CARSON, Calif. – The message from New England Revolution head coach Bruce Arena to his players ahead of Wednesday night’s preseason rematch with the LA Galaxy was clear: finish your chances.
The Revs – who were shut out in a 1-0 loss to the Galaxy this past weekend despite generating several quality looks – responded with a four-goal outing, picking up their first victory of the preseason with a 4-1 win over the Galaxy on a picture perfect evening at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“We were working hard in practice this past week finishing, working on our interchanges, our overlaps,” said DeJuan Jones, who played the second half at left back and combined with Gustavo Bou to set up Tommy McNamara’s superb finish. “I thought we did a good job, especially in the second half, generating a lot of chances. Whenever we’re putting the ball in the back of the net four times, it’s something to celebrate.”
McNamara’s strike was the pick of the bunch as the Revs got their goals from four different players. Teal Bunbury set up Adam Buksa’s early opener before scoring himself with a powerful header, while Bou rounded out the scoring with a smooth finish midway through the second half, assisted by Carles Gil.
While it was McNamara’s first goal in a Revolution jersey, Bunbury (8), Buksa (6) and Bou (5) were the Revolution’s three leading scorers last season as they look to rekindle that form in 2021.
“The biggest thing for us is finishing our chances,” said Damian Rivera. “I think the first game we had plenty of chances, we just didn’t get to put them in the back of the net. I thought we were connecting well in the attacking third and we just put them in the back of the net.”
Revs use split squad as 22 different players get 45 minutes apiece
After several players saw between 60-70 minutes of action in the preseason opener this past weekend Arena opted to use a split squad on Wednesday night, using two completely different lineups for the first and second halves.
Revolution II players Connor Presley and Colby Quiñones started at left back and right back, respectively, with Presley setting up Bunbury’s header with a perfectly-placed cross from the left wing. Rivera, an 18-year-old Academy product now in his second professional season, also started in central midfield alongside Scott Caldwell and looked comfortable in tight spaces.
“I think I’m improving,” Rivera said after the 45-minute outing. “My teammates, my coaches, they’re all helping me. I think every day I’m getting better and I’m connecting more with the team every time.”
The trio of Luis Caicedo, Christian Mafla, and Wilfrid Kaptoum didn’t appear for a second straight game, although both Caicedo and Mafla were officially dressed and available, while Kaptoum joined them to do a bit of work on the end line throughout the second half.
Jones settling in at left back, developing formidable connection with Bou
Entering his third year as a pro, Jones has earned a reputation as one of the Revolution’s most versatile players, able to play at both outside back positions and on both wings. But the 23-year-old has been training and playing primarily at left back this preseason, and he believes that settling into a specific role has helped his preparations for 2021.
“It’s definitely been helpful just getting the consistent reps in the same spot,” Jones said. “I think that’s where I’m going to be going forward. But I’m a versatile player, so wherever I need to be for the team is what I’m willing to do.”
Where he needed to be on Wednesday night was connecting up and down the left flank with Bou, who was the recipient of several inch-perfect passes from Jones and who also consistently found Jones’ overlapping runs. The duo combined to help set up McNamara’s long-range goal.
“I don’t know what it is, but me and Gustavo have a good connection this year,” said Jones. “I see his runs early and he calls for the ball in the right spot, so I’m looking forward to continuing that connection going forward.”
Three more preseason tests await ahead of April 17 season opener
A new opponent will be on the docket Saturday afternoon when the Revs take on Los Angeles FC at Banc of California Stadium, one of three games remaining on New England’s preseason slate. A midweek matchup with LA Galaxy II will follow before finishing with a second LAFC showdown.
Those three games offer three more opportunities for the Revs to keep sharpening themselves ahead of their regular season opener at Chicago Fire FC on April 17, now just a little more than two weeks away.
“I feel like we’re in a pretty good spot,” said Rivera. “As the game showed today, I thought the team played well. We were connecting, and I think these next three games are a chance for us to get better.”