FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Brad Friedel knew exactly how he wanted his New England Revolution side to attack New York City FC on Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium: press high, force turnovers in the attacking third, and immediately convert those turnovers into scoring chances.
It was a game-plan that worked to near perfection for 45 minutes. The visitors continuously tried to play out of the back through New England’s press only to be met with relentless pressure, and it led to the game’s opening goal in the 11th minute. Scott Caldwell and Cristian Penilla combined to force a turnover, which allowed Wilfried Zahibo to find Diego Fagundez for his second goal of the season.
“In watching a lot of NYCFC play, we knew they were going to try to play out of the back at all times,” Friedel said. “Patrick Vieira has done a wonderful job over the years that he’s been the head coach instilling that philosophy.
“I also know from the players that we have, we would be able to cause them a lot of problems.”
New England did, indeed, cause a lot of problems for NYCFC in the first half. They outshot the visitors 10-3 in the opening 45 minutes and had a handful of quality chances, including one effort from Penilla that rang off the inside of the post.
But the majority of those chances went begging, leaving the Revs with a narrow 1-0 lead at halftime.
“The only disappointment is we were only one goal to the good,” Friedel said. “I thought we should’ve been up maybe three or four goals at halftime.”
As is so often the case, those missed opportunities came back to bite the Revolution in the second half, as Ismael Tajouri-Shradi scored a pair of goals – equalizing in the 51st minute and canceling out Juan Agudelo’s strike in the 75th minute – to leave New England with just a single point in a 2-2 draw.
It was a frustrating result for a Revolution side looking to make it back-to-back home wins, although they did extend their unbeaten run at Gillette Stadium to 10 games (8-0-2) dating back to last July.
“It’s a tough one to take,” said Fagundez. “We just need to be smarter and make sure that we’re finishing every chance. I think in the first half, we should’ve just finished them a lot earlier, and then nothing would’ve happened in the second half.”
The draw leaves the Revs at 1-1-1 as they hit the road next weekend for a visit to the Houston Dynamo, before they’ll return to Gillette Stadium for a stretch of five-of-seven games at home.
“I think if we’d had 11 men in the Philadelphia game (a 2-0 loss), we’d be sitting here with a couple more points,” Friedel said. “I do feel like we had two points dropped today.”