“We scheduled hard teams for a reason” | Porter and Polster assess progress after Orlando scrimmage

2_10_24 Matt Polster preseason goal UPDATE

ORLANDO, Florida – New England Revolution head coach Caleb Porter and midfielder Matt Polster believe the challenge of facing high quality opposition in preseason provides the ideal preparation in the quest for silverware.

The Revs continued to ready themselves for the new campaign, building fitness and integrating new systems, with a third scrimmage against Eastern Conference opposition, travelling to Orlando City SC on Saturday night as part of their four-week training camp in Florida.

Though the hosts triumphed 3-1, the visitors opened their goalscoring account for 2024, striking within the first two minutes when Polster smashed home Tomás Chancalay’s delivery. Fielding two different XIs for each half (including youngsters Esmir Bajraktarević, Peyton Miller, Tiago Suarez, and Jack Panayotou), Porter was impressed by the lightning start, but noted valuable lessons will be learned from Orlando’s fightback.

“We scheduled hard teams for a reason,” the head coach stated. “We wanted to play playoff teams, we scheduled all playoff teams, and that means we're going to be ready for the season.

“Because in three days we're playing two games and everybody's getting 90 [minutes], we felt with the four days off, it was better just to give 22 guys 45 minutes, so we kind of approached it like two games where we played one group in the first half, and another group in the second half.

“The first half was 1-1, and the second half was 2-0, so it was not as good in the second half as the first, but there were still some positives in the second half. I think the biggest positive, even though he got hurt, was Peyton Miller – a 16-year-old kid out there.

“That second half for me was what it was about – getting guys, some of the young guys a run, getting experience. We're in a stadium with a little bit of a crowd, so it felt a little bit more real. I really liked a couple of individual performances in that second half, and in the first half, I thought it was very good.

“We played a very good team in Orlando – they played their top group the whole game, and I think that caught up with us a little bit the second half because their level was a little higher than ours in the second half. I thought first half; the goal that we scored was outstanding.

“We worked on that all week, and I thought that goal was excellent. We should have had a couple more. I told the guys: I thought from there we got a little reactive, and let them kind of impose their will on us, which led to the tying goal, but then from there in the last 20 minutes, I thought we controlled the game and really played the way I want this team to play.

“That group in the first half I thought did really well against a very good team. We made some mistakes, but it was more about seeing where guys are at in the depth chart because we need to know: ‘Are guys two? Are they three? Are they pushing the one?’ In the second half, that's what that half was about.

“It's about making steps – I've said that – and I really thought especially in that first half collectively, we looked really good. It was good to get a goal, and I thought we went toe-to-toe with a very good team on the road. This team was second in the East last year, and so we're playing good teams, and I think we can really build off this – the first half especially, and second half, I think there's a lot to look at.

“Every game, you see more and more of what I want it to look like, but it will be a transition – the way that we play tactically and with the ball, especially controlling games, is different. It's different than what they've done. They really want to do it, and they're bought into doing it, and I thought you saw that in the first half.

“First half, that last 20 minutes, I thought we imposed our will on the game, and that's what we want to do. The only disappointment is that we didn't get another 45 minutes because I really thought if we got another 45 minutes for that group, we would have come away with another goal.”

On the scoresheet

Polster bagged New England’s first goal of the new year, sweeping Chancalay’s cross from the left into the near post to set the Revolution off and running.

The midfielder declared the strike sparked another confidence boost for the team, adding the players are enjoying learning and executing Porter’s style of play, whilst continuing to build chemistry, forging strong relationships and fruitful partnerships across the camp.

“It’s always good to get out against different competition,” he said. “We obviously played one of the better teams in the league, at their home, and I thought we did well for the first 45. Then we switched teams completely for the second 45, but it’s always good to get a run-out with the group.

“It felt great [to score]. The coaching staff emphasized a quick start, a fast start: ‘Be very aggressive.’ I thought we showed that in the first five minutes, but then after the first five minutes, we slowed down a bit, and we took on a lot of pressure from them. We kind of sat-in for about 10 minutes, but then toward the end of the half, I thought we were really good for the last 20-25 minutes.

“[Preseason] has been good so far. [Porter] has demanded a lot from the group and individuals, and at times in the individual drills, but at the same time: ‘Play as a group, open up, and play aggressive football.’ It’s been really fun, and the guys are buying into it, but I thought [on Saturday] we could’ve done a little bit better.

“When you’re here [in preseason] for about 40 days, you have no choice but to build a really good culture and a fun group. I think everybody likes each other within the group – I don’t think there are any egos that we have on this team – and I think that’s a huge thing to build on. At the end of the day, that’s how you win championships.”

Stepping up in week four

The Revs ramp up their warmup schedule with two quickfire scrimmages next week, locking horns with last year’s playoff opponents Philadelphia Union and Supporters’ Shield winners FC Cincinnati on Wednesday and Thursday.

Suiting up for the first time in the club’s new jersey, anticipation for the Revs’ 2024 campaign is set to soar, and both Porter and Polster are looking forward to stepping up the gears over the coming days.

“The last few games, I’ve said it: it won’t be easy, but we’re looking for results,” the head coach added. “We’re playing Cincinnati again, and we’re playing Philly – the team that knocked New England out of the playoffs last year.

“We’re going to get a 90 with one group – primarily probably the group that played the first half will get a 90 against Philly in the new kits, and I think you’re going to see a very good performance.

“We’re going to try to approach it a week out from Panama – like a game, a 90-minute game.”

Polster echoed that the players are excited to contest more competitive action, determined to stake their claim for minutes in the season’s opening fixtures.

The Revs kick off the new term in the Concacaf Champions Cup, facing Club Atlético Independiente in Panama on Wednesday, February 21 (8 p.m. ET), before immediately heading into their first game of the 2024 MLS campaign with a trip to D.C. United on Saturday, February 24 (7:30 p,m. ET) – and the team are fighting to feature.

“For sure, I think building on the fitness levels is massive,” Polster concluded. “We’re building there.

“I think it was another good progression [against Orlando] but it’s something we really need to focus on going into Wednesday and Thursday now. I think the two teams are going to get 90 minutes; then we’re in it – then points matter.

“Progressing in [Concacaf Champions Cup] really matters – that’s something this team really wants to accomplish. We’re not just here to have an average or good season – we want to win something.”