By Kevin Koczwara
Foxborough, Mass. — The New England Revolution continued their SuperLiga dominance and extended their unbeaten streak to six games after a beating Mexican Primera División club Puebla F.C. in dramatic fashion. Neither team could break the 1-1 draw after 90 minutes, but the Revolution prevailed in penalty kicks by beating the Mexican side 5-3, pushing the Revs into their second SuperLiga final in 3 years — the team won the tournament in 2008.
New England started the match off on their heels as Puebla attacked and controlled much of the possession early. The Mexican side looked to be in control and comfortable at Gillette field. Puebla’s best chance come in the 6th minute when Joaquin Velasquez’s found space in the Revolution’s box and guided a header just over the crossbar from eight yards out.
The Revolution’s first chance on goal came in the 13th minute when Marko Perovic stepped into a free-kick and tried to beat Puebla goalkeeper Edgar Hernandez near post, but was denied. Perovic’s night would soon be cut short after suffering a calf strain in the 31st minute after which he was removed and rookie forward Zack Schilawski entered the attacking fray for the Revs.
Before Perovic’s injury came controversy as New England forward Kenny Mansally broke free on the counter attack of the Puebla defenders and appeared to be taken down by the goalkeeper just outside the box as he tried to swerve around the charging Hernandez. Despite the Revolution players’ protests the referee gave the visitor’s a goal kick and issued Rev’s winger Syanni Nyassi a yellow card for dissent.
Neither team was able to score int he first half as both squads struggled to get into any sort of attacking rhythm. The best chance of the first half came in the 38th minute for Puebla as Andres Olivera found the ball at his feet from 10 yards out only to have his shot blocked by New England’s central defender Emmanuel Osei.
Both Olivera and Mansally would redeem themselves in the second half for their missed opportunities in the first.
Mansally struck first for the Revolution in the 56th minute when he received a pass from Revolution midfielder and captain Shalrie Joseph in stride just beyond the Puebla box. He took a touch and then sent in a curling shot from 18 yards out that beat Hernandez.
“I think Kevin [Alston] spotted me up to play the through ball to Kenny (Mansally) and [Kevin] played the ball perfectly in my stride,” said Joseph after the game. “Once I got it, I wanted to push forward and Zack (Schilawski) made a great huge run off the ball where he was able to open up the space for Kenny. Kenny was just in the stride and I tried to play the ball a little ahead of him and he took a great touch – he stumbled a little, but he was still able to create a great finish.”
New England’s lead would be short-lived as Puebla scored the equalizing goal two minutes later. One of the oldest adages in soccer is that the most vulnerable time for a team to give up a goal is after they have scored, and the Revolution were just another example on this night.
Olivera finished off a missed handball call by the referee by slotting home a shot to the near post, beating Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis.
Olivera found some time on the left-side of the New England box after receiving a makeshift pass from his teammate Gabriel Pereyra that appeared to bounce off of the Puebla player’s arm into the path of Olivera. While the Revolution players protested, Olivera made sure to put the ball in the back of the net and take advantage of his good fortune.
Olivera’s goal was the first that the Revolution had conceded in the tournament on their way to the SuperLiga finals.
There was not a shortage of chances for either side for the remainder of the match despite the 1-1 scoreline at the end of regulation.
Mansally had two strong chances to put the game away in the 89th minute with a hard volley to the near post that was denied by Hernandez and again moments later in stoppage time he found himself with a chance to finish the game when he was left alone in the box for a header, but he pounded the into the ground in front of the net, bouncing it over.
Mansally would redeem himself for his potential game winning goal misses in the penalty shootout as he was the final player for the Revolution to step up and knock in the fifth and decisive kick in the back of the net, giving the Revs a 5-3 penalty kick victory. Shalrie Joseph, Pat Phelan, and Chris Tierney all contributed. Matt Reis not only saved Edgar Lugo’s shot for Puebla, but he scored from the spot as well for New England.
“Each one I got a little bit closer. The first one I went the wrong way, but all the rest of the ones I was clicking closer and closer,” said Reis. “He [Lugo] stutter-steps and I just tried to stay as long as possible. We were taking good penalties. I think everyone hit really, really good penalties and in this kind of situation, that’s what you need, so it only took one save.”
The Revolution will try and keep their unbeaten streak alive and extend it to seven games this Saturday when the team resumes league play and hosts D.C. United at Gillette Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
Kevin Koczwara is a contributing writer and editor for The Soccer Guys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.