The Revolution had one thing in mind when they took the pitch at Soldier Field in Chicago, and that was to pick up the three points and become the first team in Major League Soccer to punch their card to the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The last time we saw these two clubs meet was on April 17th in their respective season opener. The Revs were able to bounce back from two quick goals from Robert Berić and Luka Stojanović in the opening 11 minutes as goals from DP’s Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou were able to keep the Revs hopes alive as they escaped with a 2-2 draw. A lot has changed for this Revs side since the opening day draw as they looked to overcome their past mistakes.
Bruce Arena hinted at the possibility of roster turnover as the team prepared for a busy schedule that sees them play four games in twelve days. Arena was not joking on rotation as a total of nine changes were made to the starting lineup from Saturday’s draw against Columbus.
Goalkeeper Matt Turner and defender Henry Kessler were the only two names from Saturday’s lineup to feature in Wednesday’s match. Teal Bunbury, Edward Kizza, Arnór Traustason, Wilfried Kaptoum, Scott Caldwell, and Christian Mafla made a return to the starting lineup.
Luis Caicedo would make his first MLS appearance since October 6th, 2019. The Columbian midfielder missed the entirety of the 2020 MLS season as he sustained a meniscus injury and underwent surgery.
Another name returning from injury was defender Jon Bell. The rookie had not seen action with the first team since leaving the July 25th match against CF Montreal with a lower-body injury.
The Revolution offense took advantage of a free kick in the 11th minute as Traustason would heave the ball into the Chicago box to an awaiting Bell. Bell would outmuscle the defender guarding him and head a ball down towards the center of the six-yard box. Kizza lifted his foot to connect with the ball, but the second-year defender Henry Kessler would beat him to it as he lifted his right foot and lobbed the ball over the diving keeper and into the back of the net.
Some controversy appeared in the 34th minute as Chicago Fire FC Álvaro Medrán received a yellow card after kicking out at Caicedo. Medrán and the Chicago Fire were lucky as Medrán could have received a red card in the 34th minute.
Carlos Terán and the Fire took advantage of the Revs inability to clear the ball away from the defensive half as they were awarded their fourth corner in the span of a few minutes. Gastón Giménez would send the corner kick to the top right corner of the 6-yard box where an awaiting Terán would leap into the air and got his head on it. Terán slotted the ball to the lower right corner of the net and snuck it past Turner on the near post.
Not an ideal situation for the Revs to be in as the halftime echoed in Soldier field. They needed a stronger, more organized second half if they wanted to escape with all three points and a playoff berth.
Before the second half could begin, the Revs made their first two substitutions as Bou and Carles Gil replaced Kizza and Caldwell.
Bou looked to make an impact immediately as he sent a low-lying cross from the top right corner across the box towards the goal but would fail as no one was making a run towards the net.
Gil attempted to put the Revs ahead in the 58th minute as he sent a through ball towards an open Bunbury. Before Bunbury could get on the end of it, 17-year-old keeper Gabriel Slonina would pounce on it and put an end to the Revs offensive chance.
The Revs third substitution would come in the 61st minute as Canadian midfielder Tajon Buchanan would make his 20th appearance of the year as he replaced Traustason.
Buchanan made an impact in the 62nd minute as he read Matt Turner’s rocket of a pass downfield. Buchanan would turn his back towards Chicago’s goal and headed the ball ahead of a darting Bunbury. Bunbury would take the ball inside the box and slotted it into the lower right corner of the net.
Disaster would strike immediately for the Revolution as a quick build-up from the Chicago offense would net them the equalizer just one minute later. Berić would drive down the right side of the pitch where he crossed it into the box to Chinonso Offor, who turned his back to goal and flicked the ball back into space inside the box. Gastón Giménez would run onto the ball and send it past the Revs defense and into the back of the net.
The Revs fourth substitution came in the 69th minute as Brandon Bye would come on for DeLaGarza.
Kessler would save the Revs big time in the 78th minute as his positioning allowed him to clear away a shot on New England’s open goal. Without Kessler’s intervention, it would have easily been 3-2 for the Fire and may have extinguished the Revs chances of making history that night.
The final Revs substitution came in the 84th minute as DeJuan Jones would replace Mafla.
Matt Turner would continue to do Matt Turner things as he would fully stretch himself out in the 87th minute and saved a perfectly placed header from Luka Stojanović aimed for the top right corner of the net.
Gil continued to prove why he should be the 2021 MLS MVP as he would silence the crowd inside Soldier Field in stoppage time. It all started as Buchanan was able to power his way into the attacking half. Buchanan would send the ball over to the right side of the pitch to an awaiting Gil.
Gil drove the ball into the box, where he went one-on-one with a Chicago defender. Gil would stutter step to his right and shook the defender long enough to put a right-footed shot on goal. The ball would elevate past Slonina and into the top of the net.
Gil’s stoppage-time winner adds to the Midfield maestro’s impressive resume in 2021, which saw the Spanish midfielder net 3 goals and 16 assists. With seven games left in the regular season, it seems more and more likely we will see Carles Gil become the second player in Revolution history to be named Major League Soccer’s MVP.
As the final whistle sounded, the Revs did not just clinch a spot in the 2021 MLS playoffs, as they set a club record for the most wins in a single season with their eighteenth win in 2021.
With seven games left in the season, Arena and the Revs will look to clinch the Supporters’ Shield, a race in which they now lead by thirteen points. The Revs will also look to set the record for the most points scored in a season. The Revs trail the record holders, LAFC, by thirteen points.
The Revs return to action on Saturday, September 25th, as they host fourth-place Orlando City SC at 7:00 PM EST.