2019 MLS Week 21 Preview — New England Revolution (8-6-8) vs. Orlando City SC (7-5-10)

It has been a long road to playoff contention for Bruce Arena and the New England Revolution, who look to match a club record by extending their unbeaten streak to 11 matches Saturday when they host Orlando City.

The Revolution (8-6-8) have gone from the bottom of the Eastern Conference to holders of the seventh and final playoff spot on the strength of their unbeaten streak. New England has gone 5-2-0 since Arena moved from the press box to the touchline following his May hiring and enters this match seeking a third consecutive clean sheet following a 2-0 victory at FC Cincinnati on Sunday.

Carles Gil scored nine minutes into the contest and set up Antonio Milnar Delama’s goal on 55 minutes. Gil, who came to the Revs from Spain’s Deportivo La Coruna in the offseason, again struck up with a partnership with recently acquired Designated Player Gustavo Bou. The Argentine returned the favor of Gil’s assist in New England’s 4-0 victory over Vancouver on the Spaniard’s goal as the pair have shown an effortless chemistry in igniting the offense.

“This has been real tough on him,” Arena told the Revs’ official website about having Bou start back-to-back games on a short turnaround after his signing from Liga MX side Tijuana. “He pushed through, and hopefully we get him through the week in training and ready for Orlando. I thought he and Cristian (Penilla) were in some good shots that if we delivered the right pass to them, they could have had a goal or two.

“I’m pleased with what Gustavo has given us, and he’s only going to get better. He just have to take two or three weeks to get a little bit fitter.”

On the other end of the pitch, Matt Turner recorded a career-high seven saves to record his fourth clean sheet of the season. It was a stark contrast to the 4-0 romp over the Whitecaps in which he did not need to make a save.

Orlando City (7-5-10) has a chance to further tighten the race for the final playoff spots in the East, entering this contest four points behind New England and in 10th place. The Lions have just one win in their last five matches (1-2-2) after a 1-0 home loss to the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.

Lions coach James O’Connor felt his team deserved at least one point for its efforts, which is somewhat justified considering three efforts hit the woodwork in the final half-hour. Carlos Ascues and Tesho Akindele both thumped the crossbar in the 60th and 70th minutes, respectively, and Sacha Kljestan struck the left post 12 minutes from time.

“Second half, I think we’ve absolutely bust, bust the game and completely dominated,” O’Connor lamented. “Hit the woodwork whatever it is, three times, had some chances so we’re looking to get anything out of the game, but it’s obviously very frustrating when you have a game, especially when you have the ball bouncing off the crossbar and off the post, but it didn’t happen for us tonight.”

Orlando City has found recent success on the road with 10 points in their last five matches (3-1-1) while conceding just two goals in those contests. The Lions are hoping to get a full 90 minutes from Nani, as the All-Star winger logged 70 minutes in his return after a two-match absence due to illness.

One of the few blemishes for the Revs since Arena took over was a 2-1 loss after extra time at Orlando in the round of 16 in the U.S. Open Cup on June 19. Akindele and Benji Michel scored in the first 15-minute extra period for the Lions, who then survived a late marker from Justin Rennicks.

(Carles Gil photo courtesy Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports)

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