FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Bruce Arena sent Wilfried Zahibo into last weekend’s season opener against the Montreal Impact with a simple message.
“Bring intensity, win some tackles, play forward, and help the team win the game,” Zahibo said of that message. “We couldn’t win this game, but now we focus on Chicago and we’re going to try to do better.”
It’s true that Zahibo didn’t help the New England Revolution to victory at Olympic Stadium – where the Revs suffered a 2-1 loss – but he certainly did everything else Arena asked of him. In just 45 minutes of action the 26-year-old midfielder had five recoveries, a team-high three tackles, and completed 25 of 28 passes (89 percent), immediately helping the Revs get on the front foot after a somewhat tepid first half.
Zahibo, of course, also appeared to score the go-ahead goal in the 73rd minute, only for it to be wiped off the board after Video Review adjudged him to be offside, negating not only the goal itself, but also his classic “crane kick” celebration from The Karate Kid.
“He played well,” Arena said. “He gave us a little bit more bite in the central part of the field. He won some tackles, was aggressive going forward. Obviously he scored a goal that was called back. But I think overall he had a good performance.”
Zahibo, who made 13 of his 19 starts last year after Arena’s arrival in mid-May, will now aim to lock down a starting role for the Revolution’s home opener against Chicago Fire FC on Saturday (1:30 p.m., TICKETS), beginning a critical stretch in which the Revs will play five of their next six games at home.
“It’s an important game,” Zahibo said of the Fire’s visit to Foxborough. “It’s most important we start (well) at home. We want a good start, we want the fans to be happy, and we want the three points to start the season.”