FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Toronto FC wasn’t ready for the New England Revolution’s high press.
That much was clear inside the first seven minutes of the clubs’ clash Saturday night at Gillette Stadium. New England (5-3-2, 17 points) scored twice off a pair of Toronto (2-6-1, 7 points) giveaways en route to a 3-2 win.
Cristian Penilla opened the scoring with his third and fourth goals of the season in the fourth and seventh minutes, respectively, finding the back of the net calmly on a pair of errant passing plays in Toronto’s end of the field.
“We like to high press and force them into mistakes,” Revolution coach Brad Friedel said. “We felt that if we won the ball high up the field we could expose the back four, which we did on numerous occasions.”
Teal Bunbury made it 3-0 for the Revolution less than 60 seconds into the second half.
Toronto managed to trim the deficit by two in a wild finish, but sunk its chances at a complete comeback when Sebastian Giovinco received a red card for grabbing New England midfielder Wilfried Zahibo’s face. The card brought his team down to 10 men seconds after he converted a penalty kick in the 89th minute.
TFC’s first goal arrived in the 55th minute when New England central defender Antonio Mlinar Delamea ricocheted a feed by Jay Chapman into his own net.
May 12, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Revolution forward Cristian Penilla (70) is mobbed by teammates after scoring his second goal during the first half against Toronto FC at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto entered the weekend on a short turnaround after falling at Seattle 2-1 Wednesday night. In rainy weather and on artificial turf, TFC coach Greg Vanney opted to rest starters Giovinco, Victor Vazquez, Ashtone Morgan, and Chris Mavinga. All but Morgan were subbed on in the second half. Vanney also used Michael Bradley in central defense rather than as a midfielder.
Revolution coach Brad Friedel called an audible with his lineup card, too, in the wake of his side’s 4-2 loss last Saturday at Montreal. Kelyn Rowe and Scott Caldwell started in central midfield, while Delamea and Chris Tierney started on the back line in place of central defender Claude Dielna and left back Gabriel Somi, respectively.
“Our second half performance against Montreal was very poor, very uncharacteristic of us,” Friedel said. “All along, we’ve said players that work hard in training will have a chance to play. All those players have trained very hard.
“We have a really good squad. You’re going to see some rotation of the squad, but you’re going to see players fight for their places.”
New England had no problems carving into Toronto’s makeshift lineup.
The first goal came when Caldwell intercepted Bradley’s pass out of the back. Bunbury then slipped possession wide to Penilla, who finished his breakaway with a low drive that rolled past TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono.
Ager Aketxe coughed up possession to Penilla three minutes later after an errant pass from Bono. Penilla immediately pounced on the ball in the attacking third and chipped into the back of the net past Toronto’s outstretched keeper.
On the flipside, New England goalkeeper Matt Turner was on his game in his 10th consecutive start.
He dived left to tip away a bid from inside the box by Tosaint Ricketts in the 25th minute, caught a long-range effort from Jordan Hamilton in the 26th and tipped away another effort from Jonathan Osorio outside the penalty area in minute 30,
Bunbury scored the critical third goal as many in the announced 19,596 audience returned to their seats for the start of the second half. He got the ball off a 40-yard pass from Andrew Farrell, dribbled 15 yards into the box, and then buried a shot past Bono inside the far corner of the net.
“Andrew’s had a lot of great passes, so I don’t think it’s his greatest one. But he’s aware of the game, knows where he is, knows I like to make runs like that,” Bunbury said. “We wanted to start hot in the second half and we were able to do that.”
Toronto ruined the Revolution’s clean sheet 10 minutes later off Delamea’s own goal, but had other chances to score more once Giovinco, Mavinga, and Vazquez entered the game.
Chapman blasted high off a Bradley-Giovinco combination in the 65th, then Giovinco had a bid from 25 yards out tipped away by Turner.
The final five minutes were maybe the wildest of the Revolution’s season. First, referee Mark Geiger awarded Toronto a penalty after Auro was tripped up in the box. Giovinco converted the ensuing spot kick by firing to the left, taking the ball with him toward midfield for a quick restart.
Zahibo, who entered the match off the bench in the 86th minute, tried to take the ball from Giovinco, who then shoved away Zahibo’s face, prompting Geiger to eject Giovinco after consulting video review.