A hot start and the hardest shot | ‘Phenomenal’ Chancalay’s impressive Revolution impact

11_29_23 Tomas Chancalay

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When the New England Revolution announced their second signing of summer 2023, few could have predicted the instant impact Argentine forward Tomás Chancalay would make.

Recruited to bolster the Revolution attack, the winger would arrive at Gillette Stadium with a notable pedigree, having notched 35 goals and 20 assists in more than 185 professional appearances for Racing Club, Atlético Colón and Emirati club Al-Wasl – but after a frustrating start to his early Revs career, hopes of an immediate influence had somewhat faded.

Unveiled in early July, the 24-year-old Argentina youth international faced a delay in making the move to the United States, needing to await international clearance before he was able to join up with his new squad. Last in competitive action in May, he then spent the first weeks of his Revs career building up fitness – only to suffer an unfortunate injury with Revolution II after making the bench for the first team in Leagues Cup play.

Returning to full training in late August ready to restart his new chapter, first impressions of the new recruit were encouraging. Defender Dave Romney was instantly impressed with his new teammate’s technical ability and ‘deadly’ finishing, while captain Carles Gil was relishing the chance to forge a fruitful partnership with another talented creative spark.

Fast forward three months and Chancalay has now been snapped up on a permanent deal, as the club’s newest Designated Player, having recorded one of the best starts in Revolution history.

With six goals in his first 11 MLS games, he stands alongside club greats Taylor Twellman, Joe-Max Moore and Gustavo Bou as one of only seven players to have bagged six or more goals in their first 11 league appearances with the Revs – a promising sign to say the least.

It certainly did not take long for the Argentine to announce his arrival in Foxborough. A stellar two-goal display against Austin FC on just his second start immediately caught the attention, endearing him to his new fans, teammates and coaches in emphatic fashion.

Showcasing his predatory instinct, finishing ability and aerial threat, Chancalay coolly slotted an instant equalizer first-time into the near post, and then rose well to head home in his second, becoming the first Revolution player to tally a multi-goal game within his first three appearances since skipper Gil in 2019. Unsurprisingly, his star showing also earned his first inclusion to the MLS Team of the Matchday – the first of two selections in his opening eight games.

“He’s a different dynamic,” said defender Ben Sweat in the aftermath of the Austin draw. “He likes to be on the ball, and he likes to go at guys and shoot. He likes to score goals, and I think he’s adjusted well. We have to continue to help him because there’s something special in him, and there’s a lot to look forward to.”

Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, who joined the Revs three days after Chancalay, echoed: “He’s a big player who came into the club. This club and us as his teammates expect big things of him. He’s a player who doesn’t give up, works really hard; has that quality in and around the box, and has a good shot. It’s just about us doing our best to support him and help build him up so that as he continues to get on the field, he gets better and better.”

Once he had opened his goalscoring account for his new club, Chancalay was off and running, and netted his third MLS goal in Chicago on his fifth start. Unlocking the Fire defense with a moment of magic – a sensational turn down the left – he controlled well in the box and rocketed in on the rebound to break the deadlock, helping the Revs to clinch a place in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.

Crafting a game-high six attempts at Soldier Field, it was becoming rapidly apparent that the new recruit possessed a formidable attacking prowess, insatiable hunger, and an awesome ability to generate a remarkable level of power behind his shots – a trait first evident with a soaring effort that cannoned off the crossbar in Minnesota.

A series of rasping strikes from distance prompted the question to goalkeepers Earl Edwards Jr. and Jacob Jackson: ‘Who boasted the most powerful shot in the New England team?’ The pair were both in agreement.

“Tomás is definitely up there,” Edwards Jr. replied, speaking to Jeff Lemieux on Dan O’Brien’s Awesome Drive to the Match. “Maybe it’s an Argentinian thing because it’s between him and Gustavo.”

Jackson concurred: “I would definitely say it’s Chancalay. I think Earl is right on that one.

“It’s amazing. He hits the ball so hard, and he can put a knuckle on it, he can curl it in. I would say him, Dylan [Borrero] and Gustavo probably have the hardest shot, and you can never actually really tell what they’re going to do because they can wind up, hit it, and it just keeps speeding up.

“Some of the goals you see in training videos, in games, Chancalay just hits it, and you have to react and either hopefully you get a hand to it, but most of the time it finds its way into the back of the net. He’s a phenomenal player.”

Another fine individual performance saw the Argentine on the scoresheet again against the Columbus Crew, and once again, he carved the most attempts on goal. With eight efforts, the winger tallied the highest single-game total for a Revolution player in 2023, and came close to marking his second multi-goal match – only to rattle the crossbar once more with another long-range arrowing drive.

The forward would not be denied, however, leveling the score with another piece of individual brilliance, racing onto and connecting perfectly with DeJuan Jones’ cross to smash a superb half-volley into the back of the net.

Celebrating his fourth goal on his seventh straight start, Chancalay was becoming a fan favorite, and as the winger became more familiar with his new surroundings, he began to reveal more strings to his bow, such as his versatility, work ethic and defensive qualities.

Alongside his five shots against Orlando City SC, he also logged team-highs in duels won (8) and tackles won (3), receiving deserved acclaim from interim head coach Clint Peay and defender Andrew Farrell.

“Chancalay has been a big spark for us,” Peay noted. “He’s an aggressive player with the ball, and without the ball.

“He is getting better every day. He’s a guy that works tremendously hard, puts pressure on the backline of opponents, and he’s a very bright spot for us.

“He has got a lot of potential in terms of what he can do in the final third – shoot with both feet, he can be dangerous on the dribble, running in behind. He’s got a lot of qualities.

“He can play on either side, so he’s versatile. He’s passionate about being a guy that wants to take on a little bit of ownership, put it on his back and make plays.

“He’s been very important, works incredibly hard on both sides of the ball, and just brings good energy. He’s a guy that inspires guys around him.”

Farrell – the Revs’ record-appearance maker – hailed: “It’s not just the goals – it’s his movement off the ball, his work defensively. He’s got the whole package. We’re excited for him …”

The Revs most definitely had the right to be excited about the Argentine, especially after he grabbed another brace in the trip to Nashville SC. Once again proving dangerous throughout, he netted two of his five shots – the first a glorious volley from Bou’s delivery, and the second an instinctive pounce on the rebound for his fourth goal in five games, and sixth in his first 10 MLS matches.

It was a prolific start. Since making his debut against CF Montréal on August 26, Chancalay had climbed into the league’s top-five goalscorers for the most goals scored over that span. Closing the regular season with 11 consecutive appearances, he clocked 864 minutes in his debut campaign and finished as the club’s third-highest league scorer for the year (fourth in all competitions), unleashing 41 shots (the Revs’ third-most in 2023).

He also threaded five key passes, completing 254 of his 317 overall passes with an accuracy of 80.1%, and embarked on the third-most dribbles (26).

Entering his first MLS Playoff adventure, the winger was excited to experience his first taste of the postseason tournament, eager to continue his hot streak and aid the Revs’ challenge for silverware. Though he continued to threaten in the Round One clashes against the Philadelphia Union (firing the second-most shots, most dribbles, most crosses and most key passes), New England ultimately fell short against last season’s MLS Cup runners-up.

Looking ahead to the future, the Revs quickly sought to secure the services of the star forward, and the club exercised the permanent transfer option, signing Chancalay as a Designated Player through the 2026 MLS season with an additional one-year club option.

Having already expressed his happiness to have made the move to Foxborough, praising the club and their ‘tremendous’ fans, the winger will look to fully settle, as he prepares for his first New England winter and readies himself for his first preseason.

Should he pick up where he left off in the new year, the Argentine could start the new campaign in red-hot form, ready to unleash his full potential in his first full season in MLS, as one of the Revs’ most exciting attacking stars. Roll on, 2024 …