3 takeaways from the Revolution’s dramatic 2-1 win over Charlotte FC

New England Revolution

It was the first win for New England in exactly a month, with the game-winner coming from an unlikely source.

Noel Buck New England Revolution
Noel Buck celebrates after scoring the opener in the Revolution’s win over Charlotte FC. MLS/New England Revolution

The Revolution found a late goal to secure a 2-1 win against Charlotte FC on Saturday in front of 37,701 at Gillette Stadium.

New England took the lead in the 64th minute via a well-placed shot from midfielder Noel Buck at the top left corner of the box, but it didn’t last. As has become an unfortunate theme for the Revolution in recent weeks, they were unable to hold a late lead, with Charlotte striker Karol Świderski lashing in an 84th-minute tying goal.

Fortunately for interim head coach Clint Peay’s team, Charlotte’s equalizer wasn’t the only piece of late drama. One minute later, a DeJuan Jones cross was nodded in by center-back Dave Romney (his first goal for New England in MLS play), and the Revolution were able to hang on for the team’s first win since a 1-0 victory over the Red Bulls exactly one month earlier.

The win sends New England back up to third place in the Eastern Conference (at least for the moment). With a playoff spot already clinched, it’s now about securing the highest seed for Peay’s squad.

It was also another positive result at home for the Revolution, extending the unbeaten run at Gillette to 15 games in 2023.

Here are a few takeaways:

Clint Peay continued with the inverted fullback system.

A clearly distinctive attribute of Peay’s time as Revolution coach already appears to be his tactical system. Specifically, he deployed Matt Polster as an “inverted fullback” for the second straight game, meaning that the usual defensive midfielder lined up as an outside back and tracked inside to play a midfield role when New England had possession.

In the first 45 minutes, Polster did as he’d done against Chicago a week before, playing as a nominal left back before tucking into midfield when his team got the ball.

What was evident, however, was that Charlotte had clearly studied the Revolution draw against the Chicago Fire in the previous game. In that contest, the Fire had found success by counterattacking quickly down the side that Polster was lined up on (occasionally catching him out of position).

Charlotte attempted a similar game-plan, but with mixed results. On one hand, they were able to cause problems on the right wing (Polster’s initial side) because of the speed of winger McKinze Gaines.

This necessitated a change in the second half, with Jones and Polster switching sides. Jones, a traditional outside back who possesses tremendous speed, focused his defensive efforts on Gaines (who was eventually subbed off).

Polster continued to roam into midfield as soon as New England got the ball, and looked more comfortable defensively as well.

Jones, back on his usual left side, jumped into the fray after a more withdrawn first half. He not only assisted the winning goal, but combined more frequently in the attacking third and looked much more of a threat going forward.

Noel Buck made yet another impressive performance.

The 18-year-old midfielder Noel Buck was handed another start by Peay in a crowded and competitive midfield. The coach’s faith was rewarded when it was Buck who found the breakthrough goal.

In the spirit of a true all-around midfielder, Buck contributed in virtually every statistic, both offensive and defensive. Clearly given freedom to roam forward, he made the most of his bursts upfield.

His goal came from sensing where the pocket of space was developing on the left wing, and deciding to sit in that exact area in case someone got him the ball.

Defensive midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye — who himself displayed an all-around capacity in both attack and defense — feathered in a perfect pass for Buck, who instantly turned and buried his shot into the far corner of the net.

Tomás Chancalay put in another strong performance.

While the Revolution didn’t take the lead until the second half, New England probably should have at least scored a first-half goal when winger Tomás Chancalay looped a well-placed cross to the back post for striker Bobby Wood.

But just as it appeared Chancalay’s cross was unmissable, Wood did just that (and the ball rolled out for a goal kick).

Still, Chancalay once again shined for New England. For the second week in a row, he appeared completely comfortable on the ball, and worked a plethora of both scoring chances and reliable crosses.

With the return of Gustavo Bou (who made a brief cameo on Saturday after missing several weeks with an injury), Chancalay — a fellow Argentine — could continue to develop into a dangerous attacking threat for New England.

The Revolution now have four games remaining in the regular season, and face a quick turnaround: New England will be at home again on Wednesday for a game against Columbus at 7:30 p.m.