Preseason Notebook | Revs take “positive first step” in preseason opener vs. LAFC

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LOS ANGELES – Preseason preparations took another important step on Saturday afternoon at Banc of California Stadium, where the New England Revolution played to a 1-1 draw with Los Angeles FC.

Head coach Bruce Arena utilized 22 different players – only goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. and right back Brandon Bye played longer than 45 minutes, both going an hour – as the Revs played their first preseason match just about halfway through five weeks of intensive training. New England’s first competitive match is a little more than two weeks away, on February 15 against Cavaly AS in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 at Gillette Stadium.

A largely first-choice group played the opening 45 minutes on Saturday, including the DP trio of Carles Gil, Gustavo Bou, and Adam Buksa. Bou and Buksa combined on the Revolution goal in the 44th minute, Bou cutting inside from the left and firing a shot that was saved, only for Buksa to bundle home the rebound from close range.

“I think we were really focused on setting the tone in this first preseason game,” said Edwards Jr. “Obviously with Champions League coming up quick, these minutes are important, and I think everyone took it seriously. I think it was a positive first step.”

A limited amount of fans were allowed inside Banc of California Stadium, including a large swath of LAFC supporters who sang, chanted, and played drums to create a very un-preseason-like atmosphere.

“I wasn’t thinking there was going to be a crowd out here, but that was nice. That was nice to have a crowd, the drums going during a preseason match,” said Omar Gonzalez. “It just made it feel that much more real, and it was a good day.

“We started (training) before any of these teams have started and we’ve just been playing 11s against each other, so it was really refreshing just to be able to exert some energy against some other competition. That was really nice, and I thought the boys did well today. We fought. It was a bit sloppy at times, it was great at times – it’s everything we could expect from our first time out.”

Gonzalez makes Revolution debut alongside 10 returning players

There was only one new face in the Revolution’s starting XI on Saturday afternoon and that was veteran defender Omar Gonzalez, signed as a free agent this past offseason after 13 years of professional experience with the LA Galaxy, Toronto FC, Pachuca, and Atlas. The 33-year-old center back played the opening 45 minutes and appeared to adjust seamlessly, consistently popping up in the right spots defensively and even smashing a shot off the crossbar as he followed up a rebound in the 33rd minute.

“I was the only new face in the starting 11 today, but it was good to run out there with them and start building some of that chemistry among myself, [Andrew] Farrell, Earl [Edwards Jr.], DeJuan Jones – the entire backline and also the sixes in front of me,” said Gonzalez. “That was really good.

“It’s been really good playing next to Farrell. I think we’re working well with each other right now, and there’s a lot of good communication there. That’s going to be key going forward. If you can communicate well and sort things out early, then it makes our jobs easier. From the start of preseason up until now, it’s only good things.”

16-year-old Buck makes first-team debut after signing Homegrown deal 11 days ago

New England’s second-half lineup featured a trio of Homegrown signings – Justin Rennicks (fourth year), Damian Rivera (third year), and Noel Buck, making his debut after signing with the first team just 11 days ago on January 18. The native of Arlington, Mass., has extensive pro experience having played 28 times with Revolution II last season, but Saturday was his first outing with the senior squad.

The teenager looked confident and was heavily involved in the Revolution attack, going closest in the 70th minute when Rivera beat his man down the left side and cut back for Buck to hit a first-time effort, struck well but saved by the LAFC goalkeeper.

“Off the field is tough being a 16-year-old amongst a lot of men with families and things like that, so I know he’s got his guys in the locker room that he’s close with and they look out for him,” Edwards Jr. said of his young teammate. “I do think he’s performing at an extremely high level. I think back to when I was 16, to be doing the things that he’s doing is very impressive, and I think he has a really bright future.”

LAFC sees early red … but Revs allow substitution to play 11-v-11

Saturday’s game could’ve played out quite a bit differently as LAFC defender Jesus Murillo was issued a red card in the 25th minute, sent off after deliberately handling a ball played through the backline. Not wanting to spend 65 minutes of a preseason game playing against 10 men, New England allowed LAFC to replace Murillo, as Mamadou Fall entered in the 32nd minute to return the game to 11-v-11.

Fall ultimately scored LAFC’s equalizer from the penalty spot in the 86th minute.

Revs return to action next Saturday evening against LA Galaxy

New England will continue training in LA throughout the upcoming week before taking the field again next Saturday night, when they’ll visit Dignity Health Sports Park for a showdown with the LA Galaxy (February 5, 10 p.m. ET, streaming information to come). That match will be just 10 days before the Revs play Cavaly AS in the Champions League at Gillette Stadium, making it an incredibly important exercise.

“It’s been a shorter preseason, which is nice, but the window’s that much smaller,” said Gonzalez, who played under Arena with the Galaxy from 2009 to 2015. “I think we’ve been pretty efficient in terms of ramping things up. I feel good about where we are.

“It was a good 45 minutes [against LAFC]. I think next game we’ll ramp it up for some guys, and we will have to, because in two-and-a-half weeks we’ve got a game, so things have to start getting real serious.”