NOTE: This story was written based on an EA SPORTS FIFA 20 simulation of the New England Revolution vs. Portland Timbers match originally scheduled for Sunday, March 15. It includes made-up quotes, and recounts events that occurred exclusively in FIFA 20. You can watch the full highlights HERE.
FAKESBOROUGH, Mass. – Bruce Arena has been coaching for more than 40 years, but he’d never seen anything quite like the final stages of Sunday afternoon’s 4-4 draw between the New England Revolution and Portland Timbers, which played out virtually on FIFA 20.
“That was the most unbelievable finish I’ve ever seen,” Arena didn’t say about Sunday’s match, because it didn’t actually happen. “I’m sure all you media had written us off. Honestly, I don’t even think we believed we could get something out of the game at a certain point. But this team never quits.”
When the visiting Timbers extended their lead to 4-2 in the 86th minute through Dairon Asprilla, the result looked beyond doubt. And when Portland were awarded a penalty in the 90th minute, it seemed as if Giovanni Savarese’s side would add a fifth to rub salt in the wounds.
But something odd happened. Diego Valeri skied his attempt over the crossbar, beginning perhaps the wildest imaginary three minutes in the history of the Revolution.
“None of us could’ve known what was coming after that missed penalty,” goalkeeper Brad Knighton didn’t say after the video game version of him watched Valeri’s attempt fly high. “But in a way it seemed to give us a bit of a spark, and I think we all remembered what happened last year at Providence Park. We knew in the back of our minds that anything was possible.”
What happened last year – what actually happened last year – was a remarkable comeback from 2-0 down in the dying minutes, as Gustavo Bou scored the Revolution’s first in the 87th minute, setting the stage for Carles Gil to equalize from the penalty spot deep into stoppage time.
But the ending to Sunday’s fake game was even more unbelievable. Adam Buksa – who’d scored New England’s second goal in the 54th minute, finishing off a cross from Cristian Penilla – made it 4-3 two minutes into stoppage time, driving home from a tight angle after being set up by Tajon Buchanan.
Buksa then capped off his man-of-the-match performance by providing the assist on Teal Bunbury’s dramatic equalizer, squaring across the face of goal for Bunbury to smash home in the 94th minute, bringing the virtual crowd to their virtual feet.
“I’ve scored 58 goals in my MLS career, but none more dramatic than that one today,” said Bunbury, who just happened to know that stat because he didn’t actually say this quote. “Some draws feel like losses, and some draws feel like wins – this one today certainly felt like a pretty big win.”
There were, of course, lessons to be learned from the game, as well. It was the first time the Revs have conceded more than three goals in any game under Arena, who probably wouldn’t have been pleased that his side allowed a pair of goals in the final five minutes of the first half had it actually happened.
The overriding emotion on Sunday, however, was one of positivity and hope, as the Revs will now look to take the momentum from their remarkable comeback into their next match, whenever that may be.
“Stay safe and practice social distancing,” said every player on the team, in unison. “And wash your hands. We’ll see you soon.”