KISSIMMEE, Fla. – With a hard-fought point from a scoreless draw against Toronto FC on Tuesday morning, the New England Revolution will advance to the Round of 16 of the MLS is Back Tournament.
While moving on to the knockout stage is a feat in itself, one of the biggest positives of this accomplishment has been New England’s defensive performances. Specifically, in earning the clean sheet against the defending Eastern Conference champions, TFC registered 14 shots, five of which were on target, and the Revs denied every single one.
“I think we did a great job,” said Andrew Farrell. “Whenever we get a shutout, it’s not just the back four, it’s the whole team and the goalie. In this heat, it’s hard to defend, but everybody did a good job against a really, really good Toronto team. So give them credit, they created chances, [Matt] Turner made some saves, defenders made plays, and we had chances to win the game. It was a good defensive showing.”
The coaching staff implemented six total changes to the starting XI against Toronto, three of which were along the backline. Farrell and Henry Kessler partnered at center back, while DeJuan Jones was at left back to complement Brandon Bye,who put in another 90-minute shift at right back.
“I thought all game we did a good job with defending restarts,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “Our team shape was pretty good. We were a little better passing the ball.
“We made six changes today and for the most part some guys gave us a really good effort. I thought bringing back our center backs, Farrell and Kessler, they did a good job ... I think Henry and Andrew have played together a lot. They played the whole preseason together and the month of June, so they know each other. We just had some issues with injuries along the back line and that required us to make some changes.”
The resilient defensive showing is what kept the Revolution in the game for 90 minutes. In fact, the Revs only conceded one goal in their three games of the group stage of the MLS is Back Tournament, demonstrating that no matter who’s been on the backline, they’ve found a rhythm.
“A good thing is we’ve only given up one goal in three games,” said Farrell. “As long as we’re creating the chances, we’re going to score. We’ve got guys who can finish the ball, we know that. We brought a lot of guys in, guys like Kelyn [Rowe], Adam [Buksa], Gustavo [Bou], Carles [Gil], Teal [Bunbury], all these young guys that we have that can score goals.
“So we’re creating the chances, we’ve just got to put that ball in the back of the net. But as long as it’s zero-zero, we always have a chance to win the game.”
Farrell also praised Turner for keeping the team in the match and achieving a shutout. Turner had a season-high five saves on the day that kept the squad in position to potentially put one away through the final whistle.
“We got a point and we almost snuck away with three there at the end,” said Rowe. “I think it was very positive. We played a lot of players, we had a lot of rotation. Now we can recover and hopefully we don’t have another 9 a.m. game.”
With their next opportunity coming in the knockout stage of the tournament, the Revs shift their focus to their upcoming weekend match in the Round of 16 and their pending opponent that will be determined by Tuesday night’s result in the Montreal Impact vs. D.C. United match.
“A lot of positives to take from [the scoreless draw against Toronto],” said Farrell. “Obviously we wanted to win, but we’ll take the point and get ready for (the Round of 16).”