Sep 22, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; Chicago Fire manager Veljko Paunovic on the side line during the first half against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution coach Brad Friedel still believes his team is going to make the playoffs.
But the chances of that happening dropped on Saturday night as the Revolution settled for a 2-2 draw against the Chicago Fire at Gillette Stadium.
New England had to come from behind twice to secure the result and extend its unbeaten run to four games.
However, New England central defender Michael Mancienne redirected a driven through ball from Raheem Edwards into his own net to restore Chicago’s advantage in the 67th minute. Cristian Penilla then equalized for the Revolution three minutes later with his 10th goal of the year to cap the scoring.
“We played well enough to win and we didn’t win,” said Caldwell after the game. “We keep saying that and it’s not good enough.”
The Revolution entered the weekend in decent form after having procured four points from two consecutive road games – a 1-0 win at New York City FC and a 1-1 draw at Los Angeles FC, two of the toughest away fixtures in the league.
That said, FiveThirtyEight had the Revs’ chances of making the post-season at just 10 percent prior to Saturday’s game. With the Montreal Impact and NYCFC also tying on Saturday night, the Revs’ position is mostly unchanged: they’re eighth in the Eastern Conference standings and five points out of a playoff spot with five games to go.
New England also has a game in hand on Montreal.
“In every single game we have the opportunity to win the game; in every single game, we’re creating a lot of chances,” Friedel said.
“D.C has to keep winning out, and I’m sure, as with the way MLS works, teams [go] in groups of games; Philadelphia I think is still there to be caught with who they have left to play…and there are no easy games in this league.
“So while we have points on the board, while we’re still in the hunt, this is something we’re going to believe: that we can make the playoffs.”
But the Revolution only looked like a playoff team in spurts on Saturday night.
Chicago grinded out the play in the first half and frustrated New England in midfield and barely conceding any chances.
Freidel accused the Fire of wasting time and said afterwards that he felt his players could compete, physically, with their opponents’ style of play.
But Chicago nevertheless caught New England flat-footed, albeit off an early error. Aleksandar Katai, pounced on an errant touch by Revolution left back Brandon Bye, ran into the penalty area, and cut past Mancienne before finishing in the lower left corner of the net in the 19th minute.
Friedel withdrew both Diego Fagundez and Bye at halftime for Juan Agudelo and Guillermo Hauche, who made his MLS debut.
The changes unleashed a different style of play as the Revs switched into a 4-4-2 with Agudelo and Teal Bunbury inter-changing with Penilla and Hauche.
New England managed to tie the game 17 minutes into the second half.
Penilla’s trivela from the left flank reached Andrew Farrell on the opposite end of the field. Farrell then sent a cross into the box that deflected off the out-stretched foot of Brandon Vincent, Chicago goalkeeper Richard Sanchez sprawling to touch parry the floating ball away.
Caldwell then emerged, unmarked, to poke the rebound into the back of the net and make it 1-1.
But Chicago went up again just five minutes later. Katai launched a fast break and found second half substitute Raheem Edwards streaming toward the left side of the area. Edwards then played the ball across the box, Mancienne inadvertently knocking the feed into his own net as he tried to clear the ball out of the goal mouth.
The Revolution turned the tables in their favor once again as Penilla converted his side’s second equalizer of the game in the 70th minute; he went one-on-one with Sanchez off a feed from Agudelo, rounded the keeper and then fired a low drive through Vincent’s legs and into the open net.
“We created a lot of chances, but it’s not good enough in the final third,” added Caldwell. “We need to keep a shutout in the game. We knew they were sitting back and we let in two goals…we also have to finish chances. It came down to our plays throughout the field.”