FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) – The Revolution’s Leagues Cup run is over in the round of 16 as New England fell to Liga MX side Querétaro F.C. in penalty kicks on Monday night. After a scoreless 45 minutes at Gillette Stadium, the visitors broke the deadlock in the first minute of the second half when Jaime Gómez beat an offsides trap and headed one into the net. Teenager Esmir Bajraktarevic leveled the match in the 78th minute, but the Revolution could not finish the comeback in penalties, falling 4-3. Querétaro F.C. will now move on to the quarterfinals of the inaugural Leagues Cup while the Revolution will wait for MLS regular season to resume.

Below are three takeaways from the match:

Unlikely Source Rallies Revs

18-year-old Esmir Bajraktarevic walked down the tunnel postgame with a soccer ball and a plastic bag in his hands – if one didn’t know any better, they might think he was a high-schooler coming from varsity practice. The teenager grinned when he was asked about his new possessions. “I have the match ball, signed by the whole team,” Bajraktarevic said. “Then I have my jersey in the bag… I think I’m gonna frame it.”

One bright spot in an uninspiring loss, Bajraktarevic picked the right time to score his first goal with the Revolution. After being subbed on in the second half, Bajraktarevic took it upon himself in the 78th minute with a sublime turn and finish to tie the game. Midfielder Noel Buck called it an “amazing goal” and added that “a lot of people won’t even know how ridiculous that is – to take it on the turn and volley it.” A smiling Buck continued that his teammate has been working hard, and jokes that he’ll have to remind Bajraktarevic in training that “I still have more goals than him.”

Depleted Side Struggled to Produce

The Revolution dominated possession but struggled to create anything meaningful against a Querétaro squad that placed emphasis on the defensive end. A DeJuan Jones header that rattled the crossbar was one of only two shots registered for the Revs in the entire first half; the team finished the full 90 minutes with only two shots on goal.

“I think when you look at the first 45 minutes, we lacked a lot of creativity moving off the ball,” midfielder Matt Polster said afterwards. “That’s what led to us not dominating the game from the start.”

It’s easy to blame the absence of star midfielder Carles Gil for New England’s stagnation. Gil was kept out with an injury and is the engine of the team when healthy – leading the MLS in assists. The Revs captain is a player who specializes in creating chances out of thin air through moments of individual brilliance, a role that no one else on the squad can step into cleanly. The Revolution struggled to create quality goalscoring opportunities without Gil, something a team of this caliber needs to figure out. New England is a team with championship aspirations, one that cannot be entirely dependent on one man to keep their usually prolific attack moving.

No-Go on Solo Giacomo

Revs forward Giacomo Vrioni was a big story earlier in the tournament, as he netted the first hat-trick in Leagues Cup history against San Luis during group play. It wasn’t the same story on Monday as the Italian struggled after being placed alone up top. 

It’s always easier when you have another striker next to you,” interim head coach Richie Williams said. “We’re just running out of strikers, in terms of injuries.”

New England was especially thin up top, as Gil, Bobby Wood and Gustavo Bou all missed the match. Vrioni has been in good form after building up chemistry starting alongside Gil and Bou but failed to register a shot. Williams admitted “he didn’t really create a lot on the day, but that’s not just on Giacomo, that’s on the team. We all ended up losing the game together, and that’s just the way it is.”

Looking Ahead:

While this loss to Querétaro was a disappointing result for the Revolution, it’s easy to see the silver lining here. This squad has played six games in 26 days, as success in the Leagues Cup created a highly condensed schedule. The loss now gives the Revolution time to regroup, with 12 days before their next match against Nashville. Players can take this time to get healthy and refocus on the regular season, where the Revs sit in second place in the East at 12-7-4.  It is even possible that New England will get clarity on the league’s investigation of head coach Bruce Arena before they kick off again on August 20th.