FOXBOROUGH — The Revolution have not broken their habit of surrendering late goals. But they were resilient enough to survive in taking a 2-1 win over Charlotte FC Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
Adam Buksa and Matt Polster made the difference, providing the Revolution goals and also contributing hold-up play, physicality, and inspiring ball distribution.
The Revolution (2-4-1, 7 points), who visit D.C. United next Saturday, snapped a four-game losing streak and avenged a loss to Charlotte (3-5-0, 9 points), an expansion team that gained its first victory against the Revolution last month.
The Revolution’s aggressive pressure kept Charlotte on the defensive early, forcing it to play back to goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina. Eventually, the high-press tactic became less effective, as Charlotte adjusted and the Revolution tired. By then, the Revolution had the lead, as Buksa headed in a Brandon Bye cross in the eighth minute. The play was set up as DeJuan Jones advanced on the left wing, and Polster found Bye on the right.
Polster upped the lead, blocking an attempted clearance off a free kick in the 72d minute. Emmanuel Boateng earned a free kick, going down as he sped past Guzman Corujo. Carles Gil played the ball to Sebastian Lletget, whose shot was parried just outside the goal area. Polster then closed down Corujo, whose left-foot attempt to clear went off Polster into the net.
Substitute Cristian Ortiz cut the deficit, lobbing a deflected shot over Brad Knighton into the far side of the net in the 85th minute.
“I think hopefully we learned something from the previous games in 2022, in that we need to be a more collective unit on the field,” Revolution sporting director/head coach Bruce Arena said. “And I thought tonight we got a great effort from everyone.”
Observations from Saturday’s game:
▪ Buksa’s back-to-goal play keyed the Revolution’s ability to gain possession late in the game. Buksa held off Charlotte central defenders, allowing teammates to advance into the offense, and won several battles with Cristian Makoun, who departed after a clash in the 84th minute. Buksa and Charlotte’s Karol Swiderski could be on their country’s World Cup roster, and Poland national team coach Czeslaw Michniewicz visited Buksa in the locker room after the game. “We wanted to start very hard and wanted to press them up high,” Buksa said. “We knew they can build up from the back. They’re very good at it. But, we could not let them play. That was the basic thing we were applying for the game. It worked out because we scored an early goal and it kind of set the tone. There were some parts of the game when they also had control of it and we dealt well with defending. I said in an interview before I came here, I’m not sure if it was a fully deserved win, but we definitely played better than last games. We are heading in the right direction.”
▪ Justin Rennicks, replacing Gustavo Bou (lower leg injury), complemented Buksa by running at the Charlotte back line. Rennicks, who scored his first MLS goal in a 3-2 loss to Inter Miami last week, earned a 57th-minute free kick after a clash with Makoun, who was cautioned.
▪ The Revolution started the season in a celebratory mood, with post-game commemorations of impending fatherhood of players, plus Arena’s league-record 241st career victory on March 5. But the Revolution have taken on a more humble approach as they went on a five-game losing streak in all competitions, giving up four goals from the 88th minute on. “I can tell you there’s no music being played in the locker room,” Polster said. “People are pretty focused for next week against D.C. It’s just one win, we have a lot more losses in the column than wins right now, so the boys are focused on D.C.”
▪ Last season, the Revolution set a league record with 18 one-goal victories. This year, the Revolution have a 2-3 mark in one-goal matches. Part of the reason for the late-game deciding goals is the Revolution’s commitment to attacking until the end, rarely going on the defensive to protect an advantage. The offensive approach was effective last season, but has not worked as well this season, partly because of the absence of Bou and Buksa, who has been limited to four starts because of suspension and being rested for Champions League games.
▪ Polster, cautioned by referee Pierre Luc-Laziere (27th), kept things under control in midfield, opened the field with passes to the wings, and also had a close-in drive saved (33d). “I think we’ve played well the whole season,” Polster said. “We’ve just fallen short mentally in small moments and that’s [the] difference between winning games and losing games. I think for the most part we’ve been a bit unlucky. It’s going to take a full 90 minutes to win games. It felt like a game that we would win last year, and that’s what we needed.”
▪ Arena avoided setting a personal losing streak record — his D.C. United team lost four consecutive games in 1996, the fourth a shootout defeat to the Revolution at Foxboro Stadium. “I thought we’d win another game at some point,” Arena said. “I’m happy it was tonight rather than a month down the road. You know, winning is important for teams. And I think the guys will respond well as we go to D.C. next week, but I haven’t been too overly concerned about the recent events, because some of it was just freaky stuff. I think every game we’ve had this year has been challenging for the weatherman. It’s been absolutely a crazy start to the season. So, I can’t explain it, but I do know that there’s a lot more games ahead, so you can’t be getting too high or too low at this point.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.