FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Bruce Arena’s Gillette Stadium debut almost went as planned on Wednesday night – then Kacper Przybylko scored in the 84th minute for the Philadelphia Union, which succeeded in taking a 1-1 draw from the New England Revolution.
The result will likely feel like two points lost for the Revolution, who took the lead on Brandon Bye’s second goal of the season off a Carles Gil corner kick in the 31st minute.
Still, the Revolution extended their unbeaten run to in league matches to four and have lost only once in their last six games across all competitions. The team’s playoff hopes are alive with the half the season remaining, something which seemed improbable when Arena was hired on May 14.
“It’s not like we’re going to have a parade,” Arena said. “Officially, we’re in the second half of the season. In MLS, the second half of the season is the season so often. We have 17 games ahead of us. If we perform somewhat like we’ve performed over the last five games in the league, we have a chance to make the playoffs.
“We’re talking about trying to move up the ladder a little bit. The way the team has played over the last month would suggest there’s a chance we can get after it and have an opportunity to move up the ladder.”
Arena’s team has plenty of work ahead but nearly turned the tables on the Union, who came to Foxborough in first place and on a four-game unbeaten run against the Revolution dating back to the 2018 season opener.
The Revolution had suffered two of those losses earlier this year and set about trying to avoid a three-peat using Arena’s 4-3-3 formation, with Carles Gil providing the flair.
Gil sent Agudelo in on goal in the 30th minute with a pass that traveled 15 yards and cut past three players, but Agudelo fired wide after running by Kai Wagner and Jack Elliott.
Jun 26, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; Philadelphia Union midfielder Brenden Aaronson (22) reacts after being issued a yellow card during the first half against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Three minutes later, Bye saw Gil’s visionary play through with a goal. First, the Revolution earned a corner kick when Matt Freese parried a Bunbury drive out of play. Then came Gil deftly stroking a cross just in front of the near post where Bye emerged unmarked to poke it into the back of the net.
“It’s easy to play with [Carles Gil], being me I just make runs and he can be looking completely the other way and he’ll still find me,” Bye said. Just make runs and try to get as open as I can.”
The Revolution out-shot Philadelphia 13-10 and absorbed 19 fouls in a chippy game that saw six players cautioned. But Philadelphia put its brawn on pause at halftime when Ilsinho came on for Brenden Aaronson, and again in the 62nd minute when Fafa Picault came on for Sergio Santos.
Philadelphia pushed into the attack in the second half as Ilsinho went at Edgar Castillo, while Picault helped conjure the equalizer.
Picault took possession in the heart of midfield and drove into the box, racing past Jalil Anibaba and then squaring the ball before running into the end line. His feed deflected off Andrew Farrell’s foot and froze Revolution goalkeeper Brad Knighton before rolling in front of an open goal mouth where Przybylko emerged to slot in the tying goal.
“It looked like a mess to me,” Arena said. “Ball got through. Maybe Farrell touched it at the end. Left it sitting in the six-yard box.”
“Our play came in waves,” Anibaba said. “At times we were really, really good, really, really dangerous, really, really creative and resilient at the back at times. And other times we were a little bit shaky. As of late we’ve been more consistent throughout the course of 90 minutes, but those are small details we can correct and that will make a big difference moving forward.”