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revolution 1, charlotte fc 0

Henry Kessler’s goal in the 89th minute gives Revolution a lift in season-opening win at Charlotte

The Revolution picked up their first season-opening victory in coach Bruce Arena's tenure.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

The Revolution usually get off to slow starts to the season. But things changed as the Revolution took a 1-0 victory over Charlotte FC in their opener Saturday night.

Defender Henry Kessler scored in the 89th minute as the Revolution won their first game of the season for the first time since 2013 before a crowd of 69,345 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

The Revolution, who meet the Houston Dynamo in their home opener next Saturday, have compiled a 6-14-8 record in opening games since beginning play in 1996.

Kessler, who hit the post with a 61st-minute header, finished a Brandon Bye cross for his fourth career goal. The sequence was set up as the Revolution pressured, Charlotte appearing to have cleared a Carles Gil corner kick. But Revolution midfielder Noel Buck read Karol Swiderski’s lead pass, heading for Bye to send a low cross from the right wing off a sliding Bill Tuiloma directly to Kessler, who finished with a low shot into the far side of the net.

The Revolution were without forwards Jozy Altidore (leg) and Gustavo Bou (passport problems), Giacomo Vrioni playing as a lone striker. Revolution coach Bruce Arena went to a two-forward setup with Justin Rennicks and Bobby Wood entering in the 63d minute, and the move paid off as they combined with Dylan Borrero and Gil to break down the defense.


Charlotte, which went to a four-forward alignment for the final 15 minutes, nearly equalized in the second minute of stoppage time, substitute Kerwin Vargas’s header going past a diving Djordje Petrovic and off the right post.

Observations from the game:

Defining moment: Setting up the goal, Buck not only short-circuited a counterattack, he placed a header directly to Bye, turning the tables on Charlotte. Kessler, advanced for the corner kick, remained unmarked in the penalty area, and calmly converted. Buck, who crossed for Kessler’s 61st-minute header off the post, raised his game in the second half, matching Charlotte veterans such as Swiderski, who scored twice in a 3-1 Charlotte win over the Revolution last season and played for Poland in the World Cup.


Difference-maker: Kessler remained aggressive, despite having been cautioned in the 26th minute for a foul on Swiderski in the center circle, mixing it up with Enzo Copetti and Swiderski until the end. Just before scoring, Kessler appeared to be injured after blocking an Andre Shinyashiki shot. Omar Gonzalez moved toward the halfway line in anticipation of replacing Kessler, who remained in the game after receiving treatment, and deflected a Copetti shot in stopped time. With Andrew Farrell (leg) out, Kessler paired with Dave Romney, making his Revolution debut, in central defense.

Tactical: Arena’s switch to a two-striker formation changed the dynamic for the final 27 minutes, plus five minutes of injury time. Vrioni was barely involved in the action as a lone forward, easily neutralized by Charlotte’s central defenders. Rennicks and Wood helped get the Revolution in gear, giving Gil options and opening space for Borrero.

Statistical analysis: The Revolution’s attacking mind-set paid off. Instead of sitting back and absorbing pressure, the Revolution went forward, matching Charlotte with 15 shots. Charlotte sent a message, Brandt Bronico taking down Borrero in the opening seconds and Gil soon after, but the Revolution stayed on the offensive. Charlotte committed 15 fouls (as usual, Gil probably drew a couple that were not called); the Revolution 11.


Road ahead: The Revolution play three of their first five on the road, with visits to reigning MLS Cup champion Los Angeles FC March 12 and D.C. United March 25. The last time the Revolution won their opener, they followed with a five-game winless streak before rallying to advance to the playoffs.

What they said: “It was a fast game from start to finish,” Arena said. “The field was wet from the rain today and it was a fast surface. The home team had a huge advantage with a fanbase of 69,000 people, so they came after us real hard for 90-plus minutes. I think our guys kept their composure, created some good chances, and were solid throughout the game. I think the contributions Bobby Wood and Justin Rennicks gave us were very impressive; they gave us some energy coming in for the last 30 minutes of the game. The crowd was really into the game. They had a lot of energy from the start. It was a really challenging game.”

Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at frankdellapa@gmail.com.