FOXBOROUGH — The Revolution seem to be getting their defending down. But the Revolution have lost their attacking touch, a 0-0 tie with Toronto FC Saturday night, their second successive scoreless result.
Playing without leading scorer Gustavo Bou (leg injury) and Jozy Altidore (loaned to Puebla FC), the Revolution (6-7-9, 27 points) seldom threatened in extending their winless streak to six games before a crowd of 29,097.
But the Revolution were able to stifle a rejuvenated Toronto (6-12-5, 23 points) squad that included Italian national teaamers Federico Bernardeschi and Lorenzo Insigne, thanks to a penalty kick save on Insigne (81st minute).
The Revolution, who visit Orlando City next Saturday, went with Justin Rennicks in a lone striker setup, their best chances long-range blasts by Carles Gil (eighth minute), Brandon Bye (18th), and Matt Polster (45th). Mostly, the Revolution failed to make connections near the goal, the most glaring failure a DeJuan Jones off-target cross with Sebastian Lletget open at the back post (42d). Giacomo Vrioni replaced Rennicks in the second half, and had few chances before just missing off a cross in added time.
Bernardeschi proved to be Toronto’s most effective attacker, setting up Insigne for a close-in shot, kick-saved by Djordje Petrovic (44th), and hitting the left post (58th), before being substituted (69th). Petrovic batted away an Insigne shot that was on the verge of going in just under the bar (72d), then saved on Insigne’s penalty attempt.
Ayo Akinola earned a penalty kick (76th), his left-footer blocked by Polster, referee Ismir Pekmic signaling a foul. Pekmic went to a VAR review, then confirmed the penalty, Petrovic diving right to knock the shot away.
The Revolution believed they should have had a final chance after Gil went down near the penalty arc just before the final whistle. But Pekmic allowed play to continue, Revolution players appealing for a free kick as the match concluded.
“Another mystery game — what a foul is, what isn’t a foul,” Revolution sporting director/head coach Bruce Arena said. “And I think this ‘clear and obvious’ standard on VAR is confusing to everybody. They’re going to have a new interpretation on offsides as well — there’s going to be more confusion. What can I say?”
Arena on the Revolution’s offensive struggles:
“Probably didn’t have that many chances, might’ve had the best one of the game at the end [Vrioni’s miss]. We’re missing a couple players and that didn’t help us. I think it’s a fair result. I don’t think it was a penalty and give Djordje a lot of credit — great save.”
Observations from Saturday’s game:
▪ With a chance to decide the outcome, Vrioni nearly whiffed on a sliding stab at a cross from the right in added time. “I had an opportunity to score my first goal but heads up,” said Vrioni, who joined the Revolution before last week’s 0-0 tie at Columbus. “You know, this is sport — sometimes you score and sometimes you can miss. I have to learn from this opportunity and I will continue to work to try and score the next game. I wanted to score to give the 3 points to the team, to the fans, because they deserve it, they were unbelievable, really. But now we have to go to Orlando and try to win.”
▪ The Revolution were apparently unprepared for the departure of Altidore, who scored one goal in 21 games in all competitions. Altidore has two years remaining on his MLS contract and could return to the Revolution after his loan to Puebla expires in January. “It’s not over, we’ll summarize those things when he completes his time here in New England,” Arena said.
▪ The Revolution have used five strikers this season, four (Adam Buksa, Altidore, Bou, Vrioni) on contracts worth more than $1 million annually. Rennicks, 23, who is earning $120,000, was expected to provide backup and has scored one goal in seven games (five starts). Rennicks seldom troubled the Toronto back line, but was effective in possession, and drew defenders with off-the-ball runs. “He’s worked hard,” Arena said of Rennicks. “And obviously with the departure of Altidore we’re limited in our options. And Vrioni’s not ready to play 90 minutes.”
▪ Petrovic, who has saved two penalties in the last four games, seems more comfortable in slower-paced games. When the Revolution’s wide-open style is functioning, the team’s offense can be devastating, but it leaves the back line vulnerable. The Revolution have played to three 0-0 ties in the last six games with Petrovic in goal.
▪ Arena said Bou and Dylan Borrero will return for the next game. The Revolution, 2 points out of playoff contention with 12 games remaining, can be expected to go with a Bou-Vrioni strike pairing for at least a half against Orlando City.
▪ Some teams capitalized on scheduling Toronto early, before reinforcements arrived. Not the Revolution, though, whose second date with TFC is set for Aug. 17.
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.