FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution weren’t surprised by Nashville SC’s defensive approach on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, but they certainly were frustrated by it, left to rue missed opportunities following a 0-0 draw in their first-ever meeting with the expansion side.
Nashville, ravaged by injury but resolute nonetheless, played in a low block throughout the 90 minutes and set out to frustrate New England, who outshot their guests 17-3 but were stifled by both an inability to finish and Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis, who made five saves.
Just one of those saves, however, came in the first half, when head coach Bruce Arena said the Revs could’ve changed the complexion of the match and drawn the visitors out with an early goal.
“We understand what we’re going to face, and of course it’s frustrating not getting a goal,” said Arena. “These kinds of games like tonight, you need to try to get an early goal. An early goal makes that game look different, and the first half certainly wasn’t good enough in that regard. We had some chances in the second half and failed to execute.”
Arena said Saturday night’s match followed a common theme – visiting teams coming into Gillette Stadium, sitting deep, and challenging the Revs to break them down through possession. Often this season New England have struggled to solve such an approach, with three 0-0 draws at home.
“I think it’s a common denominator how teams play us in Gillette,” Arena said. “They drop off, they play in a low block, and they make it difficult. And technically, we were not good enough tonight. Having said that, in the second half, there were some opportunities to get a goal and win the game, and we failed to do that.”
Several of those opportunities fell to Tajon Buchanan, who was again one of the Revolution’s most active players in the final third. The second-year winger finished with a career-high (and game-high) seven shots, three of which were on target, but all of which were denied by Willis.
The best of those saves came in the eighth minute when Buchanan skipped past his defender and launched a long-range drive which Willis tipped over the bar, his only stop of the first half.
“It was very frustrating,” said Buchanan. “I got into great spots today and the ball just seemed to not want to go in the back of the net. We have to keep working and keep moving forward. Our next game is against Toronto on Wednesday and that’s all we need to focus on now.”
When TFC do come to Foxborough on Wednesday night they’ll arrive as one of the league’s hottest teams, unbeaten in five (4-0-1) and tied atop the Supporters’ Shield standings. They’ll present another stern challenge defensively, as well, having conceded just 16 goals in their 15 games.
“We have the players to pass the ball, to break lines and stuff like that,” said Buchanan. “We have excellent players on this team. At the end of the day, we did have our chances, I had my chances, and the ball didn’t go in the back of the net, so we’ve got to improve on that.”