Jalil Anibaba training 2018

Anibaba’s veteran presence critical for Revs as they’re forced to reshuffle backline

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The starting lineup for Brad Friedel’s second game in charge of the New England Revolution will look significantly different than his first, circumstances dictated by suspensions for center backs Antonio Delamea and Claude Dielna.

The duo’s ejections from last weekend’s season opener in Philadelphia leave the Revs without two key figures in the heart of defense for their home opener against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday afternoon (1:30 p.m., TICKETS), but Friedel and his squad are confident that they have the depth to compensate for the pair of absences.

Jalil Anibaba made his Revolution debut off the bench following Delamea’s early ejection in Philly, while Friedel also mentioned rookie SuperDraft picks Nico Samayoa and Brandon Bye, as well as veteran defender Andrew Farrell as players who are capable of filling the gaps at center back.

“Everybody’s been working hard throughout the course of preseason in general, so whoever’s number is going to be called, the players will be ready. We’ll be ready,” said Anibaba. “It’s just a matter of taking each week at a time, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Not only do the Revs lose their starting center backs with Delamea and Dielna suspended, but they also lose two of their most vocal leaders. Dielna, in particular, has taken on significant leadership responsibilities in his first full year with the Revs, including wearing the captain’s armband.

New England’s roster features several veteran voices, however, including Anibaba, who stepped straight into a leadership role upon arrival this past January.

“He’s been instrumental in that department since he’s come to the club,” Friedel said of Anibaba. “Even as a trialist he’d started to become a leader, which is one of the reasons we wanted to sign him. We have a lot of leaders in the locker room, and that’ll be no issue at all come game time.”

Anibaba is the most experienced of Friedel’s options in central defense, having made more than 170 appearances in an eight-year MLS career. With his Revolution debut under his belt, he’s now looking forward to stepping out in front of the home fans in Foxborough for the first time.

“I’m excited,” Anibaba said. “Since day one I’ve felt comfortable here, I’ve felt welcomed here, and it’ll be nice to step out in front of our home fans. Obviously that’s something we’ve been looking forward to, and we’ve been working hard to make sure we bring home three points.”

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