CINCINNATI – Bruce Arena has been coaching long enough to have seen plenty of games like Saturday afternoon’s showdown at TQL Stadium, where the New England Revolution generated chance after chance, shot after shot, only to be denied by near misses or stunning saves time and time again.
New England registered a season-high 26 shots on Saturday – including a staggering 21 in the first half to set a club record – and remarkably hit the woodwork three times in the opening 45 minutes. FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer made five saves, several of the highlight-reel variety, and as the game entered the latter stages, tensions grew as the Revs pushed for a breakthrough that had seemed on the verge from virtually the opening whistle.
On this occasion that breakthrough finally came in the 70th minute when Adam Buksa got on the end of Carles Gil’s free kick to nod home the game winner – his team-leading fourth goal of the season – and the Revs held on for their third shutout of the year, all 1-0 victories.
“There have been many of them, believe me. They are never fun to go through,” Arena said when asked if he’d ever seen any of his teams generate so many near misses. “Obviously we’re disappointed with not finishing off some of these plays. Give their goalkeeper credit, he made some pretty good saves. At the other end of the field, Matt Turner did, as well.
“Having said all that, this is not the time to be complaining about getting three points on the road. We’re going to take the three points and get out of Cincinnati as fast as we can.”
Turner had a big role to play in Saturday’s clean sheet as the Revolution goalkeeper made four saves, including a stellar stop diving low to his left in the 82nd minute when the hosts were throwing everything forward in search of an equalizer. That represented a slight change from New England’s previous two shutouts, in which Turner was only called upon to make one save in each.
“This season, some of the clean sheets we’ve gotten, I haven’t really done anything,” Turner said. “It felt nice to actually have to do something and to contribute to the team in the way that I did tonight.”
Those efforts helped the Revs to a third straight win as they moved to 5-1-2 and solidified their place alone atop the Eastern Conference standings. With 17 points through eight games the Revs are off to the second-best start in club history as they’ve made good on their objective to start the season better than they had in years past.
“I think it’s pretty clear we got off to a great start,” said Turner. “There’s no denying that, whether you look at points, goals scored, goals against, clean sheets – all the stats. We’re creating chances and we’re hard to break down defensively. Now the next test is how do we recover from these eight games and just continue to build and get better.”
New England’s quest to continue improving will resume after a short hiatus, as the Revs won’t play again until June 19 when they return from a three-week international break. The players will be off completely until Friday, offering them a chance to recharge ahead of a hectic stretch of games through the summer months.
Saturday’s win, then, took on extra importance as it sent the Revs into the break on a positive note, knowing they’ll resume play in late June with a three-game winning streak intact and their place atop the Eastern Conference standings secured.
“I think we’re all looking forward to a little break right now,” said Arena. “It’s a pretty solid opening eight games to the season, so we need a little bit of a break. Hopefully we can regroup and be a little bit better when we return. Realistically, we know this is going to be a long season, but getting these three points on the road is important.”