FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Noel Buck is the embodiment of the New England Revolution’s pro player pathway.
Buck, a native of Arlington, Mass., joined the Revolution Academy in 2017 at the age of 12. He made 66 appearances at the youth level, working his way through the ranks and being named UnitedHealthcare Academy Player of the Year in 2021. That led to professional opportunities with Revolution II, where he continued his development first in USL and then MLS NEXT Pro. Then came an MLS contract, signed in January of this year to become the seventh Homegrown Player in club history.
The pathway was completed on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, where in front of 24,240 fans – including his parents and friends – Buck made his MLS debut less then 40 miles from his hometown.
“It’s a dream, really. It’s a dream come true,” Buck said. “It’s a lot of emotions, you know. It’s just a lot. I mean, it feels great obviously. But there’s also a quick turnaround that we’ve got to be mindful of.”
That type of veteran answer belies Buck’s youth and lack of MLS experience, but so did his 27-minute appearance off the bench in the Revolution’s 1-0 win over D.C. United. Buck completed seven of his eight pass attempts, registered three possessions gained, and tallied one key pass as he so nearly picked up his first MLS assist in the 71st minute only for Carles Gil to send his effort off the post.
The result was high praise from head coach Bruce Arena and teammates.
“Noel Buck was very good,” said Arena, later noting Buck’s performance was “outstanding” while talking about the Academy trio including Justin Rennicks and Damian Rivera. “I was very impressed. A very competitive kid for 17 years old. His passing was excellent. A great ball he played to Carles to push him through to goal … That’s an excellent first performance.”
“Noel Buck was unbelievable,” added Andrew Farrell. “I think he did a really good job coming in.”
While his appearance on Saturday night was Buck’s MLS debut, it was far from his first professional experience, as he’s already racked up 43 appearances with Revolution II at just 17 years old. That’s the benefit of the pathway, and Buck said those opportunities to hone his skills and continue his development at that level were key in building his confidence and preparedness for those first MLS minutes.
“[Revolution II] has been a great stepping stone for me, getting used to the professional level, playing with proper pros,” said Buck. “It’s been great. I’m on my second year with Revs II, and I have been [with Revolution II] for most of this year. So, it is a big help, and I’m hoping a lot of other kids like Esmir Bajraktarević can also come in and get his debut.”
Saturday night was Buck’s first taste of MLS experience, but it most certainly won’t be his last, and he could have additional opportunities coming in the very near future with the Revolution dealing with a rash of injuries and a pair of key matches coming up this week in Toronto (Wednesday) and Montreal (Saturday).
“It’s important, in my opinion, not to sit too much on it,” Buck said. “Tonight, I can enjoy it, enjoy that I made my debut and I played well. But overall, it’s on to the next, and it doesn’t mean anything if I can’t keep doing it.”