CHESTER, Pa. – Saturday night marked the start of a new era for the New England Revolution, but old habits proved costly for the Revs in their 2-0 season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Union.
Both of New England’s starting center backs were sent off – Antonio Delamea in the 24th minute and Claude Dielna in the 86th minute – and the shorthanded visitors were made to pay, conceding either side of halftime to drop the first game under the direction of head coach Brad Friedel.
Dating back to last season the Revs have now been issued six red cards in their last five road games – including five ejections before the halftime break – putting a heavy burden on the rest of the squad to play shorthanded for extended stretches.
“I thought the players that were on the field, especially playing with 10 men for such a long period of time, and also with nine men at the end, I thought they put all their heart into the game and poured their guts out,” said Friedel. “It’s not easy playing down a man, let alone two men.”
Cristian Penilla – after a lively start in his MLS debut – was sacrificed for Jalil Anibaba as the Revs adjusted tactically following Delamea’s sending off, and they so nearly reached halftime at 0-0, only for Anthony Fontana to make the breakthrough for Philadelphia just before the halftime whistle.
It was a backbreaking time to concede, particularly when considering the Revs looked rejuvenated after Friedel and his staff were able to make adjustments during the halftime interval.
“I think the killer blow was them scoring right [on] the stroke of halftime,” said Friedel. “I think at the start of the second half, they were finding it very difficult to break us down once we had a little chat at halftime. We had a couple chances on our own, but again, a poor defensive mistake for their second goal, and that killed the game off.”
New England will now need to regroup and readjust ahead of next weekend’s home opener against the Colorado Rapids, as they’ll be without both Delamea and Dielna as they kick off a stretch in which they’ll play 12 of their next 18 games at Gillette Stadium.
Friedel, his staff, and his players are confident they’ll be able to fill the gaps, with veteran Anibaba, rookie SuperDraft picks Nico Samayoa and Brandon Bye, and one-time center back Andrew Farrell all mentioned by Friedel as possible options.
“We’re facing a little adversity with the red cards at key positions, but that’s why we brought in a guy like Jalil, that’s why we signed a guy like Nico. We have more depth in the back than maybe years past,” said goalkeeper Matt Turner, who made his MLS debut on Saturday night. “I think it’s going to be fine and we’re going to put on a great performance for the old faithful up there [at Gillette Stadium].”