FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Prior to the start of the 2021 campaign, sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena consistently preached a message that seems to have stuck with his players.
“This year, I think it’s important that we get off to a stronger start than in 2020 or in previous years,” Arena said during a preseason installment of Coffee with the Coach fueled by Dunkin' (March 23, 2021). “We don’t want to be a team that’s struggling at the end of the year to make the playoffs. We’d like to get off to a positive start.”
Three weeks into the season the New England Revolution are unbeaten (2-0-1), sit alone atop the Eastern Conference standings, and are tied with Seattle Sounders FC as the league leaders.
Here's how it's shaping up in the East: pic.twitter.com/lFVJykkwPk— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 3, 2021
“It’s a good start,” Arena said on Thursday, reassessing that message. “Obviously, in a perfect world we’d like to have nine points. But it sure beats last year. I think last year after the first three games we had four points ... It’s important that we got off to a good start so we’re not scrambling from the beginning [for the postseason].”
“I think it’s important for us to start well and building on the momentum from last year,” added Andrew Farrell.
“There’s things we can improve on. I think that’s what the coaching staff is harping on is just keep improving each week, each day and keep on trying to do that. There’s a lot of guys that played really well so that’s also a big plus.”
Following a draw at Chicago Fire FC to start the season and a pair of home wins over D.C. United and Atlanta United FC the past two weekends, New England will now face their biggest test yet.
The unbeaten Revs will play three games in nine days against top tier Eastern Conference opposition, including defensively sound Nashville SC, last year’s Supporters' Shield winners, the Philadelphia Union, and the defending MLS Cup champions, Columbus Crew SC.
“Three good teams, two games on the road – it’ll be very challenging,” said Arena. “Our view is let’s take it one game at a time, so we’re focusing completely on Nashville right now. Then, after that game, we’ll get ready for Philadelphia. But it’ll be a real challenging stretch of games over the next nine days.”
With nine player additions to strengthen the roster from last season, the Revs feel confident that they are ready for this chance to showcase their talent and depth.
“We want to achieve a lot with this group,” said Matt Polster. “I think we have a lot of really good pieces. We're a really good team and right now obviously it's still early, so we need to go this weekend and get three points away from home. We've shown we can win games at home, now we need to do it away from home. So that's the main focus.”
“We’re hoping [our performances will] translate over these next three games or further throughout the season, for that matter,” said Henry Kessler. “But yeah, just being consistent performers, getting consistent performances from everyone and if someone makes a mistake, making sure we pick them up.”
Whether it’s throughout a 90-minute performance or coming off the bench, whoever’s name is called throughout these games will be ready.
“I think one of the things that the organization did is bring in a lot of players so we have a lot of depth,” said Farrell. “That’s going be tested throughout this next week-and-a-half against Nashville, Philly and then Columbus – three really good teams.”
The first opportunity to carry that momentum will be at Nashville SC on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. ET, with coverage on TV38 and MyRITV.