FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Saturday night’s clash between the New England Revolution and Orlando City SC may have been a playoff preview in more ways than one.
Matt Turner’s second-half penalty save preserved a 2-1 win for the Revs and guaranteed they’ll open the 2021 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs at Gillette Stadium, where they’re 11-1-2 on the season. Saturday night’s crowd of 23,506 was a season high, and there was an electricity inside the building that provided a glimpse into what a postseason game might look like come November.
“It’s massive,” Turner said of an atmosphere he said had a playoff feel. “I can’t speak enough to how important it is to have the fans turn out to games here at Gillette and cheer on the team. Through tough moments, whether it be the last game when we played Columbus and it was 1-1, and we’re just pushing and pushing and pushing for that goal, or it’s 2-1 and we’re sort of on the backfoot and they have corner kicks and set pieces and we’re not really defending that well, and just to sort of keep us going in the moment.”
When the Revs do open the playoffs in Foxborough later this season, it’ll be their first home playoff game in front of fans since the 2014 Eastern Conference Championship. Last year’s play-in round victory over Montreal was at Gillette Stadium, but without fans present because of COVID-19 restrictions.
A crowd of 32,698 was in Foxborough for the Revolution’s 4-3 aggregate win over the New York Red Bulls to lift the Eastern Conference Championship trophy seven years ago, and this year’s roster would love nothing more than to feel that same support in the playoffs.
“We’ve been really good at home this season,” said Henry Kessler, referencing the Revs’ 11 home wins, one shy of the club’s single-season record. “We’ve been good in front of our home fans, and it’s going to be important to be at home, and hopefully we secure even more home games after that.”
Since officially clinching their playoff spot this past Wednesday night, Revolution head coach Bruce Arena and his players have been vocal about their desire to finish atop the East, which would guarantee homefield advantage all the way through the conference championship. At the end of Saturday night’s action the Revs had stretched their lead atop the East to a staggering 18 points.
New England’s lead in the Supporters’ Shield race, meanwhile, is now 16 points, and a Shield would mean homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, including a potential MLS Cup.
“Great crowd tonight,” said Tajon Buchanan, who forced the game-winning own goal in the first half. “[The fans] stuck with us throughout the whole game, and when it comes down to these last stretches of games, and come the playoffs, they’re going to be helpful. Hopefully we can get all home games come the playoffs and host an MLS Cup.”
“It’s huge to have the support and it means so much to us players,” added Turner. “We’ve been working really hard all season, so to have the support that we’ve been getting is huge, and we feel it.”