The New England Revolution were at their best when it mattered most against the top team in MLS.
The Revolution potted a pair in the opening half and weathered a second half onslaught to secure a 2-0 upset victory over the Philadelphia Union in round one of the MLS playoffs on Tuesday night at Subaru Park in Chester, Pa.
The Union captured the Supporters’ Shield with the best record in MLS, drew the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and were 4-0-1 against the Revolution this season.
The No. 8 seed Revs advance (9-7-8) to the conference semifinals and will take on No. 4 Orlando City FC (11-4-8) at Exploria Stadium on Sunday. Philly finished the run at 14-5-5.
“Obviously it was a very good performance against a team that had a great regular season,” said Revolution sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena. “They were undefeated here in their home stadium and it’s a tremendous win.
“Now, we have to recover and get team ready for Sunday.”
The Revolution backend was schooled by the Union’s diamond formation with dual strikers Sergio Santos and Kacper Przybylko backed up by attacking midfielder Brenden Aaronson, who was recognized as one of the top 11 players in the league.
Aaronson showed a flash of his brilliance in the fifth minute after winning a foot race with Scott Caldwell. Aaronson made a deep run down the right flank, crossed the ball to Jamiro Monteiro who was open in the penalty area. Monteiro had unchallenged possession, but he shot the ball harmlessly over the crossbar.
“I think Philly has a style that’s somewhat similar to the Red Bulls the way they want to play and press and that kind of stuff,” said Arena. “We’ve seen it throughout the year and got after that tonight.”
The Revolution began owning the play by the midway point in the half and opened the scoring off a set piece in the 26th minute. Carles Gil lofted a free kick into the penalty area as the two armies converged. Striker Adam Buksa skied over Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya and headed the ball past Union keeper Andre Blake for his seventh of the season.
The Revolution went up 2-0 in the 30th minute on a brilliant individual effort by Tajon Buchanan. Gil got possession in the middle of the pitch and led Buchanan on a surge down the right flank. Buchanan deked Union defender Kai Wagner, pivoted and fired the ball inside the far post. Buchanan celebrated his third goal of the season by sticking a double back flip.
“The second goal broke their spirits but obviously both goals were important,” said Arena. “We knew they were going to fight for the entire 90 minutes and they did.”
The game took a physical turn late in the half resulting in a dustup that involved several players. The officials got control of the situation and no yellow cards were issued.
The Revolution maintained its aggressive posture at the start of the second half, accentuated with possession and passing. Gil had an open shot from just outside the box hit off the crossbar in the 52nd minute.
Revolution keeper Matt Turner made a huge stop off a set piece in the 64th minute. Przybylko caught up to a free kick, but Turner blocked his header.
“We had to make it ugly in the second half and we managed to do that and we got a clean sheet so give our guys a lot of credit,” said Arena.