FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Wednesday night’s 1-0 loss to Toronto FC – which snapped the New England Revolution’s unbeaten run at four games – boiled down to two flashpoints.
The first arrived in the 29th minute when Ayo Akinola scored the game’s only goal, capitalizing on a TFC counterattack as the Revs’ defense was pierced for just the second time in the past five games. Akinola latched onto a pass from Alejandro Pozuelo, shrugged off the challenge of Revolution center back Andrew Farrell, and calmly finished inside the far post.
But there was some question as to whether Akinola had fouled Farrell in the process, using a shoulder barge to take down the Revs’ defender and win possession of the ball. No foul was called, and the goal was allowed to stand.
That didn’t sit well with Revolution head coach Bruce Arena.
“[A] big play in that game is the non-call on Farrell,” he said. “That’s a foul.”
But despite trailing at halftime for the first time all season the Revs showed fight in the second half, and had a golden opportunity to draw level in the 69th minute when Lee Nguyen – making his 250th regular-season appearance on his 34th birthday – was chopped down inside the box.
Adam Buksa, making his first start since September 12, stepped up to take the penalty, but his powerful effort sailed over the crossbar.
It was the Revolution’s first penalty this season (in their 16th game), and Arena noted that Cristian Penilla was the designated penalty taker, but the Ecuadoran winger had just stepped onto the field moments earlier as a substitute, so Buksa was entrusted with the responsibility.
“Yesterday we talked about this on the field and we had some guys take it,” Arena said. “Penilla was going to take the penalty if he was on the field, and he was just being substituted in for Lee, actually. And Adam was the other choice. They both took penalties yesterday [in training].
“Adam knew he was going to take the penalty if we had one, if Penilla wasn’t on the field. And Penilla was just coming on and we decided it was a little unusual to literally be substituted on the field to take a penalty. So we let Adam take it, and obviously he wasn’t successful.”
It left the Revs with a bitter taste following a largely solid performance against the Supporters’ Shield leaders, as they comfortably won the possession battle and outshot their visitors, 13-6. That’ll give them something to build off as they head to Yankee Stadium for a visit to New York City FC on Sunday afternoon, but they’ll need to turn performances into points through the final seven games of the season.
“I think we’ve done great collectively, as a team,” said Scott Caldwell, who wore the captain’s armband on Wednesday night with Gustavo Bou sidelined by a minor injury. “We just have to keep building on it. Each game we learn a little more of something about ourselves and we just have to continue to improve on those. I think we have done something and put ourselves in position to move up the standings now. We just have to continue to do that and get these results in the next few games.”
As for Wednesday night’s game, Arena said the Revs had done enough to earn something from it.
“We have no one to blame but ourselves, not converting a penalty kick,” he said. “Us not walking off the field tonight with at least a point is a crime.”