TUCSON, Ariz. – Brad Friedel already has the New England Revolution raising trophies, and he won’t even take charge of his first regular-season match until next weekend.
It’s a small victory, of course, but the Revs closed out their first preseason under Friedel by winning the Mobile Mini Sun Cup title on Saturday night, downing the Houston Dynamo in a penalty shootout (4-3) after a 1-1 draw through 90 minutes.
The result kept the Revs unbeaten against MLS competition this preseason (2-0-2), and while that won’t count for anything when they take the field next weekend in Philadelphia, Friedel was happy to see his side close out the five-week preseason period on a positive note.
“I thought the game was very even in the second half when we made some changes and went up a goal, and then I thought Houston was on the front foot,” said Friedel. “It was nice to see us at least maintain a draw and then winning on penalties, I know it’s not that meaningful, so to speak, in preseason, but it’s nice that the boys had the character to win. Now we get ready for the real thing.”
Krisztián Németh was a difference maker for the Revs, scoring just minutes after entering the game as a halftime substitute and converting the decisive penalty in the shootout. Friedel said the performance should “do a world of good” for Németh’s confidence, having missed the first five games of preseason through injury before returning to action earlier this week.
Németh, who said after his 30-minute debut on Wednesday against Sporting Kansas City that he’d be “flying” by the time next weekend’s opener in Philly rolls around, was happy to get on the scoresheet, but was even more pleased simply to feel fit at the final whistle.
“It’s always important to score goals, but most important now is I get minutes after the injury,” said Németh. “I feel much better.”
Saturday’s triumph in the Mobile Mini Sun Cup brought to a close a vital preseason period for the Revs, who’ve spent the past five weeks building fitness, fighting for playing time, and most importantly, learning a new system and a new approach to their daily activities under Friedel and his staff.
That learning process will no doubt continue as the real games gets underway next weekend, but Friedel is confident that his group is ready for the challenges to come in the regular season.
“We’ve made a lot of changes here with the way things are run, and I thought the players’ application has been very, very good,” Friedel said. “Now we’re all just excited to get the season rolling.”