2020 was almost a perfect year for Henry Kessler. The only way he could have done better is if he somehow helped the New England Revolution win an MLS Cup. Just a few games into the 2021 MLS season, Kessler has shown that he is a better player than he was a year ago.
After a great rookie season, Kessler appeared in January camp and represented the United States with the U-23’s in Olympic Qualifying. While the United States failed to qualify, Kessler did show some promise.
There were times when Kessler was under a lot of pressure. Instead of panicking, Kessler was able to move with the ball and make the right decision.
Because of his time with the U-23’s, Kessler spent an extended time away from the Revolution and it might have affected him when the regular season began.
Obviously, the first 10 minutes of the game were rough to watch. Kessler and the rest of the back four looked out of place and had a poor start to the season.
But since then New England’s defense has been great. Since giving up those two goals in Chicago, the Revs have only allowed one goal and that was from the spot.
Along with Andrew Farrell, and Brandon Bye, Kessler has looked much better. Speaking to the media on Thursday, Matt Polster talked about how impressive Kessler has been.
He said, “Henry [Kessler] is a great player. I think he sees the game really well. He’s still young, there’s still things to work on. I know, for me when I was a newcomer in the league, I had to work on things as well. He has a really good understanding, like I said, and I think he can grow. But he’s been a dominant force for us back there and he’s been really solid defensively. I think he has a lot to grow as a player but he can definitely do that. I think he’ll be a big player for us for sure.”
Even after his impressive rookie season, Revolution Head Coach and Sporting Director, Bruce Arena wanted Kessler to improve his ability on the ball. So far this season we have seen Kessler make some impressive passes while also going forward and breaking off some runs with the ball.
“He’s getting better,” Arena said about the center back. “He missed some important time with us when he was away with the [United States] U-23s, and it’s taken him a little time to catch up with us. We’ve seen over the last couple of games, he’s getting better defensively. He has a better feel for the things we’re asking him to do. There’s no reason to believe he won’t be an improved player this year.”
While working on the ball might seem like it’s just about making plays and using skill, it’s much more for Kessler. For him, it’s more about the decisions he makes than technical skills.
“I think I’m improving,” the 22-year-old said. “I think it’s not just on-the-ball technical abilities so much, I think it’s more the decision-making part of it. You know, not just playing the closest pass, maybe looking further forward, looking to break lines more. I think I’m progressing in that area. It’s not so much being able to do it but making the right decision. I think what’s he’s referring to and I’m looking to improve in that area.”
Once Kessler is fully caught up with New England, it will be even tougher for opponents to score goals. That should be music to the ears of Revs fans.