The New England Revolution returned to MLS Cup playoff action as they traveled to MAPFRE Stadium as they took on the Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference Finals.
An unchanged starting XI for Bruce Arena and the Revolution took the field, however, we saw the return of Diego Fagundez to the gameday roster as he earned a spot on the bench.
This was the first time we have seen Fagundez in the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. The last time Fagundez graced the Revolution’s 18 was on Decision Day against the Philadelphia Union, where he was an unused substitution.
Matt Turner was put to work early on by Columbus’ octane offense. In the 6th minute, Luis Diaz was able to work around DeJuan Jones and lasered the ball near post to a waiting Turner, who deflected the ball out for a Columbus corner kick.
Gyasi Zardes came close to sending another shot on to the Revs goal in the 15th minute after finding the ball bouncing around unattended in the box. Yet Andrew Farrell had a different idea, as he was able to get a foot on to Zardes’ shot and deflected it away from goal.
The Revs first scoring chance came in the 28th minute as Carles Gil sent a barreling through ball downfield to Adam Buksa. Buksa was able to take advantage of his defender’s delay of pressuring him and locked targets on to Columbus’ goal and pushed forward. As Buksa advanced towards the 6-yard box, Columbus keeper Andrew Tarbell was in the right place at the right time and forced Buksa to take the shot at an awkward angle that bounced off the near post and out of play for a Columbus goal kick.
Turner would come in clutch in the 36th minute as he was able to get both hands on Lucas Zelarayan’s shot from atop of the 18-yard box and back into play, where Tajon Buchanan would clear it out.
Things got scary for the Revolution’s defense in the 39th minutes as Zardes header in the midfield would find an undefended Pedro Santos, who would make a run on goal.
As the Revs backline attempted to cover Santos, Santos sent a rocket of a shot towards goal from outside the 18-yard box. Turner would make arguably his best save of the playoffs as he was able to leap to his right and punched the ball away from goal with his right hand.
Buksa would come close to putting the Revolution ahead again in the 56th minute. After a rocket of a goal kick from Turner, Buksa was able to take advantage of his defender, who fell while wrestling for the ball, and turned on the jets.
Buksa would slice through the Columbus backline and find himself inside the 18-yard box. Buksa would then try to find the top left corner but would be denied by Tarbell.
In what was a common theme throughout this Eastern Conference final, Turner would save the day again in the 58th minute after getting a hand on Zardes’ chip shot.
Artur would put Columbus up 1-0 in the 59th minute after an impressive offensive run from Columbus, which saw Jonathan Mensah flick the ball to the open Artur, who hammered it past the diving hand of Turner and into the bottom right corner of the net.
Zelarayan came close to scoring what would have been a phenomenal goal from way outside the box but would thankfully be denied by the post.
The Revs first substitution came in the 61st minute as Brandon Bye would replace Teal Bunbury. Bye would take over the right-back position for Buchanan as he would move more upfield. Kelyn Rowe and Tommy McNamara would come on for Buchanan and Scott Caldwell in the 70th minute. The Revs final sub came in the 85th minute as Justin Rennicks would come on for Jones.
As added time came close to an end, it was all hands on deck for the Revolution as they prepared to take a free kick in the midfield. Gil’s delivery into the box would be headed away by Columbus’ backline where it would find a looming Matt Polster. Polster’s shot would be a tad too low as Tarbell grasped the ball as the final whistle sounded.
Although a rather tough ending to a prominent season for the Revolution, one has to remember the strides the Revolution have made under Sporting Director and Head Coach Bruce Arena.
Going from a six-year-long playoff drought to being eliminated in the first round in 2019, to an Eastern Conference Finals appearance this year, it’s clear to see the impact Arena has made on this Revolution squad.