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Game recap: Revolution defeat Atlanta United, 2-1

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Bruce Arena’s men earned their first-ever win against Atlanta on Saturday night, featuring a trademark performance by Carles Gil

MLS: Atlanta United FC at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

FOXBOROUGH—The New England Revolution earned their first-ever win against Atlanta United on Saturday night, defeating the Five Stripes, 2-1. After a United penalty neutralized Brandon Bye’s headed goal in the first half, Carles Gil delivered the suffering blow with a penalty kick in the 53rd minute.

Arena’s side entered Saturday’s match energized and confident, blitzing Atlanta from the get-go. In the first half, the Revolution tallied a handful of chances, including a header by Kessler that ricocheted off the post.

Arena debuted the 4-2-3-1 formation on Saturday, including Maciel––who was paired with Matt Polster––at holding midfield. Saturday marked the Brazilian’s debut for the Revolution, becoming the first Revolution II player to debut for the first team.

The Revolution utilized wide areas and quick passing to displace Atlanta, playing an up-tempo style of soccer that suffocated Gabriel Heinze’s squad. Tajon Buchanan was particularly lively in the first half, drawing two yellow cards on the right side. Gil was also at his best, floating into space and artfully picking out his teammates in the box.

Bruce Arena’s men might’ve felt hard done when Marcelino Moreno scored a penalty for Atlanta in the 43rd minute, though the goal succeeded twenty minutes of poor finishing in the box by the Revolution.

Atlanta was particularly reckless in the tackle in the first half, an extension of D.C. United’s similar aggressiveness last week. At halftime, Arena underscored the constant fouling, which seemed to target Gil and Buchanan in particular.

All eleven players returned to start the second half for the Revolution, allowing the unit to build off their offensive fluidity. After five minutes of pressing in the second half, Buchanan was awarded a foul on the top of the box, originally tabbed a free-kick. However, after deliberation from the referee that spanned about three minutes, the decision was ultimately changed to a penalty after VAR review.

Gil slotted home the penalty, freezing his former Aston Villa teammate Brad Guzan. As the lights flickered in Gillette and Gil pumped his fists, all seemed well in New England.

The additions of Miles Robinson and Ezequiel Barco at halftime helped Atlanta equalize the play in the second half, though Turner was equal to any challenge thrown his way. Bunbury and McNamara also subbed in for the Revolution––replacing Traustason and Buchanan respectively––sustaining energy levels for Arena’s side.

The match finished 2-1, pushing the Revolution’s undefeated streak to three games. In a game that many considered a “measuring stick” for the Revolution, Bruce Arena’s side passed with flying colors. Atlanta United is still not at their best––especially since some of their key players were rested for parts of tonight’s game––but beating them is still a challenge.

Heading into next week’s match against Nashville SC (0W-0L-2D), Arena has quite a few reasons to feel optimistic. Carles Gil registered a trademark performance on Saturday, showing why he’s a top-5 player in the MLS. Matt Polster was also particularly impressive for the Revolution, displaying his top-tier technique and decision-making. The defensive unit was also robust.

As things stand, Bruce Arena’s team (2W-0L-1D) sits first in the Eastern Conference.