FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution interim head coach Clint Peay was delighted with the team’s fighting spirit in Saturday night’s dramatic 2-1 win over Charlotte FC.
The Revs battled to a crucial victory in front of a 37,701-strong crowd at Gillette Stadium, as Dave Romney headed home the game-winning goal with five minutes of normal time to go – just 89 seconds after the visitors had leveled through Karol Świderski in response to Noel Buck’s opener.
With the squad having surrendered leads late on in recent games, Peay was proud to see the home side demonstrate their character and resilience to grind out a pivotal three points. In the chase for homefield advantage in the 2023 Audi MLS Cup playoffs, the triumph lifted the Revolution to third in the Eastern Conference, whilst extending the club’s remarkable unbeaten home record in 2023 to 11-0-4.
“Finding a way to get the result is the thing that impressed me the most,” he said.
“Obviously, we’ve been through a lot, we’ve given up late goals. It would be pretty easy for this group at this point – given the way some games have gone – to maybe put their heads down, and they kept fighting.
“It’s great [to get my first win as interim head coach] but I’m just here to help the team be successful at this point. More importantly, we just needed to win as a team. For the players, getting over that hump was big.”
Naturally, there was praise for goalscorers Romney and Buck with the pair both finding the net in the second half to put the Revs ahead.
Romney nodded home DeJuan Jones’ pinpoint delivery for his second goal in New England colors (and first in MLS action), after Buck – who made his scoring debut for England’s Under-19s earlier this month – had finished off a well-worked move, collecting Mark-Anthony Kaye’s clever through-ball and drilling into the far post.
“[Dave] was actually just commenting – I know he scored recently but he hadn’t scored a goal in like 20 years!” Peay smiled.
“To have two in recent games is pretty special and when you can get goals off set pieces – whether it’s on the first phase or second phase – it’s always helpful.
“Noel’s been a guy that given the chance to shoot, he usually hits the target, and it’s just a great sequence of quick, small passes to free him up, and he took it well.
“Noel’s always been confident as long as I’ve known him. That’s never been lacking with him. Certainly, [the England U19s call-up] was a big step in his career, having that opportunity.”
After a goalless first half, Peay opted to switch the positioning of fullbacks Jones and Matt Polster, which shored up the backline but still served to support the Revs’ attack.
As the squad continue to adapt to a new system, the interim head coach was pleased to see their efforts come to fruition in the second period.
“We wanted to be able to dictate the game with the ball,” he explained. “We wanted to make sure we had numbers centrally, good width with our wingers.
“McKinze Gaines caused us some problems in the first half so we switched DeJuan and Polster in the second half to match speed with speed. That helped tremendously.
“It’s about matchups. The matchup tonight with a very speedy winger for Charlotte, they were trying to pick on Matt a little bit so we just decided to flip it. Matt can still come inside from the right side, so left or right, it doesn’t matter – it’s just that idea of adding another number, that’s all we’re looking to do.
“In the second half, we were better – being brave with the ball, bringing some loose balls down instead of just keeping them alive, and 50-50 balls – and that composure helped us settle the game down, to put more pressure on them and create more chances, controlling the game with possession.”
Summer signing Tomás Chancalay produced another impressive display, having bagged his third goal since joining the club in last weekend’s draw with Chicago Fire FC.
The Argentine winger combined well with fellow July recruit Kaye for Buck’s opening goal, and the duo earned deserved acclaim from Peay for their influential contributions.
“[Tomás] is getting better every day,” he added. “It was another solid performance by him where he showed signs of being very dangerous.
“Obviously, he had no goals but he’s a guy that works tremendously hard, puts pressure on the backline of opponents, and he’s a very bright spot for us.
“[Mark-Anthony] was hard in his tackles, he was around the ball, covered a lot of ground and won some aerial duels as well. For me, that’s first and foremost in that role, very important.
“With the ball, he’s a link for us. He can help us dictate the tempo of the game with the ball. As the game wore on, he got better with that.”
There was further cause for celebration at Gillette Stadium with the welcome return of Gustavo Bou from injury.
Making his first appearance since the start of August having missed the previous seven games, the Argentine was introduced from the bench on 72 minutes, and Peay hopes the forward can push on to make an impact in the Revs’ playoff push.
“You see at the end, he can be dangerous, he can cause some problems,” he continued.
“He’s a guy we have to rely on down the stretch, and will be big for us, and we wanted to make sure we found a way to get him some minutes to work him back in.”
Peay also provided updates on Ian Harkes, who was withdrawn from the bench as a precaution before kickoff, and goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík, who has not yet featured in the matchday squad.
“With Ian, he had something that was just lingering,” he noted. “He had to be pulled because of that.
“With Tomáš, he's a professional. He hasn't played in a while, and we're just trying to get him up to speed as it relates to being game fit and game ready.”