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Brad Friedel’s lineup changes set Revs up for success against Toronto

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

The New England Revolution survived a late, two-goal rally from Toronto FC to secure a 3-2 victory at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night. New England’s victory keeps the club in playoff position and improves its record against TFC to 13-6-9 all-time.

Here are three takeaways from the Revolution’s win:

High press stumped Toronto early

It took about 10 seconds for the Revolution to play their first ball into the box Saturday night, four minutes to open the scoring and another three minutes to double their lead. Toronto gifted New England with some awful passing out of the back to start the game, but Cristian Penilla took his chances extremely well as he helped the Revs jump to a 2-0 lead.

Revolution coach Brad Friedel hasn’t kept his intentions, particularly home games, a secret: the Revolution are going to press. They’re going to clog the midfield. And they’re not going to stop until they catch their opponents and score.

It’s remarkable how hard it’s been for opposing teams to work around the Revolution’s press. Then again, New England has boasted some of the most dynamic and clinical attacking options in Major League Soccer for years; maybe the high press is finally helping the team maximize its strikers and offensive-minded midfielders.

Toronto shot itself in the foot at the start, and though the visitors found their form eventually and recovered two goals, the damage had already been done.

Friedel’s lineup changes deserve credit

Toronto wasn’t at full strength, choosing not to start Sebastian Giovinco, Chris Mavinga, Ashtone Morgan and Victor Vazquez. Michael Bradley even played out of position at centerback.

But TFC’s lineup was capable. It just started off poorly – thanks, in large part, to Friedel’s lineup changes.

Scott Caldwell and Kelyn Rowe returned to the starting XI, giving the Revolution a more attack-minded approach to moving the ball in the center of the pitch. Caldwell was instrumental in helping the Revs win, as he intercepted a Bradley pass to start the breakaway that led to Penilla’s first goal.

Next, Friedel named Antonio Delamea and Chris Tierney starters, pulling Claude Dielna and Gabriel Somi from central defense and left back, respectively. Delamea ended the game with an own goal and Tierney caused the foul that led to Giovinco converting from the penalty spot in the 89th minute to make it a one-goal game.

But Delamea was unlucky on the deflection that led to his own goal and the penalty call on Tierney’s foul was soft.

In any case, Tierney had a passing accuracy of 77 percent, made four tackles and intercepted one pass. Delamea completed 78 percent of his passes, made one tackle and had three interceptions.

Stats aside, the performances from Delamea and Tierney were a stark departure from the poor display offered by Dielna and Somi in New England’s last game, a 4-2 loss at Montreal. Somi completed a paltry 48 percent of his passes in that game, while both he and Dielna, along with the rest of the Revolution back line, left patches of space for the Impact to attack.

Friedel didn’t throw anyone under the bus last Saturday, but clearly stated changes were necessary after the result in Montreal and that those who work hard in training will be rewarded.

Delamea’s own goal and Tierney getting called for a penalty kick shouldn’t distract from otherwise positive performances by both players.

Matt Turner, MVP

Arguably the most important part of Saturday’s game came between the 20th and 30th minutes, when Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner made three key saves.

Turner’s best stop of the game – which Friedel later singled out in his postgame presser – came in the 26th minute when he went left to get his fingertips on a left-footed drive by Tosaint Ricketts. That was Toronto’s best bid to pull one back before halftime. Had that chance – or any of the others TFC put on frame in the first half – gone in, the dynamic would have changed greatly at the start of the second half.

Penilla scored twice and Teal Bunbury had the eventual match-winner, but Turner’s saves were, from a defensive perspective, the real difference.

Turner, who made his 10th-consecutive start Saturday, has earned his keep. He boasts MLS’ second-highest save percentage (72.9) and is also sixth in the league in saves (35).

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