The Revolution have seldom been victorious playing shorthanded. But they adjusted with a 10-man lineup over the final 31 minutes, partly thanks to the return of captain Carles Gil, in taking a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union Friday night.
Both teams competed without several starters at Subaru Park in Chester, Pa. The Revolution were missing Tajon Buchanan, Adam Buksa, and Matt Turner (international callups) and Gustavo Bou (injured), then lost Arnor Traustason to a 59th-minute red card.
The quality of play suffered, though the teams displayed the competitiveness of rivals, referee Jair Marrufo issuing seven cautions in the second half. Matt Polster’s first-half goal made the difference as the Revolution (16-4-4, 52 points) stretched their lead in the Supporters’ Shield standings.
The Union (8-7-8, 32 points) were missing seven players to international duty, plus defender Jack Elliott (suspended), as their nine-game (6-0-3) home unbeaten streak was snapped.
Polster finished at the back post past two defenders and Joe Bendik off a Traustason free kick, his second goal of the season, in the 32d minute. DeJuan Jones set things up, breaking away and earning a foul from Nathaniel Harriel, who was issued a yellow card in his MLS debut.
The Revolution played a man down after Traustason was cautioned twice in a five-minute span, but were boosted by Gil, who missed six games with an undisclosed injury, entering as a second-half substitute.
“This is a point in the season where teams in the league are dead,” Revolution sporting director/head coach Bruce Arena said. “The scheduling has not been good, coupled with international break, an All-Star game, playing three games a week, and Philadelphia has been beat up with the callups. They started the year with the Champions League. It’s just a bunch of tired players out there and it’s been challenging. Players get a little frustrated. I don’t think there’s any bad blood between our teams, I think there’s a lot of respect.”
Observations from Friday’s game:
▪ Before Arena’s arrival two years ago, the Revolution seldom had more than one Designated Player available on the roster. This was the first time the Revolution started a match without a DP in the lineup during Arena’s tenure. Bou will return for the Revolution’s game against New York City FC Sept. 11, according to Arena.
▪ Gil appeared near full speed in his first appearance since July 31. “We’re just going to slowly move him forward, see how he recovers from this and in the next month he’ll he back at full speed,” Arena said. “But we’ll take it slowly.”
▪ The Revolution went to a 4-4-1 setup for most of the second half, midfielder Scott Caldwell replacing forward Edward Kizza, making his first start. Caldwell missed high off a late run near the goal area (75th minute) and Gil had a right-footer saved (82d). “Of course, it’s my first game after only three training sessions, so obviously I’m not fit,” Gil said. “It was not the best moment, because with 10 players, it was more difficult. But yes, I feel good and I’m very happy to get 3 points. We defended very good and we know we are a team with good character in these difficult moments. We know defense and to be together, so it’s a very important win.”
▪ This was among the few times the Revolution have won while playing shorthanded for an extended length of time. “A lot of smart play,” Arena said. “I think 10 players working together.” Arena credited goalkeeper Brad Knighton, Polster, and Tommy McNamara in midfield, and forward Teal Bunbury, plus Gil. Right back Brandon Bye returned to the lineup after a two-game absence, joining Jonesa nd central defenders Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler on the back line. “Collectively, the guys did a good job and we had a chance to get that second goal, as well,” Arena said. “So I think during those last 30 minutes we did a good job, defended well, and were able to keep the ball and got them backing them up a little bit to give us bit of a breather, as well.”
▪ Traustason has twice been red-carded after two cautions this season. “It was a poor decision on his part,” Arena said. “He’s got to learn from this. He’s an experienced player. He shouldn’t be getting caught like that. We had a concern, we discussed taking him out of the game once he got the yellow card and felt that he would be smart and be able to play the game out. But obviously he did not.” Traustason, who will be suspended for the game against NYC FC, earned his sixth assist of the season, replacing Gil on set pieces.
▪ The Revolution have lost five games at Philadephia after losing players to red cards: last year (Polster); 2018 (Tony Delamea and Claude Dielna); 2016 (Je-Vaughn Watson; 2014 (A.J. Soares); 2012 (Benny Feilhaber).
PHILADELPHIA UNION-REVOLUTION 0-1
PHILADELPHIA: Joe Bendik; Nathaniel Harriel (Anthony Fontana 72d), Jakob Glesnes, Stuart Findlay, Kai Wagner; Alejandro Bedoya, Jack McGlynn (Matheus Davo 72d), Paxten Aaronson, Leon Flach, Quinn Sullivan (Cole Turner 84th); Kacper Przybylko.
REVOLUTION: Brad Knighton; Brandon Bye, Andrew Farrell, Henry Kessler, DeJuan Jones; Tommy McNamara (A.J. DeLaGarza 90th), Matt Polster, Wilfrid Kaptoum (Carles Gil 66th), Arnor Traustason; Edward Kizza (Scott Caldwell 63d), Teal Bunbury.
Referee: Jair Marrufo. Goals: Polster 33d. Ejected: Traustason 59th.
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.