MARBELLA, Spain – Brad Friedel delivered a clear message to his New England Revolution squad ahead of Wednesday afternoon’s preseason friendly against FC Dynamo Kyiv: it’s winning time.
The first three matches in Spain – two draws and a loss – had been exercises primarily rooted in fitness and tactics, but with the Revolution’s two-week stay in Marbella winding to a close, Friedel wanted his side to get a win under their belts to provide a mental boost.
New England responded with an impressive 3-1 victory over Dynamo Kyiv – another side preparing for a Europa League Round of 32 clash next week – erasing a 1-0 halftime deficit with goals from Juan Agudelo, Carles Gil, and Diego Fagundez.
“Coach made it a point in our meeting last night, just saying how now it’s really time to focus on winning rather than just getting fitness or getting the tactics right,” said goalkeeper Matt Turner, who played the second half and made a critical penalty save when Kyiv still led 1-0. “I think that’s important as we establish the culture that we need here to get wins.
“To come from behind and to score three unanswered goals, it was really just a good performance overall.”
Fagundez puts a bow on Spain trip with world-class finish
There was no better way for the Revs to close out Wednesday’s game and wrap up their time in Spain than with Fagundez’s stunning strike in the 87th minute.
After Wilfried Zahibo won a header in midfield to keep Dynamo Kyiv pinned back, Gil played a quick, short pass to Fagundez, who saw an opportunity open up inside. With an effortless move, Fagundez nutmegged his defender before curling his shot inside the far post with the outside of his right foot.
“I think overall I’ve been doing well this preseason, trying to finish all my chances,” said Fagundez. “Today I got a good one and all I knew I had to do was just finish it off. I don’t really have a good left foot, but I knew the outside of my right was going to be good enough.”
Gil gets his first goal in a Revs jersey; chemistry growing with new teammates
Fagundez’s goal was the capper, but Gil’s goal was the winner, the 26-year-old Spaniard bagging his first in a Revolution jersey just one week after he was officially unveiled as a Designated Player.
Gil has played a part in three of New England’s five goals this preseason – scoring once and setting up two others in three appearances – and while he’s still learning the system and the tendencies of his new teammates, there’s clearly already chemistry developing in the attack.
“We’re all trying to see what he’s got, how we can combine with him,” said Fagundez. “He’s a player that I definitely like to play with. He likes to touch the ball, move around, and hopefully that chemistry keeps going throughout preseason, and hopefully we can keep it going throughout our season.
“Little by little, chemistry’s going to get even stronger. Right now, I think we’re doing great. Everybody’s welcomed him well, everybody knows what he’s got already, and we just want to see more now.”
Turner’s penalty save sets up Revs’ second-half comeback
Wednesday’s game may have unfolded quite differently if not for a massive penalty save from Turner just moments into the second half, with Dynamo Kyiv threatening to take a 2-0 lead.
A sloppy touch from Turner forced Antonio Delamea to commit a foul inside the box and set up the penalty, but the Revolution goalkeeper immediately atoned for his error, going full stretch to his left to deny Olexandr Andriyevsky and keep New England within striking distance.
Agudelo pulled the Revs level less than 10 minutes later, and it was off to the races.
“It was my own mistake, so it was massive for me to be able to pick myself back up, and then I just grew in confidence throughout the game,” said Turner, who made several big saves in the late stages. “Once I saved that, I knew I wasn’t going to get beat for the rest of the half.”
Turner, who started 27 games last season and saved a penalty in his home debut against the Colorado Rapids, has yet to concede a goal in 135 minutes of action this preseason.
Revs happy to make late lead stand: “We killed the game off”
There was a bit of frustration in Revolution camp last Friday when they let a late, 2-0 lead slip away in a 2-2 draw with FC Viktoria Plzeň. It was an all-too-familiar feeling for the Revs, who saw five halftime leads slip away in 2018, including three games in which they led into the 75th minute.
Thrust into a similar position on Wednesday after taking a 2-1 lead over Dynamo Kyiv in the 68th minute, the Revs not only saw the game out, but put it on ice with Fagundez’s 87th-minute capper.
“It was something that happened to us last season a few times,” said Friedel. “It’s all a learning experience. You have to make the right decisions at certain times in games, and today it was really good to see in the second half that once we got the lead, we killed the game off.”
As time in Spain winds down, Revs prepare for second leg of preseason
New England’s two-week stay in Marbella will officially wrap with a pair of training sessions on Thursday, before they’ll pack up and return to Foxborough on Friday.
Their time in the Northeast will be short-lived, however, as the Revs will head south to Bradenton, Florida for the second leg of preseason on Tuesday, February 12. There they’ll play four more preseason games against Louisville City FC, Minnesota United, Orlando City SC and KR Reykjavík, as they’ll push more and more towards forming a starting XI ahead of the regular-season opener in Dallas on March 2.
“We’re happier as each day goes by where the team is,” said Friedel. “We’ll head back in a couple days to Boston, head down to Florida, and we’ll really start preparing for that first game in Dallas.”
“Teams that I’ve been on that are really successful, they always have good chemistry,” said Turner. “That’s something that we’ll take out of this trip, for sure. It’s halfway through preseason, so there’s still a lot of work to be done, a lot of spots to play for, and we’re just building towards Dallas.”