FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution interim head coach Clint Peay, defender DeJuan Jones and midfielder Noel Buck assert the Revs must not dwell on Wednesday night’s home loss to Columbus Crew.
The Revs fell to defeat at Gillette Stadium for the first time in MLS action this year, suffering a 2-1 reverse as Malte Amundsen’s late strike snatched the points for the visitors, after Tomás Chancalay’s fourth goal of the campaign had canceled out Diego Rossi’s first-half opener.
The setback saw the hosts drop to fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, with the race for homefield advantage in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs entering its final stretch. Though disappointed to have seen their impressive unbeaten home record come to an end, the Revs trio insist the team must not let the result define their season.
With three regular season matches to play – all against fellow playoff contenders in Orlando City SC, Nashville SC and Philadelphia Union – Peay and co. state focus must shift to sharpening up for the postseason tournament, starting with Saturday’s trip to Florida.
“[They are] all good teams,” Peay said of the Revolution’s remaining fixtures. “We feel confident that we can win any game, against anyone – but certainly, [we] know that we have to play a game [with] less mistakes, or mistake-free, than we did [on Wednesday] in order to win those games.
“They are a good team, Columbus. I thought we had some quality stretches on both sides of the ball where we put them under pressure, dictated stretches of the game – but we made two really poor mistakes that cost us.
“To the corner [Amundsen scored from], obviously, it could have been defended better. I don’t know about ‘differently’, but it’s a play where you’ve got to attack the ball and we didn’t. The ball basically drops in the six-[yard box].
“Other times, I think we could’ve done a better job of stopping the player high up the field, and obviously, there were moments we didn’t do that. They got more direct as the game went on, because of the pressure. They couldn’t play through us. I thought we forced them to change it and that almost played to their advantage at some points, because they’ve got some quick guys up top, and the game got stretched.
“I don’t necessarily know that it’s the system. I think regardless of how you play, counterattacks are part of the game. You have to deal with it, regardless of how you play, and it first starts with how you take care of the ball. Too many times, we lose the ball too easily, and when you do that and you’re not prepared to lose the ball, it surprises you and you get caught out.
“I thought the guys worked tremendously hard. We made some adjustments about 20 minutes in, and were able to really turn them over in the second part of the first half. Then in most of the second half, they had a real hard time playing out, so they became more direct and I thought we needed to deal with those moments a little bit better, a little cleaner, so that they didn’t have opportunities to turn us and get the goal.”
Jones, who claimed his sixth assist of the season for Chancalay’s equalizer, echoed Peay’s sentiments regarding the Revs’ areas of improvement, and feels the encounter provided a useful examination of the hosts’ level ahead of their playoff push.
“We've got to close out those games, especially at home,” he added. “We’ll learn from it. That's a playoff team, so that's what's going to be in store for playoffs. It was a good test for us. I think it's a good measuring stick.
“It’s good to get this experience against these teams. We're seeing how they're going to play, which will probably be how they're going to play in the playoffs. We're getting one more look at them right before playoffs, so it's a good run of games for us.
“We have got to be smarter on the ball. We’re losing the ball in some bad areas, and just when guys aren't expecting us to lose the ball. Obviously, you have to be careful and not go too far forward too fast, but also, we've got to be smarter with the ball and realize times where it's maybe dangerous to go for the ‘Superman’ ball.
“To go down against a good team and then have that response in the second half, I think that was great – but again, last 10 minutes, [conceding from] a set piece, we've got to do better.”
Buck, who netted his third MLS goal of the season in Saturday’s win over Charlotte FC, agreed: “It’s a tough game, but inevitably we have to move on. It’s not great to lose at home, but we have three important games coming up, and we need some points out of them.
“I did think we had some good moments. We're growing, and we had a couple [of] new players we need to get together with, and get used to them. Each game, I think we can improve on it, and we need to win these next games.
“We can sort that out as a group. Obviously, we'll look at the game and see what we can improve on. We’re a really resilient team. I don't think it will affect us.
“I think we have a lot of talented players in the group that we can move forward and keep going for this final stretch. We’re confident playing all of these teams – we’re not scared of them. We have great players in the team, who are capable of doing a lot, and we can beat any team.
“Now, we have an important game in a couple of days. Winning would be nice but we will respond.”
Despite the defeat, Wednesday’s game marked another positive showing for Chancalay, as the winger netted his fourth goal in his first eight games for the Revolution since joining on loan from Racing Club in July.
The Argentine leveled the score just three minutes after the break with a superbly-struck half-volley from Jones’ delivery, earning more praise from Peay for his creative spark.
“He was one of the bright spots, in terms of the attack,” the interim head coach continued. “[He’s] very dangerous – whether it’s creating for others, for himself. I think defensively, he worked tremendously hard. I can’t say enough about the effort he gave.”
Jones’ cross for the equalizer marked the defender’s 20th assist for New England and second in four days, following his delivery for Dave Romney’s game-winning header against Charlotte.
One shy of a career-high tally of tee-ups for the campaign, the full back was pleased to once again provide an offensive contribution, and reflected on the recent tactical shift in defense with Peay opting to employ inverted wing backs: Matt Polster on the left and Jones on the right.
“That was a good sequence,” he said of his set-up for Chancalay. “Carles [Gil] was on the ball going forward, I thought their wingback was kind of stepping to him, so I saw the space. When I made the run, Tomás was yelling for it, so I just wanted to give him a chance. [It was a] great strike, top finish, so happy for that.
“[The shift] is interesting. I can come out of the center back role and get into the attack as kind of a free man. That can confuse the defenses sometimes, and I'm still able to get forward, which is nice. It's good. We're able to keep the ball a little bit better, and we're a little closer, so we have closer connections to try and keep more possession.”
Peay also provided an update on midfielder Nacho Gil and defender Ryan Spaulding with the pair both absent from the matchday squad. Gil was ruled out of contention with a right leg injury, while Spaulding had last featured in the 1-1 draw with Minnesota United FC.
“Ryan is more of a squad decision,” Peay explained. “With Nacho, he’ll be fine.”