“It’s rough but I’m proud of the fight” | Revs trio lament ‘fine margins’ of playoff disappointment

11_8_23 Noel Buck vs. Philadelphia Union

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Interim head coach Clint Peay, defender Andrew Farrell and midfielder Noel Buck spoke of their pride for the New England Revolution’s fight in the Audi MLS Cup Playoff clash with the Philadelphia Union.

The Revs exited the postseason tournament at the Round One stage, falling to last year’s runners-up in the best-of-three series after two matches. The Pennsylvania side followed up a 3-1 home victory in the opening fixture at Subaru Park with a 1-0 triumph at Gillette Stadium, courtesy of Chris Donovan’s late strike.

Needing a victory to keep their playoff hopes alive by forcing a Game 3 decider, the Revolution’s task became all the more difficult when Mark-Anthony Kaye was shown a red card in the first half following a VAR check. Despite the disadvantage, the hosts battled to the end in search of a leveler, and though they were unable to send the game to a penalty shootout, the trio believe the team gave their all.

“These moments are never easy,” Peay said. “The [team] should be proud of the way they finished the season in terms of the character they showed. My message was simply: they played really hard, they played well, pushed the game, defended well; we were aggressive, and that’s what we wanted to see all along.

“[Philly] didn’t have to push the game, being up 1-0 [in the series], and certainly we had to make the game a little bit. Our guys played well and made it tough for them. Obviously, they’re missing a few guys, so maybe that’s taken into consideration for their performance.

“Even being down a man, we ended the half fairly well, so [we looked to] continue what we were doing and be intelligent. We weren’t losing and didn’t have to push necessarily to score – we just had to not concede. For the most part, we managed to do a decent job in that regard. Obviously, [it was] an unfortunate foul that we gave up to give them the free kick to score.

“First thing we always say is: ‘Don’t foul. Don’t give away silly fouls.’ Unfortunately for their goal, it was a little bit of a misfortunate tackle that led to that free kick. The second piece is: ‘Be organized and focused in the moment.’ Being down a man, you adjust a little bit but overall, I thought we were solid except for that one play – we lost that focus and concentration for a moment.

“They scored fairly late so we started to say: ‘How can we push a little bit?’ DeJuan [Jones] is a little bit more of an attacking guy, so we figured we’d leave him on for a little bit and take Andrew off – again, just trying to figure out how we can equalize at that point and what’s going to help us.

“There’s talent on the team – guys with real character. They were able to show that and as they move forward – who knows what’s going to happen with the team as we move forward – but the core of the team is that: competitors, and I think they’ll be fine as they move forward.

“I believe that there was a lot that went on [in the second half of the season] in that transition that affected a lot of people – players obviously in particular – and at the end of the day, we just never really recovered.

“We had a lot of close games that didn’t go our way, giving up some late goals in that stretch right after Leagues Cup, so maybe morale started to wane, I don’t know. I don’t have a great answer. I’ll have to reflect on that a little bit more.

“As I reflect, it was a great experience for me in terms of being able to work with the group and learn a little bit more about what that means.

“For the fans, this is an organization with the Kraft [Family] and with the Front Office staff that want to win games, and they’ll push and make that happen and will continue to move forward. At the end of the day, this team and this organization will rebound and be better for it.”

New England’s all-time record appearance maker Farrell was contesting his seventh postseason with the Revs.

Employed in a more offensive role at right back, the defender went close to finding the net on his 15th playoff appearance – all of which have been starting roles. Though he could not prevent his side from elimination, he remained ever-positive, reflecting on the lessons learned from a challenging period.

“We’re obviously disappointed with how the season ended,” he added. “It’s rough but I’m proud of the guys for the fight they showed, especially in this game but in the ups and downs of the second half of the season.

“The last months haven’t been great results-wise. We probably could have had two home games if we’d have taken care of business in the last month-and-a-half – all those games we had. Obviously, we don’t want to lose at home, we don’t want to lose in the playoffs; we wanted to force Game 3.

“That effort was something that, if we had seen that at the second half of the season, we would’ve been in a better spot. It’s the fine margins in this league – things can go either way and we didn’t have things go our way.

“We started well. I don’t know if we had clear-cut chances but we had the ball. It was a pretty good game from our standpoint, then the game changes on a [red card] play like that, and it’s hard to get back into the game.

“We had chances, we were in the game, and Philly is a team that they don’t beat themselves – they’re a hard-working team and they don’t beat themselves. You can get something on them but the past times we’ve played them, we’ve shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. Against a team of that caliber, you can’t do that, so that’s where we are now – not able to advance and force Game 3, so that’s disappointing.

“It’s hard to say we deserved a better result. That’s part of the game – if they put the ball in the back [of the net] and you don’t, they deserve to win. Obviously, we were trying to nick a goal there and get it to PKs and get a win there. It’s the fine margins, especially in the playoffs.

“I think that’s maybe where the disappointment is – that we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had in the second half of the season – but that’s part of it. Only one team is going to end up winning at the end of the year and unfortunately, we didn’t do enough to put ourselves in that position to do that.”

Buck, who earned his MLS Playoff debut in the series against the Union, also shared his thoughts on the defeat.

The teenager – the first Homegrown Player to start a postseason game for the Revs since Scott Caldwell in 2019 – naturally could not hide his disappointment, but also hailed his side’s heart, dedication and resilience.

“It’s really unfortunate for lack of a better word,” he added. “Despite the result, the team showed a lot of fight, which is really promising. We just fell short and that’s it. These games are such little margins – little margins for error.

“Despite everything that’s gone on – it’s been a difficult year – the group has stayed together, and really tried to get results. Talking about the team, we all help each other, and we really stayed together.”

Farrell was also full of praise of the Revs’ camaraderie and believes the spirit shown stands the squad in good stead for the coming years.

Following a period of uncertainty, the defender also backed the club to steady the ship over the next few months, ready to start afresh in 2024.

“There’s optimism always,” he continued. “This club is great. They’ll make the right decisions on the players who will come back. There are some good players on this team – some really good young players and some good veterans – and I’m sure this team will be great next year.

“Obviously, there are ups and downs – you’ve got to maneuver that. There are ups and downs in parts of the season – that’s part of life. There were some rough moments this season. We’ve got to stick together as a team, as a group and that’s what we did.

“The effort from the guys was great. [We] should be proud about that, but as a team and an organization, we want to be getting through these rounds and hosting playoff games. That’s something to look at for next year and the years to come.”