The Revolution emerged from the MLS is Back Tournament with 5 points toward the regular-season standings due to a win and two ties in the group stage, but still have some unfinished business to attend to.
With the schedule now set for the league’s post-tournament return, New England will get an immediate chance at redemption against the Philadelphia Union, the team that eliminated them from the Orlando tournament with a 1-0 win in the Round of 16 July 25.
On Aug. 21, the Revolution will host the Union at Gillette Stadium at 8 p.m. It will be the first game at home for New England since March, and the opener to a busy schedule over the end of August and early September.
Revolution coach Bruce Arena will count heavily on the team’s depth to refresh the lineup for six games to be played between Aug. 21 and Sept. 12. And unlike the tournament, where every team was inside the Disney World bubble, travel will be a factor.
“All the teams in the league over a two- or three-week period are going to be playing three times a week,” said Arena. “So it’s going to be very challenging with the travel, with the limited number of rest days between games. A lot of players are going to be called on.
“We have a little bit of that experience from the tournament. Hopefully that pays some dividends, but I would anticipate that we’re going to have to make changes each and every game along the way.”
Midfielder Kelyn Rowe, who started every Revolution game in the tournament, was impressed with the number of players who were comfortable stepping into the starting lineup.
“It’s super important,” Rowe said. “The game against Toronto, we had six new starters. That’s incredible; it’s not very common in this league. And then the next game we had more new starters.
“So I think especially with this tight schedule, and now a little bit of travel involved, it’ll help. It’s not just riding a bus 10 minutes in Orlando; you’re flying possibly even the day of the game. It will be tough to get the legs back under you, so we’re going to need that depth.”
One player who will not be a part of the plan for the remainder of the regular season is midfielder Carles Gil. The 2019 MLS Newcomer of the Year had been bothered by a foot injury all season and recently had surgery to “debride his left Achilles’ tendon,” according to the team.
With Gil out 3-5 months, New England is bereft of its best passer and playmaker. The implications potentially are stark. The Revolution won the only game in which Gil played a full 90 minutes in 2020 (the tournament opener against Montreal). In the other five games — dating back to the 2020 season opener in February — the team is winless, with three ties and two losses.
Rowe remains confident that New England can still get the results it needs for a playoff run, even minus the 27-year-old Gil.
“I think Carles is obviously a big factor, especially going forward,” said Rowe. “He’s a playmaker and I’d say he’s one of the best players in our league. I think he proved that last year and the game and half he played with us in Orlando.
“It’s definitely a tough loss, but we’ve got multiple players who can create and have proven that throughout the years that they’ve been in MLS.”
One new face who will make his debut is midfielder Matt Polster. Signed from the Scottish team Rangers during the MLS is Back Tournament, Polster has been practicing with the team since its return from Florida. The 27-year-old American made his professional debut with the Chicago Fire in 2015.
He will help bolster the defensive aspects of the midfield and is relishing the prospect of playing under Arena.
“The opportunity presented itself to come here and be a part of a really good program and play under Bruce,” Polster explained. “I know he can help me get to a higher level as a player, and I wanted to take that on.”