Brad Knighton and Brandon Bye (July 17, 2021)

ATLANTA – A three-game winless run is nothing more than a minor blip through the course of a 34-game season, but for the first-place New England Revolution, it represented their longest stretch without a victory this year. As such, they approached Saturday evening’s visit to Atlanta United FC with the mindset that three points was the only acceptable outcome.

With a 1-0 victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it was mission accomplished.

“It was going to be a tough performance for us,” said goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who made five saves to record his first clean sheet since October 2018 as he stands if for Matt Turner, on Gold Cup duty with the U.S. National Team. “We knew that coming in here, it was going to be a tough environment, but we needed to roll our sleeves up and show what kind of team we’re going to be this year.

“The results over the last couple weeks haven’t been in our favor and for one reason or another we haven’t started games properly, but I thought we started tremendous today. The guys in front of me were great. We had high energy from the start of the game and it led right through to the 94th minute.”

Goal scoring hasn’t been an issue for the Revs, who have scored at least once in each of their last 10 games and lead the Eastern Conference with 23 goals. Gustavo Bou provided the only breakthrough they needed on Saturday, burying a layoff from Adam Buksa in the 18th minute to secure his team-leading seventh goal of the season on the two-year anniversary of his MLS debut.

Where the Revs had struggled in recent weeks was defensively, conceding multiple goals in five straight games for the first time since 2018. But on Saturday they buckled down, limited their mistakes, and kept their fourth clean sheet of the season and their first since May 29 in Cincinnati.

“A good shutout,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “I think, if I’m not mistaken, they had very few legitimate goal-scoring opportunities. Obviously, a few shots that Brad was able to handle, but defensively, we did well.”

“It was a great team performance,” added Knighton. “We’ve kind of been leaking goals the last couple weeks – it’s not from one way or the other, it’s just been unfortunate circumstances. Last week, me getting my first start in front of the home crowd and the way it started, it wasn’t ideal. But to bounce back like I did and like the team did on the road in a tough environment, it was great for this team and it showed a lot of character in this team, what we’re all about, and hope to continue moving that forward.”

Saturday’s match kicked off a stretch in which the Revs will play six games in just 23 days, and they’ll be back in action just a few days from now when they’ll visit Inter Miami CF for the first time ever on Wednesday night.

“The three points are always important, no?” said Wilfrid Kaptoum, who made his third start with the Revs. “Especially after a loss. I think this gives us confidence for the next upcoming game. I think this helps us continue moving forward because the more you win, the closer you are to the objective. That’s how we will continue moving forward.”

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