BRADENTON, Fla. – Friday night’s preseason opener against Swedish champions Malmo FF played out pretty much how New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps expected it would.
There were bright periods – particularly the opening 25 minutes, when the Revs looked their sharpest and took an early lead through Kelyn Rowe – and also learning moments sprinkled throughout the 90-minute affair, which finished 1-1 on a rainy night at IMG Academy Field.
“I think there were certainly positives that we took away from tonight,” said Heaps, who made nine substitutions at halftime and used a total of 21 different players. “It was two different groups, so there were a couple different positives from each group, and a couple different negatives from each group. What I like is that we have room for improvement, but it was a good first outing for our team.”
Heaps had a chance to evaluate all five of the Revolution’s unsigned training camp participants – Evan Melo, Pierre Omanga, Juan Perotti, Marko Perovic and Alec Sundly – but a few familiar faces remained on the sidelines. Charlie Davies (calf), Steve Neumann (ankle), Saer Sene (ankle/leg) and Chris Tierney (foot) were all unavailable while nursing injuries, while Jose Goncalves and Stephen McCarthy were held out for what Heaps called precautionary reasons with minor knocks.
Those absences left the Revs a little short on bodies and resulted in longer shifts than originally anticipated, but it was perhaps a blessing in disguise as players continue to build their fitness in the early portion of preseason.
“I think 45 (minutes) was a little bit of a fitness push,” said Heaps. “But it’s good. It’s really our first full week and now we can assess where we were last year at this time. That’s one thing I like to do; I take pretty extensive notes of last year at this time and where we are this year at this time. I’m pretty certain we’re ahead of where we were last year at this time.”
Preseason is rarely a time for rest, and the Revs will be back on the training field Saturday morning as they’ll push forward with another week of training at IMG Academy in Bradenton. As the work continues, so will the improvements as the Revs keep a keen eye on that season opener in Houston, now five weeks away.
“That’s what preseason’s all about is kind of grinding out the first couple weeks and getting the fitness back, getting the touches back,” said goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who played the full 90 minutes against Malmo. “That’s the first game, first 90 minutes for everyone here, so I think it’s a good first step and definitely something we can build on.”