“In that second half, we took the game over” | Chancalay blasts Revs to first road win

5_4_24 Tomas Chancalay goal celebration

CHICAGO, Ill. – A second-half stunner from New England Revolution forward Tomás Chancalay was enough for a hard-fought win over Chicago Fire FC on Saturday night at Soldier Field, New England’s first league win on the road this season. A similarly world-class save from goalkeeper Aljaž Ivačič on debut was the highlight of a strong defensive showing from the Revs that secured a shutout of the Fire and hopefully will set the tone going into next Saturday’s trip to face the New York Red Bulls.

Inclement weather delayed kickoff in Chicago for nearly an hour, and once the ball got rolling it was largely the Fire who were pushing forward, with a number of near misses, as well as important blocks from Revs defenders, throughout the first half. A clash of heads involving midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye made for some scary moments shortly before halftime, but the Canadian was able to continue after some brief treatment and see out the entirety of the game. Both teams went in scoreless at the break, with New England having only taken three shots to Chicago’s 10.

However, it was the Revolution who came out swinging early in the second half, playing with high energy and attacking intent right out of the gate. Winger Esmir Bajrakteravic put his talent on full display, creating chances both through his footwork and his crossing ability, nearly assisting defender Xavier Arreaga on two separate occasions and going close with a shot of his own.

After an hour of stalemate, it was Chancalay who broke the deadlock. In the 62nd minute, a long ball from Ivačič found the head of striker Giacomo Vrioni, whose flick forward only found a Chicago defender. However, a poor touch allowed Chancalay to recover possession, run into space, and fire a rocket from the edge of the box into the top left corner of Fire goalkeeper Chris Brady’s net, the Argentinian’s second goal of the league campaign.

The slim margin made for some tense moments in the final 20 minutes of the game, and the Fire did not go down without a fight. A powerful free kick from midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri forced a stunning save from Ivačič in the 73rd minute, the Slovenian’s first of the game, and four minutes later a heroic last-ditch block from defender Nick Lima helped to preserve the Revs’ clean sheet.

Head coach Caleb Porter said after the game that it was great for the team to get a win on the road and start to build a bit of positive momentum.

“I thought we grew into the game,” he said. “At the end of the first half, 20 to 25 minutes, we started to take the game over, get control of the ball, which was key, which gave us confidence, made them defend. And then I thought we continued to play our game in the second half.”

Porter emphasized the importance of the team’s charge after halftime, saying they “ripped the heart out of the opponent” after the break.

“At halftime we talked about really pushing to win the game,” he said. “We've been in situations at halftime where we're level and we almost play not to lose, and I thought we really played to win today. In that second half, we took the game over.”

Gil echoed Porter’s sentiment about the importance of playing to win after the interval, stressing that the team did not want to let the second half of a game slip away like it might have in the past.

“I think in the past games it was different,” Gil said. “Many times, the opponent had better moments in the beginning of the second half, so we wanted to change that, and we did. We had a very good 10, 15, 20 minutes until the goal. I think that’s important for us.”

Porter was quick to make clear that he was in no way the only one responsible for sparking the team’s second-half surge, instead lifting up his coaching staff for the work they do both leading up to and on gameday to get the team ready for situations like the one they faced.

“It’s not that I did anything special,” he said. “But one of the things I said to them at that moment is we need to play and be brave … My assistant, Blair Gavin, he does a great job of finding clips in the first half. He showed four clips to the team at halftime. We have kind of a rhythm of doing that at halftime, clipping things in the first half and showing guys visuals of it, so that was a real key. Then Pablo Moreira, who is also my assistant – probably one of the things that has gotten lost on this year with our results is we are the best defensive team on set pieces in the league, and a big part of that is Pablo’s work.”

He went on to praise goalkeeper coach Kevin Hitchcock and assistant coach Clint Peay for the work they have done, as well.

“Hitchy’s had a tough year,” Porter said, “because he’s had three goalkeepers play. You look at that save that Ali [Ivačič] made, that’s a lot to do with his work.

"And Clint [Peay], Clint works with the back four as well, so really, credit goes to the assistants. I'm the one sitting up here, but they are the guys behind the scenes doing a lot of work.”

Having now finished their regular-season series with Chicago undefeated, the Revs will next travel to New York for their first meeting of the season with the Red Bulls, who suffered a searing 6-2 away defeat to Inter Miami CF earlier in the night. The Red Bulls sit fourth in the Eastern Conference, and the Revs will need a similarly staunch defensive performance to keep out a side that is tied for third in the East for goals scored.