LOS ANGELES – Saturday afternoon’s preseason meeting with Los Angeles FC was viewed as an opportunity for the New England Revolution to measure themselves against one of the top sides in MLS, and there was plenty to take away from the 2-2 draw at Banc of California Stadium.
Both sides started strong XIs and it was LAFC who opened the game on the front foot, but a quartet of solid saves from Matt Turner kept the game scoreless at halftime. New England then exploded out of the gate with two goals inside five minutes after the break – first from Gustavo Bou and then from Adam Buksa – and had several chances to extend that lead, only for LAFC to respond with two goals of their own to leave the sides level.
“I think the first half was really us just feeling the game for a minute, then obviously the second half we came out and we get two quick goals, and we started to get into more of a rhythm for ourselves and we were able to pass the ball around a lot more,” said Jon Bell, who started and played 84 minutes at center back. “I think this was a really good test for us, and a true test to see how we’re going to develop over the season.”
Turner also lauded the Revs’ bright start to the second half, and while he was frustrated with conceding from a set piece and allowing a late equalizer, he noted that it’s an important time to be learning these lessons before the games count for real two weeks from now.
“Once we settled down, started connecting a few passes, switched the point of attack, we started finding some gaps and some opportunities,” said Turner. “Obviously coming out of the gate in the second half was great to come out, score two goals, create – I don’t know, four, five, maybe even six really good chances to score. Their keeper made a great save to keep it from being 3-0.
“But from there, we’ve just got to do the right things to kill the game off. It’s a good thing that it’s preseason and we can learn these lessons, because it’s kind of like the same old story; sort of like set pieces being our undoing [today], in the Galaxy game not scoring goals. So we’re seeing some of the same messages from last year, but hopefully early enough that we can identify them and work on them, and get it right for April 17.”
Turner saves yet another penalty, denies Rossi from the spot
It’s rare to be so confident in your goalkeeper that you expect him to save penalties, but that’s how good Matt Turner has been in those situations in recent months.
The 26-year-old stopped yet another penalty on Saturday, going full stretch to his left to deny Diego Rossi while the Revs still held a 2-1 lead in the latter stages. It was a third straight penalty save for Turner, who also stopped attempts from the spot against Orlando in last year’s playoffs, and against Trinidad & Tobago in his U.S. Men’s National Team debut this past January.
“To be honest, I knew he was going to save it. I’m not going to lie,” said Bell. “He did it with the national team. He’s done it in the playoffs last year. He’s just good at it. That’s all I can say about it.”
Caicedo returns to the field after 18-month injury layoff; Mafla debuts
It was only an 18-minute substitute appearance in a preseason match, but Luis Caicedo took another huge step in his recovery when he set foot on the field at Banc of California Stadium on Saturday.
Caicedo’s last appearance in any competition was October 6, 2019, as he missed the entire 2020 campaign following surgery on his right meniscus. It had been 546 days – almost 18 months to the day – since he’d last played in a match, making it an emotional return for the Colombian midfielder.
“I’m happy for him, because it’s been a year-and-a-half sidelined, a global pandemic, not being around the game that he loves,” said Turner. “It took a toll on him mentally, I know. He’s a happy guy, happy-go-lucky, and I know it was hard for him at times, so to see him be able to get out there and get his first competitive minutes under his belt, I think it really meant a lot to him, and it was a good boost for our team even though we didn’t come out with the three points.”
Six minutes after Caicedo stepped onto the field there was another important substitution involving a Colombian, as Christian Mafla made his preseason debut. The 28-year-old left back missed the first two preseason games with his new club, but he’s now healthy and working his way to full fitness.
Two more weeks, two more preseason tests before season opener on April 17
The season opener at Chicago Fire FC is inching closer as the Revs are now just two weeks away from a competitive match, and they’ll have two more preseason tests on the West Coast before heading back to Foxborough on April 10. First they’ll face LA Galaxy II on Wednesday morning before a rematch with LAFC next Saturday at Banc of California Stadium.
Tajon Buchanan and Henry Kessler will be available for both of those matches after completing COVID-19 quarantine protocols following their returns from international duty, while Wilfrid Kaptoum is also hopeful of making his preseason debut as he works his way back from a minor injury. Arnór Traustason won’t join the team in LA, but he’ll also be integrating into the squad in the coming weeks.
“It’s great because we put out a good performance today, and then you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, we still have four or five guys that can still make a real impact off the bench, in the starting XI, as well,’” said Turner. “I think it speaks to the depth that we have this year as a team, and now the competition. Hopefully trainings start heating up a bit; people are going to be jockeying for positions in the XI, in the 18, in the travel squad, all that kind of stuff.
“It should be a fun final few weeks of preseason, and we can’t wait to get back out there, especially on (April) 24 we’re looking forward to get out in front of our fans.”