Zolak & Bertrand

Zolak & Bertrand

Zolak & Bertrand

Feb 25, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; New England Revolution head coach Bruce Arena on the sidelines in the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Revolution started their season off strong last Saturday, taking three points home from their first match of the 2023 season in a 1-0 win at Charlotte FC in front of more than 69,000 fans – the largest crowd in MLS over the weekend. Defender Henry Kessler provided late heroics, scoring the game-winner in the 89th minute, while goalkeeper Djordje Petrović secured the shutout with a four-save performance to give New England its first season-opening win since 2013.

Looking back on the first win of the new campaign, Revolution Sporting Director and Head Coach Bruce Arena sounds pleased with his team’s 90-minute effort on the road.

“That game was not an easy game. Our guys had to grind it out,” Arena said. “That was something we struggled with at times last year, so it’s a real positive that in the opening game we could do that against a team of quality, playing in front of 69,000 people. It was quite a challenge, and our guys came out on top.”

Grinding out results in close games is nothing new for Arena, but perhaps less typical is the influential role he has given to young players who are marking a strong impression on their 71-year-old manager. In Charlotte, the Revolution deployed the third-youngest starting lineup across MLS with an average age of 24.9 years old. Arena praised 17-year-old Noel Buck, an Arlington, Mass. native, who made the start alongside Rhode Island’s Damian Rivera. Arena also praised rookie Josh Bolma, Colombian Dylan Borrero, and Homegrown teenagers Esmir Bajraktarevic and Jack Panayotou as rising players who are pushing the veterans in training each day.

“We have some young guys that are really battling and improving and pushing our older guys and they want to get on the field, so it’s interesting to see,” Arena said of the impact young players are making early in the year. “We’re usually an old team and I’m always criticized about playing older teams, but these young players are good and we’re going have to find a way to get them on the field.”

The Revolution are benefiting from these unexpected contributors, but Arena knows that for the Revs to sustain their success, Carles Gil will need to continue leading the way for the attack. One goal proved to be enough in Charlotte, but Arena still sees the defense a step ahead of the Revs’ offense after one week.

“[Carles Gil] played very well. He had a real good game. I think he needs a little bit more help around him. I think this week, we’re going to be a little bit better in the attacking end of the field. Like in most team sports where there’s scoring, I think the offense is a little bit behind the defensive side of the ball and that’s where we stand right now, but I think as we grow into the season, we’re going to be a much better team in the attack and that’s certainly going to make, hopefully, Carles’ job a little easier.”

  • Hear the Interview

  • New England’s home opener against Houston kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET at Gillette Stadium on 98.5 The Sports Hub, with Brad Feldman and Charlie Davies calling the action. Fans can watch every Revolution match on MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app. During all Revolution home games this season, fans can tune into The Sports Hub’s local call with Feldman and Davies directly in MLS Season Pass.

  • Listen to Zolak & Bertrand from 10-2 every Monday-Friday on 98.5 The Sports Hub, with hosts Marc “Beetle” Bertrand, Scott Zolak, and Rob “Hardy” Poole. You can listen live in the Sports Hub App and subscribe to their podcasts here. Follow @ZoAndBertrand on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with the show!

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