TUCSON, Ariz. – The New England Revolution took another major step towards the regular season on Wednesday afternoon, kicking off their 2016 preseason slate with a 2-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes at Kino Sports Complex in Tucson.
Kelyn Rowe and Charlie Davies did the damage for New England before the halftime break, while Bobby Shuttleworth (58 minutes) and Brad Knighton (32 minutes) combined to keep the clean sheet.
The result, of course, was secondary on a day both the Revs and Earthquakes used 22 different players, as the sides continue to build fitness and sharpness through the early days of preseason.
Still, there were some storylines to follow on Wednesday.
Preseason or not, goal scorers enjoy scoring goals
The goals won’t show up on any stat sheets, but Rowe and Davies will both earn a measure of confidence after finding the back of the net in their first 45 minutes of preseason action.
Rowe opened the scoring with a trademark long-distance strike in the 26th minute, shifting into a bit of space 25 yards from goal and unleashing a rocket inside the left post.
“It’s always good to score goals,” said Rowe, who matched his career high with seven in 2015. “But it is preseason, so it doesn’t reflect too much on the season, but it’s a good start overall for the whole team.”
If Rowe’s long-range rocket was typical, so was Davies’ opportunistic finish on the stroke of halftime.
San Jose goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell failed to claim rookie Michael Gamble’s corner kick, and Revolution center back Jose Goncalves rose highest to knock the ball down inside the box. Davies – last year’s leading scorer with 10 goals – pounced, turning his body and smashing home from close range.
“This season I’m really looking forward to helping this team ultimately win a cup. It starts now,” said Davies. “For me to be able to do my job and put the ball in the back of the net in the very first preseason game is a good sign.
“I’ve got to continue to work hard, but I’m looking forward to building off this performance.”
Unsigned camp participants get first chance to impress in a game scenario
The eight unsigned players currently in Revolution camp have had plenty of practice time in the past two weeks, but Wednesday’s meeting with San Jose offered a few of them a first chance to impress in a game situation against MLS opposition.
Second-round SuperDraft pick Michael Gamble (left wing) played 45 minutes against the Earthquakes, as did Tyler Rudy (central midfield), Jeb Brovsky (left back) and Josh Phillips (center back).
Third-round SuperDraft pick Femi Hollinger-Janzen was sidelined by a slight knock, while defender Dominic Samuel and goalkeepers Trevor Spangenberg and Matt Turner will likely see time in the Revolution’s next two matches against FC Dallas (Thursday) and Vancouver (Saturday).
“We’ve had a good 10 days of training hard against each other,” said Heaps. “It was nice to get an opponent and be in a different environment and test them.”
Heaps sees progression from Herivaux as the 20-year-old adjusts to MLS
It’s been nine months since midfielder Zachary Herivaux became the Revolution’s third-ever Homegrown signing, but the youngster is still adapting to the rigors of the professional game.
An early exit from last year’s U.S. Open Cup limited Herivaux’s first-team minutes, meaning his education up until now has mostly been in training. But against San Jose he played the first 45 minutes in a central midfield role, and Heaps could already see Herivaux making in-game adjustments.
But only after learning a few early lessons.
“Early on he was finding the game and I think he was adjusting to the physicality,” Heaps said. “I think in training the guys know Zach well, so they don’t give him the full treatment because he’s a player that they know has huge upside. But San Jose didn’t care. They made him eat some grass.
“I think it was a good progression for Zach. I think he developed into the game which is exactly what we’re asking of him.”
McCrary’s first taste of professional soccer provides early lessons
Heaps has called Jordan McCrary the most MLS-ready defender in the 2016 SuperDraft and the UNC product has already earned a spot on the Revolution’s roster for the upcoming season.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still plenty of lessons to be learned, however, and in a 45-minute performance on Wednesday, McCrary continued his education.
“I think he and Sean (Okoli) had some moments,” said Heaps, referring to the pair who played on New England’s right side during the second half. “I think overall we want more from them.
“I think they were a little bit naïve defensively and I think that as we get into playing more competition against new players that are in this league, they’ll realize how the speed of the game picks up, especially when you’re playing a full 90 minutes.”