CHESTER, Pa. – With one masterful performance on Tuesday night at Subaru Park, the New England Revolution exorcized several years of Philadelphia Union demons.
The history was plastered across every match preview and pregame breakdown in the buildup to their Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Round One showdown. 0-4-1 against the Union this season. 0-8-2 in their last 10 overall meetings with Philadelphia. Seven straight losses at Subaru Park.
All of it wiped away in 90 minutes as the Revs slayed the Supporters’ Shield champions, using first-half goals from Adam Buksa and Tajon Buchanan to complete a surgical 2-0 victory and book their spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and a trip to visit Orlando City SC on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, ABC).
“Competing against them all season has been tough,” said Buchanan. “They definitely had the better hand on us, but at the end of the day, everyone’s here to fight for an MLS championship, and once you hit playoffs, it doesn’t matter what seed you are. These games are do-or-die. Today, we won the more important game, and we move on.”
Energized by Friday night’s 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact in the Play-In Round, the Revs felt they could parlay that into an early edge against a Union side coming off a 16-day layoff. After overcoming a tepid start in the opening 10 minutes, that’s exactly what they did.
Buksa scored what proved to be the game winner in the 26th minute, launching himself onto the end of Carles Gil’s free kick and finishing with a perfect header, while also cementing a sense of karma after the Revs felt they’d been denied a stonewall penalty just moments earlier.
It was Buchanan’s goal just four minutes later that proved to the backbreaker, however, as the stand-in right back scored his third career goal – all against the Union – and the air went out of the 3,000 fans in attendance at Subaru Park.
“I think the second goal broke their spirit,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “Obviously, both goals are important. We knew they were going to fight for the entire 90 minutes, and they did. We had to make it ugly in the second half, and we managed to do that and we got a clean sheet. Give our guys a lot of credit.”
“Philadelphia started the game strong, [but] they sort of lost their legs after the first 10 or 15 [minutes] and we sort of built into the game,” said goalkeeper Matt Turner, who made four saves to register his first career playoff shutout. “When we built ourselves a little bit of a lead, we just felt confident in the back that they weren’t going to trouble us too much because we could stay compact.”
Tuesday night’s win will have turned heads around MLS, as the Union were the playoffs’ top seed and the odds-on favorite to lift MLS Cup. No. 2 overall seed Toronto FC also fell at home to expansion side and No. 7 seed Nashville SC, meaning the Eastern Conference is truly wide open.
And as for playing the role of giant slayers, it’s nothing new for the Revolution, who have now faced the Supporters’ Shield champions in the playoffs three times since 2004, winning on all three occasions.
“We know if we want to get a star on top of our badge on our jerseys, we have to beat whoever we’re playing against, and we know it’ll have to be on the road because we didn’t play particularly well in the regular season,” said Turner. “We believe in the quality we have in the locker room. It’s just been about finding our identity and finding our style, and I think tonight our quality in the final third showed.
“We’ve got to get ourselves ready to play against Orlando in a couple days. Everybody is focused. We’ll spend (Thanksgiving) together and away from our families. We’ll just keep the good vibes going over here and keep working hard. We’re playing with house money, because everybody is sort of writing us off.”