FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Justin Rennicks admits that he was initially skeptical when told in mid-September that he was going to be joining Revolution II for an extended stint with the USL League One side. After all, Rennicks had seen action in four first-team matches by late August, appearing in the home opener in March, two games at the MLS is Back Tournament, and the club’s return to play on August 20.
But those first-team appearances totaled just 29 minutes and they had dried up as August progressed into September, and the Revolution’s technical staff wanted to make sure that Rennicks – a second-year pro at 21 years old – was getting consistent playing time to continue his development. So Rennicks made his Revolution II debut on September 16, starting and playing 70 minutes against FC Tucson to begin a stretch of eight straight starts and 655 minutes played.
Rennicks’ initial skepticism soon faded into belief, as he quickly experienced the benefits of consistent playing time at the professional level.
“It was hard, but in the end it was all positive because I was getting minutes on the field,” Rennicks said of bouncing back and forth between the first team and Revolution II. “That translated once I got back with the first team, where I actually got some minutes. It was all good. I was skeptical at first about it, thinking it was a downgrade, but (the technical staff) was like, ‘No, this is so you can get minutes and just be ready when your next chance comes.’”
Those minutes served as a massive confidence booster for Rennicks, and not just because he was seeing playing time, but also because he was scoring goals. The former Revolution Academy standout found the back of the net in just his second Revolution II appearance and never looked back, scoring four times in eight starts to provide a healthy dose of self-assurance.
“It’s great. It’s the main reason I went down there,” Rennicks said of finding his scoring touch. “It was good – really, really good for the confidence.
“Getting those minutes, like I said, was just so important. Every coach will say, it’s just all about playing. The level was pretty high (in USL League One), and like I said, it translated when I got back with the first team in training, and then I got some minutes in the playoffs.”
Bruce Arena and the Revolution coaching staff saw Rennicks’ progression when he returned to first-team training in early November following the conclusion of the USL League One season, just in time for the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. The young forward was sent into a trio of postseason games, including the final stages of the Eastern Conference Final against eventual champions Columbus Crew SC.
“That itself is a confidence booster, knowing that he trusts me and is willing to put me out there,” Rennicks said of Arena’s faith in him during playoff matches.
It was something of a rollercoaster year for Rennicks, but most importantly it was a season of growth – both as a person and as a player – and as he looks ahead to the 2021 campaign, Rennicks is confident he’ll be in a better place because of his experiences in 2020.
“This was a huge year for me, because I kind of got a better understanding of really how important minutes are, and just playing on the field,” Rennicks said. “After playing with the second team for that long, it was good. I don’t even know how to word it, but it all panned out. Looking to the future for next year, I think this year had a great influence on what I’ll be able to do next year.”