Room for Improvement: Tuesday’s draw with Union provides valuable lessons

Second preseason match serves as a learning experience

DELTONA, Fla. – If it had been a regular-season match, Tuesday afternoon’s 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union would’ve counted for a point in the standings and little else. But as a preseason contest and a 90-minute learning experience, it could potentially offer much more.

Now 11 days and two games into the 2014 preseason, lessons are starting to flesh themselves out as the coaching staff identifies which areas require improvement ahead of the March 8 season opener against the Houston Dynamo.

“Today was another good step for us,” head coach Jay Heaps said shortly after the final whistle at the Dewey O. Boster Sports Complex. “It didn’t go our way very much, so you learn from your mistakes. I think today was a good way to learn from things that we need to do better.

“You don’t want everything to go really well every time because it can be a false sense of where you are. We think we have an idea of where we are and today was a good indication that we have a long way to go.”

Of course, some of the lessons were of the positive variety. Four days after featuring at center back against Malmo FF, Andrew Farrell put in a solid shift as a deep-lying midfielder before seeing more time in central defense, while midfielder Donnie Smith went 60 minutes at left back and assisted on Evan Melo’s equalizer.

Heaps has shown a willingness to test players at a variety of spots throughout preseason, always eager to discover new ways to get the most out of the current roster.

“We want to see these things in preseason,” Heaps said. “If there’s versatility, it can only make us stronger.”

With lessons learned – both positive and negative – the key now is to use those lessons as building blocks throughout the next five weeks. A return to the training field on Wednesday and another preseason match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) the following afternoon will provide the next opportunities for the Revs to show they’re making the necessary progress.

“There’s going to be bumps in the road here and there,” said goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who went the full 90 minutes against Philadelphia and made several strong saves in his first preseason appearance. “It’s just a matter of managing those and recognizing those and figuring out how to correct those and get them ready to go for the game in Houston.”