The New England Revolution scored two late goals to tie the Portland Timbers 2-2 on Wednesday night at Providence Park. The result gets the Revolution another step closer to snapping their three-year drought of missing the playoffs.
Here are three takeaways from New England’s point of view:
At PDX, it was never say die
Statistics show that Wednesday’s match was a dead heat – New England fired a whopping 24 shots to Portland’s nearly-impressive 21, and possession was almost evenly split. But the Revolution came out of halftime on the back foot and surrendered two goals from the Timbers’ Jeremy Ebobisse, who emerged unmarked twice in the penalty area to give the hosts a seemingly solid advantage.
Had that score line held, New England’s post-season hopes would still remain on a precipice, though the pressure on the team to collect points from its final two games would have been greater.
That said, New England didn’t quit after falling behind by a second goal. In a match that had playoff stakes for both teams, and in an environment where they’ve never won, the Revolution didn’t give up and pushed late to score twice and secure a point.
The Revs knew the stakes before the match kicked 0ff. But considering they were jet-lagged (it was close to 1:30 a.m. in Boston when the final whistle sounded) and were using a heavily-rotated lineup that featured six changes to the team that started against Real Salt Lake last Saturday, this was arguably their hardest-fought point of the year.
“It can be a spark for our final two regular-season games,” forward Teal Bunbury said of New England’s performance. “We still don’t have the playoff spot clinched so our focus now is going to be get back, recover, and get ready for New York City. They’re playing extremely well and it’s going to be a tough match-up but we’re going to be playing at home in front of our fans.
“We’re going to need three points so we’ve got to keep it going but I think this is really going to boost our confidence and we’re going to be ready to play Sunday.”
The playoff picture is getting rosier – but nothing is set
FiveThirtyEight indicated Thursday morning that New England’s chances of qualifying for the playoffs are at 79 percent. That figure is up 11 percent since Wednesday night’s match in Portland started.
As it stands, New England sits in the Eastern Conference’s seventh and final playoff spot with 42 points, four more than the eighth place Chicago Fire, five more than the ninth place Montreal Impact, and six points ahead of tenth place Orlando City SC, all of which are still in contention to leapfrog the Revolution and reach the playoffs.
Of those three teams, Chicago is the biggest threat to New England.
But the Revolution can eliminate that threat entirely by winning against New York City FC on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Just one win
New England should prefer to get into the playoffs on its own merits, not because Chicago or another conference rival eliminates itself from contention.
There is only one way for the Revolution to punch their playoff ticket on their own dime, and that’s to win on Sunday against New York City FC.
But another issue the Revs’ form. Even though they’ve lost just twice in their last 20 regular season games, they’re win-less in their last five. If the Revs intend to compete in the playoffs, they won’t want to head into Round 1 – which will definitely be played on the road – in the thick of a win-less skid.
Then again, it’s still a numbers game to even get into the playoffs. Getting three points in the home finale does the trick. Anything less with leave the door open to Chicago and maybe even Orlando and Montreal, which could require New England to win in Atlanta on Decision Day.
New England has come a long way since starting the season 2-8-2 and firing former head coach Brad Friedel. Now the team is just one win away from arguably the best season-long comeback in club history.