BRADENTON, Fla. – There are plenty of reasons why Wednesday morning’s preseason opener against the New York Red Bulls was a valuable exercise for the New England Revolution.
The primary objective was to continue building fitness, as it was a critical opportunity for players to get onto a full field and face unfamiliar competition. Much of the roster saw 45 minutes of action, but some saw extended minutes, including Brian Wright and Matt Turner, who both went the full 90.
It was also the first chance for new head coach Brad Friedel to translate the tactical philosophies he’s been implementing in training onto the field in a game situation. As preseason progresses, more and more ideas will be added and implemented throughout the Revs’ six remaining matches.
New England’s wild 4-3 win over New York also included some stellar goals, and the Revs showed an invaluable resolve as they reacted strongly after conceding twice inside the first 13 minutes.
But perhaps most importantly, it was the first opportunity for offseason signings Cristian Penilla, Gabriel Somi and Isaac Angking to get into game situations alongside their new teammates.
Penilla saw the most action, starting on the left wing and playing 64 minutes before making way. The 26-year-old Ecuadorian’s performance was highlighted by a stunning individual goal, as he went on a barnstorming run through midfield before rifling home from just outside the box.
The goal provided Revolution fans a first glimpse of Penilla’s pace and quality, but it was more of the same for teammates who’ve seen Penilla’s ability in training the past two weeks.
“(He’s a) quality player,” said Wright, who opened the scoring for the Revolution and later assisted on Femi Hollinger-Janzen’s game winner. “That goal was a really nice goal. It was good to see the new guys get out there and put in a good result as a team.”
“That’s the one guy you don’t want to defend in practice,” Femi said with a laugh, referring to Penilla. “He’s going to usually get past you. Very shifty guy, very crafty, and a phenomenal finish today.”
Somi, who had just three days of training under his belt before playing the second half of Wednesday’s win at left back, put in a solid shift on both sides of the ball.
“Gabriel just arrived a couple days ago, so he’s still getting over his jetlag,” said Friedel. “They’re two very, very good players. Very quick, but also technically very gifted and good strikers of the ball.”
Angking, an 18-year-old Homegrown signing, split his 45-minute showing between attacking and defensive midfield, and looked like he belonged amongst professionals.
The next step will be getting central midfielder Wilfried Zahibo into the mix – he’s still awaiting his U.S. P-1 Visa – and adding more signings to the squad in the coming weeks and months, a process that Friedel hopes will yield more quality in the vein of Penilla and Somi.
“They all possess quality,” Friedel said. “Hopefully all the signings that we make possess this kind of quality, because you want to make the team better, and you want to create that competition for places.”