FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The 2023 Major League Soccer season may be yet to reach its conclusion, but New England Revolution defender Henry Kessler is already looking ahead to next year.
The center back endured a frustrating campaign hampered by injury, undergoing hamstring surgery in April and facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines, before making a welcome return for the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
Though disappointed not to have helped the Revs to push further in the postseason tournament, Kessler (who penned a new two-year deal with the club last month) was delighted to be back in action, and has already set sights on kicking on in the new year. While the offseason period affords most players time for rest and recuperation, the 25-year-old will be using his winter break to build his fitness, ensuring he is ready to hit the ground running come January.
“I’m really excited for next season,” he said. “I thought I started [this season] really well, then obviously I was out for five months and then came back. [The last game] was my first 90 minutes and now it’s the offseason so the timing was not great.
“[Offseason] is going to be less rest and more work than usual. It’s a longer offseason – two months. Offseasons in the past have been much shorter – whether I’ve been called into (national team) camps, or it’s been late playoff runs.
“I’ll talk with the performance staff but it’s going to be less rest and more work to try and keep myself fit. I’m going to make sure these two months are really productive and make sure I head into the new year in good shape.”
In addition to his enthusiasm for his personal comeback, Kessler is equally eager to discover what the new year will hold for the Revolution, as the club begins a new era.
A superb start to the 2023 campaign (which included Kessler scoring the year's first goal) had seen New England billed as Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup contenders, before midseason changes led to a dip in form – ultimately resulting in a fifth-place finish in the Eastern Conference and early playoff exit.
However, Kessler believes the quality within the existing squad, plus offseason recruitments and a positive new direction in leadership, can see the Revs rekindle the form that had impressed in the first half of the season to mount an even stronger charge for silverware next term.
“I look at this season and I think we left something on the table,” he added. “Hopefully, that’s not the case next year, and I look forward to improving. I’m definitely looking forward to the future.
“It’s tough to assess this season – we had a lot go on. We started really well. If you take that first segment, we’re probably a top-five team in the league. After that, even in the middle portion of the season, probably a top-10 team in the league, and then towards the end, not quite as good.
“I think Clint [Peay] is a great coach, and he deserves that recognition. As far as him being collaborative, he was open-minded and heard other voices. He tried to build with three [at the back] – that was part of his DNA with the second team, so he tried to implement that. It was tough timing – there wasn’t enough time for us to really adjust to that, so that was a big factor.
“There has been uncertainty this year but there will be certainty going into next season. I think the front office will do their best to give us certainty going into next season. That’s what I expect. Things will be clear, and I think the club will do that.
“We have a good roster. Obviously, it won’t be the same – it never is. I’m curious to see what changes we make but it’s a good roster and we have a lot of great guys coming back. I’m sure we’ll make some great additions, as well.
“Everyone always wants to show well, no matter who’s in charge – no matter who you’re trying to impress, you always try to give your best. I think we have a lot to look forward to next year.”
Kessler reserved his final word for the Revolution fans, who as ever stuck with the team through thick and thin throughout the campaign.
Averaging 23,940 fans per game at Gillette Stadium, the club’s unwavering support set a new single-season attendance record – among the top 10 for crowd figures in MLS for 2023 – and the defender, who spent much of the season cheering on the team himself from the sidelines, expressed his sincere gratitude to the Foxborough faithful.
“I wanted to bring that up,” he said. “They’ve been excellent. It was great fan support and a franchise record in attendance – I think around 23,000 per game, which is excellent.
“The fans are great. They’re always great, they’re always supporting us, so we thank them a lot.”