FOXBOROUGH — Before the clock started running at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night, one thing was certain for the New England Revolution: the team would be missing out on the MLS playoffs for a third consecutive season.
Shortly before the Revs kicked off against Orlando City SC, DC United’s victory over FC Dallas dashed any and all playoff hopes in New England, where a 2018 campaign that started with such promise ended once again with a gnawing question: “Where to from here?”
While second-half goals by Cristian Penilla and Diego Fagundez helped the Revs record their first three-point result in a 2-0 victory over Orlando City, it only provided a tantalizing glimpse of what could have been this season and, perhaps, of what might be heading into 2019.
“Unfortunately, we have felt this before,” said left back Kelyn Rowe. “Put ourselves in a tough spot and needed help and we didn’t get it. We are not going to sit here and die the next two games.
“It is one of those where you are going to play for pride.”
From the opening kickoff, New England dominated possession of the ball as Orlando City’s defense sat back and invited the pressure. The Revs had numerous chances in the first 45 minutes, but they were never able to capitalize on those opportunities.
New England carried over its momentum into the second half and got their break through in the 51st minute when the ball came to Penilla’s feet just outside the penalty box off a corner kick. Penillla slotted it into the bottom of the net near the right post to record his team-leading 12th goal of the season.
Four minutes later, Penilla found himself in space down the right side and delivered a cross inside the box that was touched home on a one-timer by Fagundez for the second goal.
“The second half, we went out there and definitely gave it to [Orlando],” said Fagundez. “I got lucky to be in the right spot. It was a great cross by [Penilla] and I got to finish it.”
Orlando City, missing its top scorer Dom Dwyer, who was suspended due to an accumulation of yellow cards, didn’t have much going for it, offensively. As a result, Revolution goalie Brad Knighton faced only three shots on target and stopped them all in his second shutout of the season.
New England outshot Orlando, 21-8, and ended the night controlling 60 percent of the possession.
“It is an evolution of what we are trying to do,” said Revolution coach Brad Friedel. “We want to be very aggressive without the ball.
“Where we are at, there will be quite a few changes in the offseason, a lot of exciting changes that happen in the offseason,” he added. “You are going to see some things in a lot of news that comes out with New England over the couple of months that people will start to sit back and realize we basically started our preaseason tonight, that’s what I told the players.
“Everyone is going to be fighting for their spots.”Karl Capen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.