FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The pivotal moment of a frustrating afternoon at Gillette Stadium arrived in the 59th minute of the New England Revolution’s 2-0 loss to Columbus Crew SC on Saturday.
Trailing 1-0 after what head coach Brad Friedel called a “quite poor” first half, the Revs received a boost of energy from halftime substitutes Diego Fagundez and Justin Rennicks, making his professional debut. That spark helped win a penalty, which Fagundez stepped up to take with a chance to level the score.
Fagundez struck his effort well, low and to the goalkeeper’s right, but Zack Steffen was equal to the task and saved the penalty, then was quick enough to bounce up and corral the rebound.
Although the Revs continued to press for the final 30 minutes, eventually their desperation left gaps at the back, and Crew SC capitalized with a second goal in stoppage time to salt the game away.
“Goals change games,” said Friedel. “If [the penalty] goes in, you never know what happens.”
Friedel did note that Cristian Penilla was the designated penalty taker ahead of the match, but the Ecuadoran midfielder had been replaced by Fagundez at halftime. Next on the list likely would’ve been Carles Gil, but he was on the sidelines receiving treatment when the penalty was awarded.
It came down, then, to Fagundez and Teal Bunbury – both of whom have taken and made penalties in the past – and Fagundez grabbed the ball with confidence. With that, Friedel found no fault whatsoever.
“I never blame a player, at all, for missing a penalty,” Friedel said. “Diego felt he would score, and Zack Steffen made a great save.”
While the penalty was unquestionably New England’s best chance of the afternoon, there were other opportunities, particularly in a second half in which the Revs maintained much of the possession. But they lacked a killer ball in the final third, and were caught twice by an opportunistic Columbus side.
“[I’m] absolutely gutted, to be honest,” said Michael Mancienne, who captained the Revs in his 2019 debut, having missed the opener through injury. “I feel like their chances came from nothing, really. They just came out of the blue. We dominated. We had chances that we obviously should’ve done better with, and that changes games. Sometimes if you get a goal, that’ll change the whole flow of the game.”
The loss leaves the Revs still in search of their first win of 2019, and they’ll hope to secure it north of the border next Sunday night, when they’ll visit Toronto FC at BMO Field. There, they’ll need to be more clinical, and capitalize on the opportunities when they do arrive.
“I did think we created chances,” said Mancienne. “We created the better chances of the day. It’s just a matter of taking chances, to be honest – being clinical in front of goal. That’s the most important thing.
“I wish I was standing here talking and we had three points in the bag, but that’s the way football is. We’ve got to pick ourselves up and focus on the next game at hand.”