May 30, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; Atlanta United FC forward Josef Martínez (7) walks off the field during the first half against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
The New England Revolution was second-best for most of Wednesday night’s contest against Atlanta United, but produced a goal from the penalty spot to salvage a 1-1 tie. The result kept the Revs, who are now on a three-game winless run, in the Eastern Conference’s sixth and final playoff position.
Here are three takeaways from New England’s performance:
Two things stuck out about Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner on Wednesday night. One was the quality of each of his season-high six saves. Another was Revolution coach Brad Friedel, arguably the best shot-stopper in American history, saying after the game that few active U.S. goalkeepers are as good as Turner.
Turner’s rise this season was utterly unpredictable. He was a third-stringer when preseason started and no one really expected an unproven, young keeper to get playing time over promising prospect Cody Cropper and league veteran Brad Knighton.
And yet, here we are, with Turner having started all 13 games this season. Turner has made a number of impressive saves and has already been touted by some Revs as a potential future U.S. national team goalkeeper. My view is that the soccer community at large should pump the brakes on Turner’s future as a national team player. At 23, he’s still at the early stages of his career and needs more time to develop.
That said, his performance Wednesday was second to none and was easily his best display so far this season. He made difficult save after difficult save on shots that likely would have challenged even the best goalkeepers in the world.
Friedel said Turner has a bright future ahead if he stays grounded and humble and builds on his recent success.
Turner was uninterested in talking about a national-team future after Wednesday’s game. Instead, he echoed his coach, stating that he’s growing in confidence but staying level-headed.
Diego Fagundez lost out wide
Friedel had the Revolution start the game using a 4-3-3 formation, pushing Diego Fagundez wide right, believing the setup would best suit the Revolution in pressing Atlanta.
But the Revs didn’t generate much in the way of meaningful chances. Fagundez was neutralized on the wing and was never able to assert himself as the playmaker he’s been all season. The image below is his heat map Wednesday. He had 47 touches. It’s also quite remarkable how far wide he pushed when he was on the ball.
Fagundez also had New England’s worse passing accuracy, a paltry 54 percent. He had two shots, but neither tested Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Last night’s performance was an anomaly for Fagundez, at least in terms of his passing. He’s completed, on average, 74.9 percent of his passes this season, though he’s typically been deployed in a more central role.
Don’t let stats fool you
With Fagundez lost out wide and Teal Bunbury’s only shot of the game coming from the penalty spot, it’s obvious that Atlanta’s defensive gameplan for beating the Revs in Foxborough was spot on.
Atlanta only outshot the Revs 12-9, but consider the quality of chances created by both teams.
Without Turner, Wednesday’s score may have been almost as lopsided as the 7-0 drubbing Atlanta handed the Revs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium last September.
The Five Stripes dominated the game.
Michael Parkhurst had the Atlanta backline humming and thwarting the Revs nearly every time they came forward. Given the positioning of key players, such as Fagundez, in New England’s 4-3-3, the hosts had little buildup as well.
Overall, the Revs were fortunate to steal a point from Atlanta, which was composed and in control for the entire match. New England will have to produce more if it hopes to challenge teams like Atlanta down the stretch.