The result snapped a six-game winless stretch for the 2021 Supporters’ Shield winners, who still remain in danger of missing the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena took over midway through the 2019 campaign.
But level with Chicago Fire FC on points (30) for the Eastern Conference’s seventh-and-final postseason spot – they’re behind in 10th place on the total wins tiebreaker – the Revs (7W-7L-9D record) are relishing the club’s first-ever regular-season win at Exploria Stadium.
“We’ve had the oddest year,” Arena said postgame. “We haven’t had a break all year. Today, we caught a couple and it turned into three points.
“It’s been a rough year with a lot of odd things happening and a depleted roster, but we again have a team with a great attitude, great approach to things. When that happens, good things can happen. They certainly deserved to be rewarded for their performance tonight.”
New England have 11 games remaining, giving them a match in hand in the jam-packed East table. And they enter the brief 2022 MLS All-Star break looking to get healthy up top, with Arena noting postgame that Designated Player forwards Gustavo Bou and Giacomo Vrioni, as well as U22 Initiative winger Dylan Borrero, are all dealing with injuries. Borrero and Bou both haven’t featured since their 2-1 loss at the Philadelphia Union on July 16 (missed their last three games), while Vrioni’s logged just 58 minutes in two substitute appearances since his mid-July arrival from Italian Serie A powerhouse side Juventus.
With that star attacking trio out, and after sending away striker Jozy Altidore (loan to Liga MX’s Puebla) and midfielder Sebastian Lletget (trade to FC Dallas) before the Secondary Transfer Window closed Thursday, the Revs were lacking firepower down in Florida. But they still had midfielder Carles Gil, the reigning Landon Donovan MLS MVP, as their creative hub and the Spaniard pushed his league-leading key passes total to 76 and stayed second in the assists (12) race.
It was a familiar facilitator for some unlikely goal sources.
“I think it's important that the entire team steps up and I think we did in this moment, and we are going to have to for the rest of the season,” said midfielder Matt Polster, who opened the scoring before Wilfrid Kaptoum’s volley and Henry Kessler’s header sealed the result alongside two assists from Tommy McNamara.
“Obviously, we've been hit with some injuries recently and players leaving, so it's going to take a team performance week in and week out and having each other's backs and trying to find a way to get three points."
New England have posted three straight shutouts, in large part because of goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic (three saves). Arena said their Serbian midseason acquisition has “simply been outstanding” since replacing US men’s national team goalkeeper Matt Turner, who departed in late June to join Premier League side Arsenal.
After a “complete performance,” in Arena’s eyes, the Revs return to action next Saturday when hosting Wayne Rooney’s rejuvenated D.C. United (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). The Black-and-Red have made a flurry of summer signings, headlined by Belgian international striker Christian Benteke’s deadline-day move from EPL side Crystal Palace.
Arena, recognizing how tight the standings are, knows it’s crunch time and playoff futures are at stake.
“We need to win more games,” Arena said. “You see by the standings in both [conferences], everything’s really close. It’s going to go down to the wire. This is our 23rd game, so we have 11 more games and we have to get a number of three-point games under our belt to put ourselves ahead of that red line, as you say.
“We have a little bit of momentum. I wouldn’t say it’s a whole lot yet. We just have one win in a row despite the fact that we haven’t conceded a goal in three games.”