FOXBOROUGH — The Revolution came up short in the Eastern Conference semifinal matchup against New York City FC on Tuesday night, falling on penalty kicks after the two teams couldn’t be separated through 120 minutes.
The game, played in front of more than 25,000 fans at Gillette Stadium, finished 1-1 through 90 minutes, and 2-2 after extra time. On each occasion, New England leveled after briefly falling behind.
New York’s Valentín Castellanos, winner of the 2021 MLS Golden Boot, scored to give the visitors a brief 2-1 lead in the 109th minute before Tajon Buchanan dramatically tied it late. The game then went to penalty kicks, where New York goalkeeper Sean Johnson made the only save of the shootout, stopping Revolution forward Adam Buksa’s attempt.
New England, winners of the Supporters’ Shield and having set a league record with 73 points, fell at the first hurdle in the MLS Cup playoffs.
The game began disastrously for New England, which started like a team coming off a 23-day layoff following the end of the regular season.
New York’s midfield was able to wrest control early, spreading the ball wide to right back Tayvon Gray, whose cross was perfectly placed into the far corner of the goal by 21-year-old midfielder Santiago Rodríguez in the third minute.
Having conceded the opener, the Revolution responded almost as quickly. After drawing a foul near the New York endline, New England playmaker Carles Gil’s ensuing free kick found the head of Buksa, who nodded in a ninth minute equalizer.
With the score once again level, each team pressed the other relentlessly. The result was a physical contest as each team struggled to gain consistent dominance.
In the second half, New York began to find spaces in New England’s defense. Starting with a 63rd minute breakaway by New York midfielder Jesús Medina—which was broken up only by a last-ditch tackle from Revolution left back DeJuan Jones—the visitors created a flurry of chances that included Maxi Moralez hitting the post for NYCFC.
But the second goal continued to elude the visitors, and after New England forward Gustavo Bou forced a strong save from Johnson in the 68th minute, the game evened out once again. The whistle blew at the end of regular time with the score still tied at 1-1.
In extra time, the two teams continued to press in a desperate attempt to find a deciding goal. It finally came in the 109th minute from Castellanos, who pounced on a cross at the back post to give NYCFC the lead.
Of course, as had been the case throughout New England’s record-setting season, the drama didn’t end there. First from Castellanos - already on a yellow card, he was sent off after making a late tackle in the 113th minute.
New England, having led the league in goals in 2021, managed to find one more in the 118th minute to briefly save their season. Buchanan, waiting at the back post on a deep cross, coolly fired it into the far corner to once again level the score.
In the penalty kick shootout, Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner came close to making multiple saves, but New York’s attempts were just beyond his reach. Johnson’s save on Buksa ended up being the difference.
Here are a few takeaways:
⋅ After a long layoff, the Revolution started slowly. New England’s reward for setting an MLS points record was to be the last team to start in the playoffs, having earned a bye. Of course, because of the international break that came immediately prior to the playoffs, the Revolution had more than three weeks between games.
The unusually long time off was a much-discussed storyline in the buildup to the game. And for anyone wondering how the Revolution would start, the answer came quickly. Rodriguez put New York into the lead before Bruce Arena’s team ever had a chance to settle in.
⋅ It was a quiet night for Gil. While he delivered the assist on the early first-half equalizer from a set piece, Gil found himself unable to find much space during open play. Normally the team’s leader in most offensive statistics, the Spaniard was just seventh on the team in touches at halftime.
Finding the game more in the second half, he was still held to an unusually low volume of passes by his own elite standards. NYCFC’s physical approach limited the playmaker, but even on a quiet night, Gil still had his hand in both of New England’s goals.
⋅ Buchanan goes out with a bang. The 22-year-old already has a move to Belgian side Club Brugge lined up, and will now depart New England. Having arrived in 2019 as the ninth overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft, he leaves as a rising star who is now a regular starter for Canada’s national team. His final act for the Revolution was scoring a brilliant goal to tie it late in extra time.