“We defended better than any other game” | Porter and Romney evaluate Philly friendly

2_14_24 Pregame huddle Boston Tea Party kit

CLEARWATER, Florida – New England Revolution head coach Caleb Porter believes the team produced their best defensive display of preseason in Wednesday’s friendly against the Philadelphia Union.

The Revs played out a goalless draw against last season’s Audi MLS Cup Playoff opponents at the Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex, in game four of their warm-up schedule in Florida.

With one week to go until the squad kick off the 2024 campaign in the Concacaf Champions Cup, preparations stepped up with expectations raised for the clash against the Union – a positive result the objective. In a game of chances for both sides, Porter and defender Dave Romney were pleased to have recorded a clean sheet, acknowledging the need to now fine-tune in the final third.

“We travelled an hour-and-a-half, so I guess we got a point on the road,” Porter smiled. “We got a clean sheet, which I liked – the first clean sheet of preseason. We got 90 minutes for a good majority of the guys, we got through unscathed – we didn’t take on any new injuries. Those are all huge positives.

“Obviously, we played a very good team that knocked our team out [of the playoffs] last year, and I thought it was a very even game – they had some chances, we had some chances. It was a pretty tight game overall – I thought they had a little more rhythm in the first half; I thought we had a little more rhythm second half.

“I was really pleased with our mentality – in the lulls of the game when we looked a little tired (which is to be expected), we bent but we didn’t break, and those are all things I’m really pleased with. Am I satisfied? No, I’m not satisfied. I think the pop in the final third – that precision, that cutting edge – we still need to get that right, but I loved that we started from a very strong foundation defensively.

“It felt like two playoff teams going head-to-head, and neither team was going to give in. In the end, I think that both teams’ defending was highlighted – I just wish that in the final third, we would have found a goal. I thought we got into a lot of good spots to score – more spots than any other game. We’ve just got to get that cross right, the run right, the finish right.

“The team we played have been together four years. You think about all that time on the training ground, all the opportunities to develop cohesiveness, and to be able to execute the way they play – and they play the same system essentially in the same lineup by and large every game.

“We’ve had four-and-a-half weeks, and I thought it was a very even game. We’re four-and-a-half weeks into the project, we’ve got a lot of new pieces – as much as we do have a core that’s returning, we do have a lot of new pieces – and we even have a lot of guys that came midseason last year.

“Every game, we make steps, we make progress, and I thought we got more chances than in other games, and we defended better than in every other game. When the fitness comes, the pop in the final third will come as well, because we’re working so hard to defend, and get behind the ball, and press, that sometimes that little bit of quality gets lost when you’re tired.

“It wasn’t easy – it’s hot – but they fought through it. I was really proud of the guys. I wish we would have found a goal – that’s the big thing. For me, that’s the piece now: keep the balance, defend well, but can we get the attack unlocked?

“We’re going to recover, and then we’ve got about three days to prep for Panama. We’ve already started to take a look at that, but [Thursday] we’ve got a closed-door scrimmage [against FC Cincinnati] as well to get the guys who didn’t play a 90 [minutes]. [Thursday] is about getting guys a 90 so that we can select anyone in the first couple of weeks, where the physical part isn’t an issue.

“We have a core of guys that will be in [the starting XI] but we have some competition as well in a few spots. As I told the group on day one: I don’t believe in a first team, a second team – it’s one team, and I need everyone. That will be put to the test over the next two weeks when we basically have a game every three days.”

One month into preseason, Romney has been impressed with how the team have taken to Porter’s tactics and ideas.

Happy to have helped the team to its first shutout, the defender asserts that once the Revs click in the offensive third, they will prove a tough proposition for any opponent to face.

“It’s good,” he agreed. “Our expectations were to actually get a result in this game. A few games earlier, we hadn’t really gotten results, but we were playing well at times, and bad at times.

“It was kind of just sorting through what game model Caleb wanted us to be doing. He was a lot more strict on wanting to play well, but now we’re getting to crunch time, and you need to start getting results in preseason, so it’s good to get the clean sheet.

“I thought we had a lot of really good build-outs, and attacking final third moments – our attackers did really well – and it was just a little bit of sloppiness in the final third. That’s somewhat fatigue in our first 90 minutes; some of it is that it was a dry, bumpy pitch, so that affects certain crosses and stuff like that – but I thought that for the most part, we played really well.

“Not too much has changed per se in that mid-block and defensive third – maybe a little bit in the mid-block – but I think Caleb’s press in the attacking third, and then our mid-block press has been really effective. Each passing game and week, we’re getting better at it, and I think we’re going to create a lot of attacking moments off our press, which is exciting.

“Everyone likes pressing up the field way more than right outside our box. The more we hone that down, we’re going to create more chances off our defensive pressure, and we’re going to be a tough team to play against.”

Romney, who completed every minute of MLS and playoff action last term, stood as one of nine players to clock 90 minutes in the tank against Philly.

Looking ahead to the new campaign, the center back enjoyed stepping up the gears, increasing fitness and intensity, as the squad shapes up for competitive action.

“I feel pretty good,” he continued. “Fitness has felt pretty good to start. I came in pretty fit but always the legs are a little heavy once you start cutting and doing more stuff, because the offseason is a lot of straight-line running, getting your fitness base, and not a lot of cutting, so my legs are starting to finally feel underneath me, but I feel better.

“It was good [to get 90 minutes]. It was tough. Last time [at Orlando] we did 60 minutes, so straight into 90 is definitely a tough task, but it’s always good to get a 90 in under your belt before you’re asked to do it in an actual game, and you’re in no-man’s land in the 85th minute, just surviving out there!

“It was good to get 90 – I think we got almost everybody 90 – and we came out of it with no injuries for the most part, so it was successful in that regard. We’re going to have the whole roster step up for these next two weeks – we have four games in the first like 10 or 11 days.”

Wednesday’s clash also heralded the debut of the Revolution’s 2024-25 Boston Tea Party kit.

Paying homage to the most defiant act in New England’s history, the navy, red and white strip is inspired by and commemorates the 250th anniversary of its namesake event at Boston Harbor – a proud statement, and a uniform Porter feels is fit for a team of title contenders.

“It’s beautiful,” he noted, “and I’d be honest, too, so I’m not just saying that!

“I love the kit, I love the story behind it as well, the history. I love that I’m in a city with a history where you can have a story behind the kit. I love it.”