CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps called Sunday morning’s abbreviated scrimmage against Croatian first division side NK Istra 1961 a “really important exercise,” both for trialists/draftees trying to make the roster and for reserves battling for playing time.
“It was really important for us to get another snapshot of some players that are on the cusp of making our roster, and guys that are fighting for first-team minutes,” Heaps said.
New England’s starting lineup for the 60-minute scrimmage featured seven unsigned players – Jeremie Sabaly, Joshua Smith, Tyler Turner, Otis Earle, Emmanuel Appiah, Napo Matsoso, and Tristan Bowen. Apart from Earle and Matsoso (who went off with an injury), the entire group played the full hour.
Bowen scored the game’s only goal shortly after the halftime break, arriving at the near post to bury rookie Brian Wright’s right-wing cross with a first-time effort and give the Revs a 1-0 win.
Goalkeeper Matt Turner, defender Donnie Smith, and midfielder Zach Herivaux also played the full 60 minutes as they made their case for increased minutes in 2017.
For Heaps and the Revolution’s coaching staff, Sunday’s scrimmage was about balance. While they used the game to analyze players on their talent and individual performances, they were also evaluating each player on their ability to adapt to the Revolution’s system and defensive shape.
“Being a part of that shape is something we’re looking at,” Heaps said. “Are they adaptable? Can they learn from what we’ve been trying to do in training sessions? Are they teachable? Do they know how to fight in tough, competitive games, and can they do those two things and then make their soccer come out?
“It was important for me to be able to see the players and for the team to do exactly what we asked in terms of the defensive shape, and really make moments for themselves to have an opportunity to make the team or push themselves into the lineup.”