FOXBORO — When the New England Revolution resume their regular season of matches, the consolation will be that the club does not concede many goals.
Matt Turner, the Revolution goalkeeper, has noticed the trend, standing on the goal line in protecting the net for New England during the four matches that the club played during the MLS Is Back Tournament in Florida last month.
“We know that as long as we keep a zero or one on the board, we’re going to be in a chance to get a point or three in every single game,” Turner said as New England awaits the resumption of a regular season on Aug. 21 in Foxboro. “Our role is to keep a zero on the board — we expect better from us.”
The issue, though, is that the Revolution do not score many goals either. New England conceded just two goals over the span of the four tournament matches, with opponents creating 39 true scoring chances.
“All credit goes to the guys in front of me,” Turner said of his trust in the central cast of defenders, with veterans Andrew Farrell and Antonio Delamea along with rookie Henry Kessler. “We’ve done a good job of limiting other teams’ chances. That doesn’t just come from me, it comes from the guys in front. It’s a confidence thing defending.”
Revolution coach Bruce Arena has mixed-and-matched various defensive personnel combinations with the hope of settling in on three or four core players, creating the option for either a three- or four-man formation.
“You’ve seen we’ve had four different center backs play in the tournament,” Turner said, “and every single one has gone out there and done a really great job. We rotated guys at left back (DeJuan Jones and Alex Buttner).
“Obviously, I can’t talk enough about the defensive work that Scotty (Caldwell) and Kelyn (Rowe) do in the midfield,” the New England netminder continued. “So, it’s been a total team commitment to defending. It’s something what we know if we do well, we’ll be in position to get good results in games.”
New England has a 1-1-3 record thus far, with Turner having started all four matches in Orlando, losing just a one-goal match to Philadelphia in the knockout round.
“We know that a lot of different guys can go in and do the job,” Turner said of the Revolution roster on defense. “I think as a whole, every time we step out on the field we want to win. We’ve been in a position to do that in every single game and that’s the frustrating part, not just finishing inside the 18-yard box, it’s finishing games.”
New England generated just 16 true shots on goal during the four-match set, scoring twice.
Turner is in his fifth MLS season, all with New England. He signed as an undrafted free agent in March of 2016 and re-signed with the club in August 2019.
Over the past two seasons, Turner has started 48 MLS matches for New England, collecting 16 wins and 16 ties with 10 shutouts. The 26-year-old finished fifth in the MLS poll for Goalkeeper of the Year last season, ranking second overall in saves per match (4,54), third in save percentage (.748) and fifth in winning percentage (.639). Turner, a New Jersey native, played four seasons collegiately at Fairfield.
“Against Toronto, we had chances to finish and maybe score some goals,” Turner added. “Against D.C. (United), we were up 1-0 and we had chances to finish that game off and we made some critical errors.
“Obviously, that’s disappointing. If you look back even further to our game away at Montreal and home versus Chicago, we had chances to grab a point in Montreal and all three against Chicago at home. So we’ve been in position to really put ourselves higher up the table, and we haven’t done so.
“We were threatening, but not that dangerous, if that makes sense,” Turner said. “So just polishing off some things in the final third (of the field). I know it’s been a lot of months (of inactivity), but at the same time , this group has really only played together for, what now, five or six games? So (we’re) still learning, still getting a feel of games together.”
Turner took a pair of shutouts too, with the defensive back line, for the most part, being consistent and formidable. The Revolution never trailed by more than one goal in any match in Florida.
“I think we’re just committed to defending. Now it’ll be nice when we can string together some wins with some quality defending and the offense is going to get it done.”
Just being able to suit up and play some matches was a reward for the Revolution in these pandemic times. Even the thought of training on a daily basis in Foxboro, with an eye upon a regular season, whenever it might resume.
“Everybody that’s out there, we’re so lucky to get to do what we do every day for a living,” Turner said of being a professional athlete, paid to play games. “We get to go out there, we get to kick the ball around. For me, I get to use my hands a little bit.
“When that was taken away during quarantine, that was challenging. For me in particular, mentally, having some anxiety being away from the game and not knowing when it was going to return, so that was pretty challenging.
“But we’re really grateful to have this opportunity to be back out on the field. It’s not exactly what we want, because honestly, soccer is really nothing without the fans. The fans make the sport what it is and the emotions of the game. So someday soon we’ll get that back and it’ll be back to normal.”