CARSON, Calif. – Saturday night’s preseason opener at Dignity Health Sports Park was a critical exercise for the New England Revolution, who used 22 different players in their 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy as they continue to build towards the regular season opener in Chicago, now three weeks away.
The 90 minutes offered several positive takeaways and some solid individual performances, but more than anything it was an important mental step for the Revs as they squared off against an opponent other than themselves for the first time in 112 days, since last year’s Eastern Conference Final.
“We missed this moment to be on the field and play against a real opponent,” said Adam Buksa, who started and played 60 minutes. “It’s been three-and-a-half months, basically, since we played the last game, so we definitely need some time to adapt to new circumstances and to get a feeling for each other, for the ball.
“But I think we are in the right way. We showed today some parts of a really good game and we have to build on it. I’m pretty sure that we’re moving in the right direction.”
Finish eludes them, but Revs encouraged by consistent chance creation
New England did everything but find the back of the net on Saturday night, generating several quality chances only to be denied by profligate finishing or oftentimes LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond. Gustavo Bou was particularly active in the final third, and on another night might’ve had multiple goals.
It’s not unusual for the finishing touch to be lacking in the early stages of preseason, and while the Revs acknowledged that they’ll need to be sharper in front of goal moving forward, they were also highly encouraged by the chemistry and chance creation throughout the 90 minutes.
“The positive thing is that we created many, many chances,” said Buksa. “This is something that we basically missed last season, so this is definitely a big advantage of the game. Definitely finishing is the thing we need to keep working on.”
“We had a lot of good chances,” added Matt Polster, who played the second half. “I think it’s really good to see guys on the same wavelength early on, because I think that we can only go up from here.”
Carles Gil leads the charge in 70-minute performance
Saturday night did not look like a preseason opener for Carles Gil, who started on the right side of midfield and was the Revolution’s primary chance creator, consistently breaking the lines or spraying long balls over the top of the Galaxy backline.
It was a welcome sight for the Revs, particularly after Gil missed the bulk of the 2020 regular season before returning for the club’s playoff run to the Eastern Conference Final.
“He was very good in this game,” Buksa said of Gil. “Everybody knows the quality of Carles, so he’s a main player for us. Having him on the field makes the play easier, mostly for the offensive players.”
Maciel impressive in debut five days after signing from Revs II
Preseason matches are perhaps most important for newcomers, as they need time to adjust to their new teammates’ styles and tendencies. Maciel, who featured in all 16 games for Revolution II last season before signing with the first team on Monday, was one fresh face on Saturday who was particularly impressive during his 70-minute shift in central midfield.
The 21-year-old Brazilian was calm in possession and covered a ton of ground, and he certainly looked comfortable making the jump from USL League One to the MLS level.
“I saw him at Revs II, so I know he’s got some good qualities,” said Polster, who played alongside Maciel to start the second half. “He played really well. He’s super composed on the ball. He found good passes, defended well, picked up some second balls. He’s doing everything he needs to do as a defensive mid, as a six. He’s a good player and I think to build on that for the next match is important for him.”
Four more preseason opportunities for Revs to keep building
Building through the next four matches will be the Revolution’s priority in California, and their next opportunity comes on Wednesday night when they’ll once again take on the LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park. That game kicks off at 10 p.m. ET and a live stream will be available for those in the New England broadcast region.
Saturday night was a positive starting point, and now the Revs will aim to make incremental improvements in each match, particularly as they welcome players back from international duty and get the trio of Luis Caicedo, Wilfrid Kaptoum, and Christian Mafla into the mix.