Both the Revolution and reigning MLS Cup champion Los Angeles FC left their best players out of the starting lineup in Sunday night’s game at BMO Stadium. In taking a 4-0 win, LAFC showed it might not need Carlos Vela to succeed. But the Revolution look like they won’t go far unless Carles Gil is playing, though they were in contention without him for most of the match.
Vela and former Italian national team defender Giorgio Chiellini were simply taking a rest after LAFC (2-0-0, 6 points) competed in Costa Rica Thursday night. Gil, though, was recovering from a leg muscle strain, and he went down in stoppage time, raising questions about his availability for the next Revolution game against Nashville SC Saturday.
When Gil entered in the 63d minute, the Revolution (2-1-0, 6 points) were trailing, 1-0, on a 14th-minute Denis Bouanga penalty kick. The situation was not looking bad for the Revolution, as Gustavo Bou, making his season debut, filled Gil’s playmaking role.
The Revolution had been fighting an uphill battle in midfield, but the addition of Gil and Emmanuel Boateng quickly boosted their game. Suddenly, the Revolution produced a strong buildup that led to a Brandon Bye cross to Giacomo Vrioni.
HIMOTHY TILLMAN.— LAFC (@LAFC) March 13, 2023
Soon after, Revolution midfielder Latif Blessing appeared on the verge of breaking into the penalty area off a Henry Kessler through ball. But Blessing lost control and seconds later, LAFC upped the lead off a free kick, Bouanga finishing in the 67th minute.
The stark turn of events showed there is a fine line between success and failure, the Revolution collapsing, and being outplayed for several minutes.
Revolution sporting director/head coach Bruce Arena said the Revolution were overmatched physically. But the Revolution actually knocked LAFC off balance at times and might have capitalized with either more finesse or better focus.
Observations from Sunday’s game:
Defining moment: Trailing, 1-0, the Revolution remained in contention, before appearing to lose concentration about 20 minutes into the second half. First, Blessing lost possession, despite being unmarked, about 30 yards from goal. That led to a counterattack, Matt Polster fouling Timothy Tillman.
On the ensuing free kick, the Revolution failed to pressure Jose Cifuentes in the center circle, and the back line seemed out of synch, as DeJuan Jones was left alone, a step behind Bouanga. If the Revolution defenders were attempting to play Bouanga offside, they were not on the same page.
Difference-maker: Tillman earned a penalty kick, outmanuevering Bou, and exagerrating the contact, leaving referee Allen Chapman to choose — either a foul on Bou or simulation by Tillman.
Midway through the second half, Tillman set up a free kick that led to the second goal, followed by a pickoff from Blessing and solo run for the third goal in the 83d minute.
Tactical analysis: Bou filled the playmaking role in place of Gil, but the Revolution were outplayed in midfield. Dylan Borrero and Bobby Wood lacked chemistry up front, but could have threatened if Gil had been setting them up. The Revolution seldom played to the wings, and when Bye and Jones did advance, their crossing was ineffective.
Statistical analysis: The Revolution committed six fouls, two leading to goals, another to a free kick by Bouanga off the bar in the 54th minute.
Another foul, called on Bou, stifled a chance for a counterattack. On the play, defender Jesus Murillo badly over-committed, tripping as Bou moved to receive the ball. But Chapman awarded a free kick to LAFC, squelching a chance at a Revolution breakaway.
Other stats indicate the Revolution attempted and completed more passes, with a better passing percentage, and had greater possession, than LAFC.
Road ahead: Gil’s condition has not been determined for next Saturday’s game against Nashville SC, but should he be unavailable, the future does not look bright for the Revolution. Five of the next seven Revolution games are at home.
What they said: Arena: “We were OK for about 15 minutes, but then I think they took control of the game. They came after us. I think on the day they just physically dominated us. They were clearly the better team. They’re obviously ahead of us at this point. They have a style of play that they’re good at. I was absolutely impressed with their pressure on the ball, which was huge. I wasn’t that impressed with their passing, this or that, but they just dominated us physically.”
LOS ANGELES FC-REVOLUTION 4-0
LAFC: John McCarthy; Sergi Palencia (Ryan Hollingshead 64th, Giorgio Chiellini 83rd), Aaron Long (Denil Maldonado 72nd), Jesus Murillo, Diego Palacios; Mahala Opoku (Carlos Vela 65th), Kellyn Acosta, Ilie Sanchez (Jose Cifuentes 65th), Timothy Tillman; Stipe Biuk, Denis Bouanga.
REVOLUTION: Djordje Petrovic; Brandon Bye, Henry Kessler, Dave Romney, DeJuan Jones; Noel Buck (Justin Rennicks 75th), Matt Polster, Latif Blessing; Gustavo Bou (Carles Gil 63rd, Damian Rivera 90th+1); Bobby Wood (Giacomo Vrioni 63rd), Dylan Borrero (Emmanuel Boateng 63rd).
Referee: Allen Chapman. Goals: Bouanga (PK) 14th, 67th; Tillman 83d, Buik 90TH+6.
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.