Aug 11, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution forward Juan Agudelo (17) knocks over Philadelphia Union defender Ray Gaddis (28) going for the ball during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution were on the brink of an exceptional comeback Saturday night against the Philadelphia Union.
After going down 2-0 at wet and rainy Gillette Stadium inside the game’s first 25 minutes, the Revs rallied in the second half, scoring through Andrew Farrell and Wilfried Zahibo, only to have their efforts fall short in an eventual 3-2 loss.
Fafa Picault broke the deadlock in the 75th minute against the run of play. He converted a penalty kick after Revolution defender Antonio Delamea got called for a handball on a Philadelphia corner kick.
The loss extends the Revolution’s winless run to six games. Additionally, they’ve been leapfrogged by Philadelphia in the table. New England is now outside of playoff contention for the first time since March in seventh place, one point behind the Eastern Conference’s sixth and final play spot.
“It’s frustrating because I thought we were the better team,” Farrell said after the game. “We had plenty of chances to win this by a lot, even tying it up 2-2 we had a lot of chances.
“It’s tough that we haven’t won a game in a while. … This game, we could have won. The most frustrating thing is it’s games that we’re better…we need to better and we should be winning, and we’re not. We just keep doing the same mistakes.”
The Union, playing on short rest after beating the Chicago Fire in the U.S. Open Cup on Thursday night, scored twice in the first half off a pair of poorly-defended set pieces.
Jack Elliott, who entered the weekend with just one career goal, converted both of the Union’s first two strikes. In the 13th minute, he redirected a shot by Haris Medunjanin into the back of the net and past Revs goalkeeper Matt Turner. Medunjanin’s shot came off a short corner by former Boston College midfielder Alejandro Bedoya.
Elliott doubled his tally in the 24th minute by slamming in a rebound from inside the six-yard box. Picault took the first shot, an effort from 25 yards out that deflected off Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner’s back and ricocheted to Elliott.
“You turn off on [a] play, and you’re doing two-zero,” Farrell said.
Revolution coach Brad Friedel said after the game that his team continues to play well in spurts but has allowed untimely errors, particularly on set pieces, to ruin what should be positive results in this recent stretch.
“We’ve been playing really well, I won’t stop saying that,” Friedel said. “If we weren’t playing well … I would say it. We created 26 opportunities tonight, we scored two. We’ve been scoring threes and twos in a lot of games. Whether it be an individual error or set piece, that’s where we’ve been conceding goals.
“It’s very disheartening to watch it unravel because the boys work really hard and we’re usually the better team or have created the better chances. That’s a part of the game we need to get better and we need to get better at it very quickly ahead of the playoff push.”
New England produced few chances to start the game as it by Philadelphia’s tight marking of attackers Diego Fagundez and Teal Bunbury, but found its stride on the back end of halftime.
Fifty-three seconds after play restarted, Farrell scored to cut the Union advantage in half. He advanced into the attack and belted a feed from Cristian Penilla past Union goalkeeper Andre Blake from 25 yards out. It was Farrell’s second goal of the season.
The Revolution maintained some heavy pressure in search of an equalizer, either narrowly missing or forcing stops out of Blake before finally notching their second goal.
Fagundez shot just over the crossbar on a long-range bid in minute 52 and sent a cross off a corner kick to Zahibo five minutes later was narrowly headed over the bar. Penilla sliced through the Philadelphia back line and played a ball into the heart of the box, but Farrell, who advanced past his marker, smashed a shot well wide in the 58th minute.
New England was rewarded for its persistence in the 64th minute. Picault fouled Luis Caicedo on the right wing, referee Allen Chapman brandishing a yellow card.
Fagundez took the ensuing free kick, his service to the heart of the penalty area reaching Zahibo, who nodded the ball into the lower corner of the net to tie game with his fourth goal of the season.
New England appeared to be en route to salvage a draw or potentially even go on to win, but disaster struck in the 75th minute. Chapman called Delamea for handling the ball as he boxed out Fabian Herbers. Delamea got a yellow card and Philadelphia got a penalty.
Picault converted the ensuing spot kick, firing low and hard down the middle as Turner went to his right.
The Revolution have now given up at least two goals per game in six of their last seven matches. The one exception in that stretch was a 0-0 draw with Seattle. In all, the Revs have let in 15 goals in their last seven games.
The stakes are higher now that the Revs are out of playoff position. They can get revenge on Philadelphia in two weekends when they visit Chester, Pa., but will have to do battle with D.C. United at the newly-opened Audi Field first on Aug. 18.