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Four lessons from the Revolution’s 1-0 win over Chicago

New England Revolution

A long-range rocket from Tomas Chancalay provided the decisive goal.

Tomas Chancalay Revolution Takeaways

Tomas Chancalay celebrates the decisive goal for the Revolution in the 1-0 win over Chicago. Through the New England Revolution

In 2024, the Revolution achieved results for the first time. Thanks to an absolute rocket from Tomas Chancalay, New England even took all three points in a 1-0 win over Chicago Fire FC on Saturday evening.

It was certainly not a dominant performance for the visitors, who mainly struggled to create scoring opportunities. But for a last-place team, any path to victory is a welcome sight.

Here are a few takeaways:

Chancalay finally finds his form.

Chancalay, like many members of the Revolution team, has had an up-and-down start to 2024. Although he scored several goals in the short CONCACAF Champions Cup round in New England, the 25-year-old Argentine winger was scoreless in his first match. eight MLS appearances.

A spectacular opening minute goal against Inter Miami last weekend was overshadowed by Lionel Messi’s eventual dominance, but at least it marked a return to the scoresheet.

With his confidence apparently on the rise (although for Chancalay, confidence to shoot from distance is rarely in short supply), the winger looked lively for much of the evening against Chicago.

In the 62nd minute he grabbed a loose ball after a quick header from striker Giacomo Vrioni. Cutting inside from the right wing, Chancalay found enough space and produced the unique moment of quality to separate the two sides.

If he can continue to gain confidence, not only in his finishing ability, but also in the structure that new head coach Caleb Porter prefers, Chancalay could produce a few more big goals for New England in the coming weeks.

It was a crucial victory, but warning signs remain.

Since Porter arrived in New England prior to the season, he has attempted to build a positional game built around a 4-2-3-1 formation. It differs from the previous strategic plan under Bruce Arena, in which the Revolution played much of a transitional counter-attacking game.

This has proven to be a difficult process, with many of the Revolution’s best attackers habitually returning to their old ways.

The last few games have started to produce displays that more accurately reflect what Porter wants, but his team still needs to consistently produce goals based on their intended tactics.

Case in point: Chancalay’s goal, while a welcome sight, was a one-off bolt of lightning. It wasn’t the result of a fluid passing sequence or an excellent through ball from Carles Gil. From a long ball, Vrioni nodded vaguely in the direction of his teammates (with Chancalay doing the rest all by himself).

Porter certainly wasn’t complaining about a fantastic gift from one of his most talented players, but he may still have a few questions about the remaining 95 minutes of the game, in which New England produced relatively little from open play. As a professed student of analytics, Porter will no doubt be aware that Chicago left the field without a win, but having amassed a superior xG (1.29 vs. 0.89) than its opponent.

As limited as xG can be, in this case it is indicative of the Revolution’s mixed success in finding paths to goal. To build on the win, New England must continue to improve within the specific objectives of Porter’s game plan.

Aljaz Ivacic played the lead role.

Signed from Portland on transfer deadline day, goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic was not asked to make too many difficult saves on Saturday, with one very important exception.

In the 74th minute, Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri fired a seemingly unstoppable free kick towards the top corner of the goal. But in a save reminiscent of ex-Revolution goalkeepers Matt Turner and Djordje Petrovic, the 30-year-old Slovenian acrobatically tipped the ball over the crossbar to deny Chicago’s Designated Player.

It was an extremely difficult save, but Ivacic managed to preserve New England’s one-goal lead. Moments like this were rare for Porter’s team in the first quarter of the season. As the final score ultimately showed, these are the fine margins that separate teams in the MLS.

If he can maintain a level of consistency in the coming weeks, the starting goalkeeper job will be in Ivacic’s hands for the foreseeable future.

Henry Kessler showed why he can play in Porter’s system.

One trait that Porter clearly demands from his centre-backs is the ability to not only defend, but also be comfortable in possession. Dave Romney hasn’t seen much action in recent weeks, despite playing every minute in 2023. Much of that is likely due to Romney’s inability to consistently combine progressive passing into the team’s construction.

Questions about whether or not Henry Kessler could do this lingered, but the 25-year-old provided a few answers on Saturday. In addition to calmly dispossessing multiple Chicago forwards in threatening positions in the first half, Kessler also refused to simply pass the ball back to Chicago, instead looking for open passes.

On several occasions he carried the ball forward, helping link the defense and midfield and calming the game after a Chicago attack. At the end of the game, Kessler completed the most passes (45) with the highest accuracy (90 percent) of anyone on the team.

If he can continue to do anything close to that, Kessler will certainly maintain a solid place in the starting XI.