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Revolution beat Orlando City despite patchwork lineup, end six-game winless streak

Matt Polster (third from right) celebrates his goal against Orlando City with Lucas Maciel Felix.John Raoux/Associated Press

Before the Revolution’s 3-0 win over Orlando City SC Saturday night, their situation did not appear promising. Two key players departed in the last week, two of the team’s main attacking threats were injured, and reinforcements had yet to arrive.

But the Revolution went with a jury-rigged lineup, and left the scoring to holding midfielders Matt Polster and Wilfrid Kaptoum, plus defender Henry Kessler, in snapping a six-game winless streak.

The Revolution (7-7-9, 30 points) defeated Orlando on the road for the first time in a regular-season game, using four defensive midfielders — Lucas Maciel, Tommy McNamara, Kaptoum, and Polster — and all contributed to the team’s best offensive performance since May 21.

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Polster opened the scoring in the 20th minute, snapping a 229-minute Revolution scoreless streak. The Revolution, who host D.C. United next Saturday, concentrated on preserving the lead, and ended up extending their shutout streak to 281 minutes over a four-game span.

Polster converted a low shot to Pedro Gallese’s right, his second goal of the season. The sequence started as Kessler picked off a long clearance, then Carles Gil held possession and found McNamara, back to goal coming out of the penalty area. With Justin Rennicks drawing the central defenders, Polster slipped into the left side of the penalty area, took a touch to go in alone, then finished.

Rennicks, lining up as a lone striker, pressured the Orlando defense, though he failed to get off a shot. Rennicks got past Robin Jansson (41st minute), leading to a Gil threat that concluded with referee Ramy Touchan allowing play to continue after Gil went down in a clash with Cesar Araujo. Rennicks sped past Antonio Carlos (73rd), going down on the edge of the penalty area after contact from behind by Araujo. Touchan again allowed play to continue, eventually cautioning Araujo for a takedown on Gil (85th).

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Djordje Petrovic preserved the advantage with a save on Alexandre Pato (33rd), then knocked away the resulting corner kick en route to recording his third successive shutout.

Orlando City (8-10-6, 30 points) attempted to increase the tempo in the second half, but the Revolution maintained their composure, and tactic failed to pay off, the best threat a Facundo Torres shot off the right post (60th).

Kaptoum extended the edge by one-timing a McNamara cross in the 51st minute, his second goal since joining the Revolution last season. Gil started the sequence, finding McNamara, who touched on to Brandon Bye for a cross. Carlos beat Rennicks to the cross, clearing directly to McNamara, who quickly found Kaptoum just inside the penalty area.

In the 75th minute, Kessler headed in a Gil corner, set up by an Arnor Traustason cross, giving the Revolution their first three-goal lead since a 3-0 win over UNAM Pumas in the CONCACAF Champions League in March.

The Revolution, missing Jozy Altidore (on loan) and Sebastian Lleget (traded to FC Dallas), plus the injured Dylan Borrero and Gustavo Bou (leg), concluded the game with Traustason, a midfielder, at forward. Newcomer Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is expected to join the Revolution next week.

“We’ve had the oddest year, we haven’t had a break all year,” Revolution coach Bruce Arena said. “Today, we caught a couple and it turned into 3 points. It’s been a rough year with a lot of odd things happening and a depleted roster. But we again have a team with a great attitude, great approach to things. When that happens, good things can happen. They certainly deserved to be rewarded for their performance tonight.”

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Observations from Saturday’s game:

▪ Arena changed the game plan, emphasizing defending. But he also went with finesse, a possession-oriented midfield that committed few fouls and gave the attack a flow. The poise in possession made the Revolution less dependent on Gil, who was closely marked by Araujo, and allowed them to pace themselves in 88-degree heat.

“The conditions, the weather is difficult, so we came here with a solid base defensively and from there, once we had a lot of players in the midfield, we were able to keep the ball really easily,” Polster said. “When we were confident and clean on the ball, you could see that, and then once we got into the final third, it came down to creativity and runs off the ball.”

▪ With a two-goal lead in the 59th minute, DeJuan Jones bombed forward on the left wing, but Gil elected to slow things down. Usually, the Revolution attack relentlessly, home and away, an approach that functioned well last season as they compiled the best record in league history. This year, the strategy has backfired, as the Revolution have squandered several advantages while attempting to build on leads. Since losing much of their firepower, the Revolution seem content to be more conservative, keep the back line secure, and depend on the goalkeeping of Petrovic. Gil’s decision nearly backfired, as Orlando City came close to scoring seconds later, but it sent a message that the Revolution would be staying compact defensively.

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Jones won the battle of outside backs against Orlando’s Ruan Teixeira, defending effectively and presenting a threat going forward. Though the Revolution backed off some in attacking, Jones went past three opponents and found himself open for a shot from distance, but fired wide (69th).

▪ Recently acquired forward Giacomo Vrioni was on the bench, but did not play because of injury, Arena said. Rennicks proved effective in a 4-5-1 alignment, though. “He’s a single striker, his job is to move into space, try to hold the ball up, drop their backline a little bit,” Arena said of Rennicks. “As the game went on, he got better. He ran out of gas, that’s why we took him out. I think we got about 65 minutes out of him. He worked real hard, he did his job.”


Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at frankdellapa@gmail.com.