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Stuttering New England Revolution just about out of playoff contention

The New England Revolution lost to Toronto FC 4-1 last Saturday evening at BMO Field. The result snapped the Revs’ four-game unbeaten run and pushed their fleeting playoff hopes further out of reach.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

Toronto puts another nail in the Revs coffin

The Revolution aren’t yet mathematically eliminated from reaching the postseason, but they’re just about at the end of their rope.

Thanks to Saturday evening’s result, the statistics website FiveThirtyEight now postulates that New England’s chances of making playoffs are just two percent.

Because D.C. United blanked the Montreal Impact 5-0 earlier Saturday, the sixth and final playoff spot is within five points of the eighth-place Revs. But, New England making good on its two percent chance is exclusively predicated on it winning its final four games by big margins while both D.C. and Montreal lose or tie their way through what’s left of their seasons.

Prognostications aside, the Revs aren’t a playoff team because they don’t perform like one. New England’s back line has been extremely porous since the start of July, and it’s led to the team squandering leads and shedding points.

The Revolution have picked up eight of a possible 39 points in their last 13 matches; In most of those games, they’ve allowed two or more goals per game.

Toronto rebounds off New England’s mistakes

There was hardly anything remarkable about how Toronto FC turned the tables and scored four unanswered goals Saturday night.

First, Sebastian Giovinco equalized in the 36th minute on a fast break after the Revolution’s Scott Caldwell coughed up possession in the center circle.

Toronto took the lead in the 54th minute through Lucas Janson, who found space in behind the Revs’ back line off a feed by Giovinco. Janson’s initial effort at net was parried by New England goalkeeper Brad Knighton, but he managed to stick his rebound into the back of the net to make it 2-1.

Sep 29, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco (10) is congratulated by midfielder Victor Vazquez (7) after scoring a goal in the first half against New England Revolution at BMO Field. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

In the minutes leading up to TFC’s second goal, match referee Ismail Elfath provided the Revolution with two lifelines. First, he called off another apparent goal by Janson for handling, then he canceled another would-be strike by Jonathan Osorio after detecting a foul earlier in the play through VAR.

Victor Vazquez made it 3-1 from the penalty spot in the 58th minute after Jalil Anibaba clipped Michael Bradley in the box. Bradley sold the call well – he appeared to be falling on his own, not because of a foul – but Anibaba came in hard to help rationalize Elfath’s decision.

Marco Delgado iced the game with a free header to make it 4-1 in the 81st minute.

You have a whole litany of errors that led to all of Toronto’s goals: a costly giveaway, a lack of concentration, an ill-timed intervention in the penalty area, and shoddy marking in the box.

There has to be more to the Revolution’s tactics than the high press

The Revolution shot six times and scored a goal inside the first 15 minutes of Saturday’s match.

In the final 75 minutes, they shot four more times, scored no goals, and conceded four times. Toronto had one shot in the first 15 minutes but ended up out-shooting the Revs 19-10.

New England got some productivity out of the high press in the early stages of Saturday’s game, but appeared to labor and slow down after Cristian Penilla opened the scoring in the 10th minute.

Revolution head coach Brad Friedel doesn’t exactly keep his love of the high press a secret, even though there have been questions throughout the season of the physical toll it takes. In September, when asked about the physical cost of the tactic, Friedel said he feels his team can handle it and said his players’ physicality is among the best in the league.

But the Revolution may be telegraphing their moves, so to speak. Stats on Saturday show they struggled to break down Toronto given that there were out-shot by a four to one ratio for most of the game and had just 40 percent of possession. Meanwhile, all of Toronto’s goals came in the run of play off fast breaks.

It seems like the Revs can go 100 mph, and that’s it. It worked well for a time on Saturday, but Toronto eventually learned when to get forward after the Revs tired themselves out and couldn’t compete in midfield.

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