Carles Gil returned to the lineup, but could not make the difference as the Revolution fell close to being out of playoff contention with a 3-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo Tuesday night.
Gil, who missed the Revolution’s 2-1 defeat to the New York Red Bulls because of the birth of his first child last week, scored on a penalty kick, but missed two chances with the outcome in the balance at PNC Stadium.
The Revolution (9-11-11, 38 points) remained in eighth place, four points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with three games remaining, at home against CF Montreal (Saturday) and Atlanta United (Oct. 1), plus a visit to the Chicago Fire (Oct. 9).
The Revolution squandered an opportunity to open the scoring as Gil went in alone but had his shot saved by Steve Clark (29th minute). The Dynamo (9-16-6, 33 points) then nearly converted in transition, as they were awarded a penalty kick, Sebastian Ferreira’s attempt saved by Djordje Petrovic following a VAR review (32d). Darwin Quintero then finished in front after Corey Baird sped past DeJuan Jones on the right wing, crossing after a give-and-go with Darwin Ceren (37th).
Revolution sporting director/head coach Bruce Arena added Jon Bell, Emmanuel Boateng, and Nacho Gil after halftime, and the changes paid off. Carles Gil again squandered a chance, mishitting wide off a Boateng cross (58th), then equalized on a penalty kick (63d). Gustavo Bou earned the penalty, taken down from behind by Tim Parker on a Boateng cross (60th), the call made following a VAR review.
Petrovic made a triple save, then stopped Fafa Picault one-on-one (71st). But Picault broke the deadlock, earning another penalty kick, this time in a 1-on-3 situation, as Tommy McNamara was called for handling. Picault then converted the penalty kick (76th), slamming the shot high to Petrovic’s right.
Picault doubled the lead (85th), firing from just outside the penalty area after Boateng was stripped by Coco Carrasquilla.
Observations from Tuesday’s game:
- Defining Moment: Carles Gil failed to convert on a breakaway with a chance to open the scoring. It was an MVP moment, as well, but Gil predictably went left-foot and Clark read the shot. The complexion of the game might have changed if the Revolution could have been playing with an advantage.
- Difference-maker: Carrasquilla, who combined with Ceren to limit Carles Gil for much of the contest. Carrasquilla then helped the Dynamo take over the midfield as the Revolution tired and also became spread out in a desperate attempt to rally.
- Tactical analysis: The Revolution went with a 4-3-2-1 formation, with four defensive midfielders in the lineup. The setup might have made sense in theory, since they were playing on the road, but the Revolution struggled to adjust. Part of the reason is that Arena conceived the Revolution as an all-out attacking team, and it has been difficult to modify that mindset. Even when the Revolution have plenty of players back and in defensive position, opponents find way to break them down. The Revolution had plenty of defenders back on the opening goal, but seemed static, allowing Baird to go uncontested along the wing to the end line. Quintero was able to slip inside four Revolution players, plus Petrovic, in the goal area.
Going with a single striker has been ineffective, as forwards have produced only one goal for the Revolution in the last 11 games.
- Statistical analysis: After the opening 15 games without surrendering a penalty kick, the Revolution have given up eight goals on 12 spot kicks in the last 16 matches. The problems seemed to start when the Revolution were called for a league record three penalties in the first half of a visit to New York City FC in July. Both Houston penalties were earned on handball calls on Andrew Farrell and McNamara from shots inside the penalty area. Referee Ismail Elfath, whose last three Revolution games have included an Arena red card and four PKs, got both calls right, the first after going to VAR.
- Road ahead: Should the Revolution win out, they will have compiled 47 points, which could be enough for a post-season spot. Anything less would make advancement unlikely, and that would be the first time Arena has failed to make the playoffs coaching a team for a full season.
- What they said: “There’s no excuses,” Arena said. “You can come up with a million of them, but we were outplayed on the evening. We looked like a tired team, but also a team that didn’t play together. And we played poorly, at 1-1 for about 70 minutes, it’s a miracle that we were in the game, to be honest with you, so we have no excuses. We deserved to lose the game, and I’ve got to accept the responsibility for the performance of that team.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.