New England Revolution 3 – Pumas UNAM 0
In their first appearance in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League since flopping out in 2008, the New England Revolution came out and performed. In a dominating performance, they hammered Pumas. Goals from Sebastian Lletget and Adam Buksa, helped by a fantastic save from Earl Edwards Jr., have made the prospect of heading to Mexico City easier due to away goals rules.
The Revolution had no new injury concerns in the match, with Henry Kessler and Matt Turner still ruled out. There were two changes to the starting eleven that had faced FC Dallas on Saturday, with Omar Gonzalez coming in for the injured Kessler. In the midfield, the second change saw Arnór Traustason come in for Tommy McNamara. On the bench, there was a change as Brad Knighton returned as the backup goalkeeper for the first time this year, with rookie draftee Jacob Jackson not making the eighteen.
The change between McNamara and Traustason was interesting. While they both can provide solid coverage defensively, McNamara tends to stay more central, with Traustason moving slightly wider and traditionally staying higher. He also adds a bit more attacking instinct to the starting lineup.
Taking advantage of the dominating opening 20 minutes, the Revolution finally converted a chance. Good inter-play down the left saw Dejuan Jones again get behind the Puma’s line. He was able to find Gil free in the top of the box, which led to a simple pass out to Lletget, who hammered it into the back of the net.
Defensively, Pumas were caught on a rapid counter from the Revolution. Due to this, they were not positionally ready to cover the oncoming Revs players. When Bou first gets the ball, the Pumas defender does not get touch-tight since his help is 20 yards upfield. This space allowed Bou to run at him and Jones’ overlap to have so much space out wide. Also, the covering help from the midfield for Pumas was late to arrive. The delay caused the right center back to be late in covering Jones.
Once Jones got the ball, he hit it first time, not giving Pumas time to settle defensively. As such, the other two center backs we both deeper covering Adam Buksa, allowing Gil to have freedom at the top of the box. A quick touch brings the ball from Gil’s right to left foot before pushing it out wide to an open Lletget. Taking it in stride, he first-timed the ball past Talavera, who did not make an effort to save it. He also could not get across the goal as quickly as he may have liked.
71′ SAVE: New England Revolution: Earl Edwards Jr.: 1-0
In what may have started the turning point of this game, a well-taken Pumas corner found Ortiz at the near post. His header across goal was met, and a point-blank save was made to keep the Revolution in front. The secondary effort was tame and allowed Earl Edwards Jr. to gather the free ball in the box. He quickly released the ball out to spring a counter, which we will talk about shortly.
From my point of view, you did not see the pink kit of Edwards Jr. until he suddenly was across the net and in front of the onrushing header. Defensively from the corner, Pumas defender Arturo Ortiz was able to get the run and have a free header on the near post. Whether this is due to Lletget being late to meet his man or the more zonal marking system, Ortiz’s path was not met with resistance. His near-post header was met solidly by José Rogério, who was completely unmarked at the back post.
The zonal marking on the 6-yard box failed the Revolution. Farrell was unable to get to cover the man. While Rogério did start right behind Farrell at the beginning of the corner, the run was not seen due to tactical decisions. It was also two on none at the back post. What did save the Revolution was that they had Jones on the near post. This positioning allowed Earl Edwards Jr. to start slightly further towards the back post and cover to make a tremendous save. He also gathers the poor secondary attempt.
Directly from the double save off the Puma’s corner, Earl Edwards Jr. launched (literally, he almost goes horizontal) the Revolution counter. Getting the ball wide to lead the Revs down the field took just 47 seconds to go from a potential game-tying goal to double the advantage. Just holding his run, Adam Buksa was fed a floated ball from Carles Gil. After controlling by the penalty spot, he had his first attempt saved by Talavera; Buksa slotted his second attempt into the net, just inside the post.
From a Pumas defensive standpoint, this is a sloppy goal to give up. Getting back well to cover the counter from the corner, Buksa splits three defenders to beat the offside trap. While the chip pass is good, no one went with the runner, and all three central defenders were flat-footed. Here there is no chance to recover to get a body on the onrushing attacker without taking a card and a penalty.
While Talavera almost bails them out, only two defenders get back to cover the goal line. This lack of cover, combined with the goalkeeper being in no man’s land after the first save, allowed Buksa to find the room for the goal. It is an excellent play from a Revolution standpoint but an extremely sloppy goal for Pumas to give up.
Good hold-up play from substitute Jozy Altidore saw the Revolution break on a pressing Pumas. Altidore was able to find Gil in acres of space. With this, he was able to run at the backline before distributing the ball to Buksa. Buksa then smashed it behind Talaverin to get an all-important third goal.
Honestly, there is nothing defensively that Pumas could have done here. They had already been throwing numbers in search of the away goal. The pressure from players allowed for extra space in the middle of the pitch for Gil. Altidore does not get challenged but still holds the ball up well against the defender. Buksa barely keeps his run onside, the offside trap almost worked.
This goal makes it harder for Pumas to return to Mexico City on their home turf. If the Revolution can get a single away goal, it will take Pumas 5 due to away goal rules.
Earl Edwards Jr.
I will continue to say this, Edwards Jr. was impressive again in his CCL debut. Coming into this season, there were a lot of questions on who would take over the starting spot for Matt Turner. He has allowed two goals in his first three appearances and made seven saves, including that game-changing save this round. His distribution from the back continues to be extremely fast, trying to be a significant force in the Revolution counter-attack. He will hold onto his spot if this play continues once Turner leaves for Arsenal.
In his best overall performance this season, DeJuan Jones was a thorn in Pumas’ side the entire game. His pace was not something that they could match, and in fact, he may have forced them to change their formation and tactics. His crossing improved from the match against Dallas, and his defensive work was the best I have seen recently. While he was not as effective in the second half, overall, he showed the closest to a finished product we have seen.
Carles Gil stated after the game that this was the Revolution’s best overall game this season. While they could and probably should have finished more chances, the offense looked highly potent. The width and pace provided down the left by Jones and his link-up with Gustavo Bou destroyed the right side of the Pumas’ defense. They took full advantage of the wing-backs getting stuck out of position and torched them. If they continue to grow this connection, it will be hazardous and potentially deadly in the second leg.
There were times they missed a long diagonal that could have pushed the attack down the right side, but that is me being nitpicky.
Outside of two moments, the Revolution defense was stalwart. The header from the corner was marking issues inside the six-yard box and a fantastic save bailed them out. Omar Gonzalez got spun once, but the shot was poor, and Edwards Jr made a comfortable save. While Mexico City will be a different beast if they show the same strength moving forward, the second leg should be handled.