FOXBOROUGH — The conditions were right for the Revolution to complete their quest for a playoff berth for the third successive season Saturday night. But the Revolution could not protect a first-half lead, provided by a Lee Nguyen penalty kick, tying the Philadelphia Union, 1-1, before a crowd of 25,885 — the second-highest total of the season.
The Revolution (13-10-8, 47 points) seemed to have more incentive in this match than the Union (9-15-7, 34 points), which rested several starters in anticipation of Wednesday’s US Open Cup final against Sporting Kansas City. A victory would have clinched a postseason place for the Revolution, and also vaulted them to the top of the overall MLS standings with three matches remaining in the regular season.
“It’s tough, you want to punch your ticket when you can,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “We wanted to do it tonight and we didn’t do it. Playoffs will take care of themselves if we continue to play and prepare the right way. So, we just need to keep having performances like this and tighten it up a little bit.”
A tie at Chicago next Saturday, or an Orlando City defeat, will put the Revolution in the playoffs after the season finale at New York City FC Oct. 25.
“It’s a week more we can train and put those mistakes away,” Revolution captain Jermaine Jones said. “We have a young team and all the stuff that happens right now is like a process you can learn from. We know we have the quality and I’m sure we will make it to the playoffs. But you cannot give goals like that and make mistakes.”
The Revolution’s early pressure set up several opportunities. Nguyen scored his sixth goal of the season after being taken down by left back Fabinho in the 34th minute.
Jones, delivering his second successive 90-minute performance since returning from hernia surgery, sparked the Revolution attack. But the Revolution were caught on a counterattack, Fernando Aristeguieta tying the score in the 65th minute.
“I think we’re built to get the second goal, we’re not built to hold a 1-0 lead from Minute 30,” Heaps said. “We want to go after the second goal.
“The field was extremely fast tonight, so you could see the ball running away from guys a little bit. Ideally, you’d like to be a little crisper, a little sharper, and when we did I thought we really went through them. We did get chances and I thought to get that many shots on goal [the Revolution counted 11], particularly at the end, we probably should have scored a goal.”
Jones started the scoring sequence, running through the center circle and finding Charlie Davies, who dished to Nguyen while going down in a clash with Fabinho. Nguyen put the ball between two defenders, bounced off Warren Creavalle, then was taken down by Fabinho just inside the top of the penalty area.
Nguyen converted his third penalty kick of the season, slamming the shot to the right of a diving Andre Blake, who made several spectacular saves, including a tip over the bar of a 35-yarder by Jones in the 74th minute.
The Revolution went for broke in the late going, their best chances by substitute Juan Agudelo, who hit the bar with a header in the 80th minute and had a volley saved seconds later.
“We created enough chances to get 3 points,” Nguyen said. “It was just one of those nights they don’t go in. I was disappointed. It felt like 2 points lost.’’
“I felt we had the momentum there and let a soft goal in and maybe if that didn’t happen we get a second goal, but it didn’t happen.”
The field was lined to 106 yards in length to accommodate logos for Sunday’s NFL game, the shorter dimensions constricting the Revolution passing game but also a potential advantage for their pressing tactics.
“It’s one of those games you knew we had to deal with Philly packing it in,” Nguyen said. “The small field didn’t help but we still created enough chances to win the game. But, just one of those nights where they didn’t go in. I think we’ll be fine. We’ve just got to let this one go and get ready for Chicago.”