CHICAGO – New England Revolution interim head coach Clint Peay and defender Omar González believe Saturday night’s playoff-clinching comeback draw at Chicago Fire FC marks a crucial step in kickstarting the Revs’ campaign.
The Revolution battled back from 2-1 down thanks to Carles Gil’s ninth league goal of the season, after the hosts had turned the game on its head with Brian Gutiérrez and Gastón Giménez canceling out Tomás Chancalay’s opener.
Though D.C. United’s defeat to the New York Red Bulls earlier in the evening also confirmed New England’s postseason spot, both Peay and Gonzalez noted the significance of the fightback at Soldier Field as a potentially pivotal psychological boost following a challenging few weeks, as well as a platform to build upon in the quest for homefield advantage in the playoffs.
“That’s the main goal – to get in the playoffs and give yourself a chance, but we’re not satisfied,” Peay stated.
“We want to get the highest seed that we can possibly have to secure homefield advantage in the playoffs to the best of our ability.
“It’s important to be competitive on the road and I thought we were [against Chicago]. We had some formation tweaks and then I think in terms of how we want to carry forward, it’d be more offensive and connected.
“We’re looking forward to moving forward and doing the best we can to secure homefield advantage. We still have a couple of tough games to go and that’s going to be our goal moving forward.”
González, who netted his first goal for the club in last weekend’s trip to Colorado on his 300th MLS appearance, admitted he and the Revs squad were relieved to have secured their playoff place.
Targeting a top-three spot to enter the postseason tournament on a high, the defender believes there were notable signs of encouragement and improvement from the result in Chicago.
“Clinching a playoff spot feels really good,” he declared. “It’s a step in the right direction. It’s a weight off our shoulders to finally clinch, and now we have to think about finishing in the top three. That would be fantastic.
“We have to regroup, build off this draw away from home; go back home where we’ve been really strong, and keep on making progress. You can see we played a different style, and we came back to draw the game.
“[The equalizing goal] was massive. To be down 2-1 and to get a goal to bring it back level was huge. It felt great knowing we’d tied the game, and I saw the look in my teammates’ eyes – we wanted to push for the win.
“Maybe we could have had a goal there with Bobby [Wood] and another chance to maybe win it, but there were a lot of good, positive things – closing out the game was another big thing for us, which we’ve struggled with in the past few games.
“In recent games, we’ve had the lead and they’ve scored, and leveled the game on us, and it’s felt like a loss. Coming from the other way, it’s not a win but it doesn’t feel like a loss like the other ones did – it doesn’t sting as much.
“There’s good things to draw here and we just have to move forward. We leveled, we held strong. We made good strides. We’d been suffering, letting up goals late, so we’re making little improvements, and now we have to be more lethal when we get our chances.
“When we have the lead, we have to score another one – we have to have that hunger to keep on going and punishing teams. That’s the goal for the group heading into these last games.
“We have a great group of players, we have the leadership in the club who’s going to put everything right for us, so all we have to do is focus on the play, and things should be looking good.”
Summer recruit Chancalay broke the deadlock with his third goal in New England colors on his sixth appearance, courtesy of two moments of individual brilliance. Initiating the attack with a superb piece of skill down the left, the winger reacted quickest to a half-clearance in the box and unleashed a powerful effort past Chris Brady to draw first blood.
A lively and creative threat throughout – tallying a game-high six shots – the Argentine’s influential contribution earned recognition from head coach Peay, who highlighted the 24-year-old as a ‘dangerous’ component in the Revolution armory.
“Tomás has a lot of energy and can shoot with both feet,” he hailed. “I think he’s a guy [who] in and around the box is pretty dangerous. He can play on either side so he’s versatile.
“He [also] had a pretty good shot that the ‘keeper had to make a good save on. At the end of the day, 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. I thought he was good and dangerous.”
There was also praise for stand-in full-back Matt Polster, who had deputized at right back in previous games but was deployed on the left side of defense against Chicago.
The 30-year-old was however afforded license to contribute on the offensive front as an inverted wingback, and Peay was pleased with the midfielder’s efforts.
“Matt is a guy that we think is important and we wanted to be able to incorporate him in a way that would play to his strengths when we had the ball, but also could help us in terms of how we wanted to defend and give us width across the back,” the head coach explained.
“I think it’s something that he’s adjusting to and open to doing. I think with time it will get better, but overall, I thought he did a good job the first time out, trying to accomplish this difficult task of being an inverted outside back.
“The [overall] idea was to have some connectivity, and be able to advance the ball into the final third, and try to create some opportunities – whether it’s slipping guys in behind or crosses. There were some good spells in the game regarding that.”
González – starting his sixth consecutive game – has played every minute of action since being restored to the XI against CF Montréal.
Reflecting on the tactical shift, the three-time MLS Cup winner added the team have responded well to Peay’s stewardship, and are looking forward to further integrating and developing his style.
“It was something that was presented to us earlier in the week,” said the center back. “The way it is working right now, Clint is very collaborative. He asked us if we wanted to play this way and we took a look at it.
“We played XIs during the week and it looked great. Everyone felt comfortable, so the group was all in – we said: ‘Let’s go for it’. I thought we had moments where we were moving the ball well, when we were moving it quick and playing simple, and we were able to find spaces breaking the lines and getting around them, playing into soft pockets and creating chances.
“For only having really trained it a couple of days, I think we looked pretty good, and now that we’ve already clinched, we can focus on really working on it, and getting it right so that when we head into the playoffs, we can be even stronger.”