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New England Revolution win midfield battle during Orlando City victory

new england revolution celebrate a goal
Apr 6, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution forward Teal Bunbury (10) celebrates after his goal with forward Cristian Penilla (70), forward Diego Fagundez (14) and midfielder Wilfried Zahibo (23) during the first half against the Montreal Impact at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution showed a rare dose of patience in midfield Saturday night as it cruised to a 2-0 victory over Orlando City SC at Gillette Stadium.

New England managed to balance its preferred tactic of pressing high with a consistent, measured tempo, and ended the match with more than 60 percent of possession and a 21-8 edge in shots.

A hybrid 4-3-3 formation featured Scott Caldwell, Luis Caicedo, and Wilfried Zahibo join forces in the middle against Orlando; Kelyn Rowe asserted himself, too, advancing from the left flank.

Typically, the Revolution’s press leaves the team vulnerable to counters and forces players to chase the ball. But on Saturday, the Revs seemed in control from the start, even though they didn’t break through and score until the second half through Cristian Penilla (51st minute) and Diego Fagundez (55th).

“I think the effort was outstanding, as it’s been most all the season,” said Revolution coach Brad Friedel after the game. “I thought we tried to keep the tempo as high as possible. Orlando was trying to slow it down, no doubt, and I think we created a lot of opportunities. In the second half, I was really pleased with the players we took on board to move the ball quicker.

“We kept our concentration levels up and we were the ones that were dictating the tempo of play, and it’s not always easy to do that against a team that really wants to kill the game.”

It was New England’s first win overall since Sept. 5 and its first at Gillette Stadium since June 20. Orlando, which became only the sixth team to not score against the Revolution this season, is now winless in 12 matches.

“I think our midfield definitely did a good job creating the tempo of the game, and how fast we wanted to go, and when it was a good time to relax and make sure that we were getting the right passes together—so it was an overall good game by everybody,” Fagundez said after the game.

A more measured approach in build-up plays, similar to what Fagundez described on Saturday night, could have gone a long way earlier in the season, particularly when New England’s chances of reaching the playoffs were still in reach.

The Revs were essentially playing for pride against Orlando, having been eliminated from postseason contention earlier in the day thanks to D.C. United’s 1-0 victory over FC Dallas.

Friedel has stood by most of his team’s performances this season, but admits that lapses have cost his team valuable points. After all, Saturday marked the Revs’ second win in 14 matches. They’ve conceded multiple goals in nine games inside that same stretch.

“Results speak for themselves, I can’t argue with that,” said Friedel. “But yeah, it’s an evolution of what we’re trying to do. We want to be very aggressive without the ball. That’s there for everyone to see. But with the ball, we want to be calm and composed and creative as well. It is an evolution.”

Fagundez, meanwhile, seemed frustrated it took his teammates so long to adapt, particularly with playoff hopes on the line.

“Everybody stepped in and performed, but it’s kind of a sad one that it’s over right now,” he said.

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