The sight of Carles Gil preparing to come on as a 63rd minute substitute was a welcome one for Revs fans. Last night against Nashville, Gil made his first appearance in a Revolution uniform since July 17th. The Revolution’s most valuable player of a season ago has been out for three months after undergoing surgery on his left Achilles tendon at the beginning of August.
Despite the emotional boost from Gil’s return, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for New England. To start, the threat of a lightning storm delayed kick off for an hour and 20 minutes. Once the action got underway, the Revs looked sluggish out of the gate. In the second half, they managed to respond to rescue a draw after Nashville opened the scoring, but it felt as though they turned on the pressure too late. A draw is certainly better than a defeat, especially on the road. By securing a single point, the Revs remain in 5th place. Unfortunately, that comes with the caveat of having played more matches than any other team in the Eastern Conference.
The match was initially scheduled to kick off at 8:30 est. Due to unpleasant weather, proceedings finally got under way at 9:52. Despite being the home team, Nashville was content to drop deep and hand the Revs the majority of possession.
Despite controlling the ball for 65% of the first half, the Revs failed to find a breakthrough. Nashville deployed a low block in the form of a 5-4-1 formation. The defensive setup successfully stifled New England’s creativity, limiting them to one shot on target and an xG of 0.11 through the first 45 minutes (infogol). Nashville’s approach frustrated the Revolution attackers, but it also prompted the Rev’s twitter account to try their hand at explaining the home team’s tactics.
Nashville's strategy so far: pic.twitter.com/GrILLezmvE
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) October 24, 2020
The action picked up in the second half, as the players grew more comfortable with the rain soaked pitch. The Rev’s threatened in the 54th minute, with Walker Zimmerman ultimately making a crucial block to prevent Diego Fagúndez from hitting the target.
After Gil was subbed on in the 64th, the game burst into life. From the 70th minute on, what had been a slow match picked up steam as Nashville began to push for a goal.
Matt Turner made a fine save at his near post on a shot from Jalil Anibaba in the 72nd minute. Two minutes later, Turner was unable to come to the rescue for a second time. Walker Zimmerman out jumped Henry Kessler and Tajon Buchanan from a corner to nod the ball home from six yards out.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 24, 2020
The response from the Revolution was nearly immediate. Just minutes later, Adam Buksa collected a feed from Lee Nguyen, turned neatly and fired a shot home from the edge of the penalty area.
That turn! 🔁 That goal! 🔥
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 24, 2020
The Revolution continued to apply the pressure, but they were unable to break the deadlock. Nashville’s commitment to defending held the Revs at bay, forcing New England to settle for a draw.
Although the Revolution entered this match looking to take all three points, there are some positives to take away. Prior to the match, Jeff Lemieux pointed out that the Revs have not won this year after conceding the first goal:
I spoke at length on #NERevs Pregame Live about the importance of the first goal tonight. Revs are 7-2-2 when scoring first this year, 0-3-1 when conceding first.
I think it could be particularly important tonight against a resolute Nashville team that'll stay compact.
— Jeff Lemieux (@jeff_lemieux) October 24, 2020
With that in mind, the Revolution showed commendable fight to pull level. Breaking down a team with Nashville’s defensive commitment is always going to be a tough task. The Revs did a solid job of that in the closing stages of the game. However, after last night and the defeat against Philadelphia, there is a lingering feeling that the Revs are not applying enough offensive pressure early on in games.
Of course, offensive firepower is required to sustain attacking pressure for 90 minutes. The return of Carles Gil certainly helps on that front. However, it would be unfair to expect too much too soon from a player returning from such a significant injury. I would expect Bruce Arena to continue easing Gil back into the mix rather than plunging him straight back into the deep end and risking a set back.
Adam Buksa hasn’t always looked like the $4.5 million player that the Revs paid for at the beginning of the year. With two goals in three games, there are signs that the big forward could be heating up at exactly the right time. If Buksa can continue trending in the right direction, it would go a long way towards easing the load on the likes of Gil, Nguyen and Gustavo Bou.
With two tough matchups against the NY Red Bulls and Philadelphia on the horizon, the Revs final home game against last-placed D.C. United is a must win fixture. At this stage, New England still has firm control of their playoff lives. If they want to avoid further complications, they must demonstrate an increased attacking urgency moving forward.
– Andrew Fasciano (@afasc573)
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