The Soccer Show – Polster: “Competitive Environment” Key to Revs’ First-Place Start
Through eight games, the New England Revolution are looking a lot more like the 2021 side that set a league-record for point than the 2022 team that failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time under Bruce Arena. In fact, the Revs’ 5-1-2 record is identical to the team’s start two years ago in that Supporters’ Shield campaign. With a well-balanced attack and a defense in elite form, you could point to a number of factors for why the Revolution are in pole position in the Eastern Conference entering Matchday 9.
For midfielder Matt Polster, the key to New England’s success is the intensity the team brings to training each and every day. All that work behind the scenes, with veteran players and newcomers alike pushing each other to perform at a high level, has given the team an identity.
“I think this year, you’re looking at the roster and if you take away the injuries, it’s an extremely tough roster to make just the 20-man team, let alone the starting XI,” Polster told DJ Bean on The Soccer Show, airing every Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m. on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Polster remembers a similar competitive environment two years ago, when the Revolution stormed their way to a 73 regular season points, a 2.15 point-per-game clip, both the most all-time.
“I think, when you look at the 2021 season, it was extremely competitive among the group,” Polster said. “You had to perform at a high level in training and in games to keep that position. In 2022, it was a little different, because we lost players and I think we also had quite a few injuries.”
New England’s depth, Polster added, has also played a role in the team’s success thus far. Some of that depth has come from unexpected contributors. Three weeks ago, the 29-year-old found himself as the elder statesman among a Revolution midfield that started three teenagers – Noel Buck, Jack Panayotou, and Esmir Bajraktarevic – in a come-from-behind 2-1 win at D.C. United. Polster cites Buck, who turned 18 this month, as an example of how any player can earn a run of games by making the most of his opportunity.
“I think the group is entirely aware of what they have to do to make the team,” Polster said. “When you get a chance like the young kids did against D.C., they had to perform. You don’t get many chances as young players and when you have them, you need to take them.
“We can rely on them, and you feel you can rely on them a little bit more. That’s always important because as you get players back, it becomes more difficult to make those rosters.”
The elevated level of competition throughout the week has carried over into matchdays. Last week’s 1-1 draw at Columbus was enough to lift the Revolution into first place in the Eastern Conference, but Polster noted that the team saw areas for improvement.
“I thought we were clearly the better team for 60 minutes, with 11 players on the field,” Polster said. “I don’t think it was necessarily close. I thought we could’ve had a bit better of a killer instinct in moments and tried to kill the game off, make it 1, 2, maybe even 3-0. I thought we did a really good job for 60 minutes, so to go down a man and end up giving one in the 97th or 98th minute was a little frustrating.”
New England (5-1-2; 17 pts.) hosts Sporting Kansas City (0-5-3; 3 pts.) on Saturday night for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Gillette Stadium. Watch it free on Apple TV, or listen on 98.5 The Sports Hub with Brad Feldman and Charlie Davies calling the action.