FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – As the New England Revolution's season pushes deeper into September, the league leader's sights are set on being in top form for the MLS Cup Playoffs, inching closer in November.
With 25 games played the Revs have already tied the club record for most wins in a season (17), and they remain on pace to surpass Los Angeles FC's league record for most points in a season (72). Currently on 55 points, New England have a nine-point edge in the Supporters' Shield race and hold a 14-point lead in the East.
“Well, clearly we’ve had a very good start to the season,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “We’re about two-thirds through. The team has played well. On days when we weren’t at our best, we’ve still managed at times to get off the field with some points, whether it’s been three or one, so we’ve been consistent in terms of earning points.”
The Revs have won every which way this season – down a man, coming from behind, with clean sheets, etc. – and that only scratches the surface of their winning ways. New England have also set a new MLS mark with 14 wins in games decided by a one-goal margin, demonstrating their ability to pull out results under competitive circumstances.
Another significant contributing factor has been the squad's depth.
“When guys are out there, they’re hungry,” said Matt Turner. “They want to prove themselves and showcase their abilities to the fans, the club staff and for themselves. I think the rotation and being able to rely on a wide variety of players that have contributed to our success has really been the key to our consistency."
While New England are pleased with their progress, they still critique their winning performances. The Revs understand that in order to put themselves in a competitive position come November, they must continue to advance, even as they sit atop the table.
“We understand there’s still things we need to improve upon, particularly, defensively, we haven’t gotten enough clean sheets this year for a team in first place, so there’s a lot of areas we can still get better,” said Turner. “We’re taking it one game at a time and trying to be the best team we can possibly be."
“We [still] need to get better,” said Arena. “We’re going to be in the playoffs, even though we aren’t mathematically there yet, so if we want to be a contending team, we need to improve. Hopefully over these next six weeks, we can work on the things we need to get better at.”
That progress comes by analyzing strengths and weaknesses and putting in the work on the training ground.
“This team, from the beginning, has taken care of all the details both offensively and defensively," said Wilfrid Kaptoum. "Now we’re focusing on the same things but we’re also keeping the physical and mental aspects in mind. We have some really important games coming up in terms of us reaching our goals and continuing to improve.”
Behind it all is an underlying sense that this team has yet to reach its ceiling.
“This is a group that doesn’t even always feel good after a win right now,” said Turner. “We’re a group that is holding ourselves to a super high standard and we have a coach that holds us to a really high standard, but he doesn’t do it in a negative way. He believes in us and he’s really lifted us to try to reach our full potential.
“We’re definitely not even there yet. We have a lot to learn to become a very, very good team if we want to be and the groundwork has been laid.”
The Revolution will continue to hold themselves to this high standard against the Columbus Crew on Saturday (7 p.m. ET, TV38, myRITV), as they will head into the final nine games of the regular season.