear scoring opportunity.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but taking Bunbury at his word suggests he’d shoot again if he could turn back time.
On to Seattle
The Revolution remain in the Eastern Conference’s seventh and final playoff spot ahead of Saturday’s visit to Seattle Sounders FC.
Arena and the players said after the loss to Los Angeles FC that they hope to learn from the experience and use the lessons in their final 10 games of the regular season.
New England’s chances of making the playoffs are at roughly 50 percent, per FiveThirtyEight, so bouncing back from its first loss since May 8 is critical.
Eight of the Revolution’s last 10 games are against Eastern Conferences foes, and only four are at home.
Despite the challenging schedule ahead, the team seemed in good spirits after Saturday night’s loss.
“I think that we’ve shown that we’re able to play, to win and to get good results,” Bunbury said. “I don’t think one game is a make-it-or-break-it game for us. It’s disappointing because nobody likes to lose, and I think we’ve all had this good run, so we’ve been feeling good.
“Sometimes, you need a loss like this to kind of go back and get things in order and make sure we’re right mentally.”