PORTLAND, Ore. – Sunday afternoon’s match against Minnesota United FC was the first preseason game the New England Revolution played upon their arrival to the Pacific Northwest, as they finished in a 2-2 draw at Providence Park. The game was highlighted by New England goals on either side of the half from Designated Players Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou.
According to head coach Bruce Arena,though, the match was a tale of two very different halves.
“Well, I think our first 45 minutes was pretty poor,” said Arena. “We weren’t sharp on the ball. We weren’t competitive. Our second half we picked it up. I thought we played quite well in the second half so we got something out of it.”
Part of what the Revs took as a positive from Sunday was their ability to make adjustments and respond in the second half.
“Initially, [I’m] obviously happy to get a result in a preseason match,” said Teal Bunbury. “Maybe a little disappointed with how the first half went.
"[I’m] really proud of the guys and how we kind of responded in the second half. Still getting some fluid movement between the attacking group and trying to shore up things in the midfield and defensively, so I’m happy overall with how the game finished.”
Buksa finds the net for his first New England preseason goal
The Revs were trailing the Loons, 1-0, midway through the first half. However, a high point came for New England in the 28th minute.
That was the minute that one of the team’s newest additions, striker Adam Buksa, found the net for the first time in a Revolution kit.
“It’s always good to score a goal,” said Buksa. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a preseason game or regular season game. I’m very happy to have scored the goal and I’m looking forward to playing the next game right now.”
It wasn’t just the fact that Buksa scored, it was also the fashion in which he scored through a coherent rhythm created by his teammates.
Cristian Penilla played a perfectly-placed cross to Bunbury, who used a clever one touch to set Buksa up for the first-time finish from the top of the box.
The play was smooth. It was a taste of what this team can do as they find chemistry in the attack.
“It was a great goal by [Buksa],” said Bunbury. “I just remember Penilla getting the ball on the right side. I tried to make a run. Penilla played a great ball to me and I just wanted to lay it off for Adam, who took a great chance right outside the box and slotted it away, so it's been fun playing with him.”
Buksa used his instincts to put himself in this position to make a quick decision and score quickly.
“My first idea was to make the shot straight away and it was the right decision,” said Buksa in regards to what was going through his head during the play. “The game was quick. I didn’t have too much time up front so I had to take to quick decisions, and that was one of them. I’m happy to have scored a goal.”
Arena, too, was pleased that Buksa made that quick finish.
“I think it’s good for his confidence,” said Arena. “He’s still learning about our team and the league, and it’s going to take awhile like it does with any new player. Overall he gave us a good 90 minutes.”
Six New England players get full 90-minute runs
As the Revs are now more than halfway through their five preseason matches after playing their third game against Minnesota, Arena pushed several players in extended 90-minute run-outs.
Those who played the full 90 against MNUFC were Bou, Buksa, Matt Turner, Andrew Farrell, Brandon Bye and Cristian Penilla, who played in their longest preseason appearances to date.
“I think six or seven players played 90 minutes, which is important,” said Arena. “We’re moving them forward in terms of their fitness, as well.
“It’s important because you can run around in a circle all you want in training and everything else, but you need to get on the field and get your game fitness, and we were certainly able accomplish that today.”
Buksa appreciated the challenge of accomplishing a full 90 minutes, and understands that preseason is the time to push themselves before the season opener against the Montreal Impact on February 29.
“To be honest, I’m really tired after this game,” said Buksa. “That was a very challenging game, demanding game, but that’s what we have preseason for. Generally, I feel well, and as I said, we still have two weeks to prepare for the first game and to [improve] for sure.”
Attacking group continues to build fluidity through preseason
It's no secret that developing chemistry on a team takes time.
However, the early signs of the chemistry the Revs’ attacking group displayed against Minnesota United are promising.
Bou, Buksa, and Penilla were three attackers who had a full 90 minutes to work together in this system, and Bunbury added to that attacking combination for approximately the first 60 minutes of play.
“I think it's been developing really well,” Bunbury said of the attacking chemistry. “I think just feeding off of each other, just understanding how Adam likes to play. Obviously knowing Bou a little bit better and better, and Penilla, as well. I think just the combination and the fluidity is going really well.”
“It was good,” said Arena on the chemistry up top. “Penilla I thought had an outstanding game. Obviously the more we play together, the better we’ll be and hopefully over the next couple weeks we can move the team a little bit more forward and be ready for the opening game.”