ORLANDO, Fla. – Shut out in back-to-back games for the first time in almost two years and in need of goals to maintain pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race, the New England Revolution found them in the unlikeliest of places on Saturday night at Exploria Stadium.
Matt Polster (20th minute), Wilfrid Kaptoum (51st minute), and Henry Kessler (75th minute) all found the back of the net to guide the Revs to a much-needed 3-0 win over Orlando City SC, snapping New England’s six-game winless run and lifting them into a tie for the final playoff place in the East with a game in hand heading into the season’s final two months.
Polster, Kaptoum, and Kessler had combined for just nine career goals in 241 appearances prior to Saturday night – and just one, from Polster, this season – but in Orlando the trio finished off their chances with the poise and precision of veteran attackers.
“That’s the sport. That’s the game. We can’t expect getting a goal every game out of Gustavo. Others have to chip in,” head coach Bruce Arena said, referencing Gustavo Bou, who leads the Revs with seven goals but has missed the last three games through injury. “When you have a performance like tonight, that’s fantastic.
“Obviously some really, really good goals. I thought Wilfrid’s was a terrific, terrific goal. Henry getting a header, and Polster’s goal was great teamwork, good ball movement. All in all, those guys were rewarded for a really good team performance.”
With seven career goals in seven MLS seasons Polster is basically Taylor Twellman compared to Kessler (three career goals) and Kaptoum (two career goals), and he scored what proved to be the game winner at Exploria Stadium with a late-arriving run into the penalty area and a calm finish. Kaptoum added insurance with a vicious first-time strike from a Tommy McNamara cross, and Kessler put the cherry on top with a header from Carles Gil’s corner kick.
“I think we have a lot of guys that can score,” said Kessler, who noted that center back partner Andrew Farrell predicted his goal before the match. “I don’t score too often, so it’s always a great feeling when I do score. But I think that’s something that we’ve been emphasizing – runners out of midfield, so that was Wilfrid’s goal and Matt’s goal. And then set pieces, and that was my goal. So those categories, I think it’s something that we’ve specified, and something that we’ve really worked on and it came to fruition today.”
That trio’s goals helped produce the three points, but it took another solid defensive effort, as well, with the Revs maintaining a third consecutive clean sheet for the first time since 2015. Djordje Petrović needed to be sharp to register his fourth shutout in 10 MLS starts, and with a solid foundation, the Revs now push into a stretch in which they’ll play four of their next six games at home.
“I don’t know if we’re building momentum, but I think we’re establishing ourselves in a better way defensively,” said Arena. “The last three games, they’re obviously two draws and [one win]. We need to win more games. You see by the standings in both leagues [conferences], everything’s really close. It’s going to be 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.”