TUCSON, Ariz. – It’s easy to pick out Wilfried Zahibo on the training ground.
Officially listed at 6-foot-2 (but perhaps, in reality, an inch or two taller), Zahibo is the biggest field player on the Revolution roster, an imposing presence in the middle of the park. The 24-year-old Frenchman adds grit and physicality to a New England midfield that otherwise features loads of pace and creativity.
But according to head coach Brad Friedel, Zahibo is much more than just a ball winner; he also has the poise and technical ability to serve as the link between defense and attack.
“For a big guy, he’s very composed, very good on the ball, which is important if you’re playing in the middle of the field,” Friedel said of Zahibo. “It’s all well and good to be athletic and imposing and strong, but you have to be good on the ball. After that, he does have the size and the strength and the power.”
Having sorted out his U.S. P-1 Visa, Zahibo arrived in Foxborough late on Friday night, trained with his new teammates on Saturday at Gillette Stadium, and traveled with the club to Tucson, Ariz., on Sunday for a two-week preseason stay.
New England’s four games in Tucson – as part of the Mobile Mini Sun Cup – will be critical opportunities for Zahibo to absorb the Revolution’s playing style and build chemistry with his teammates. His first chance to take the field in a match environment will be on Wednesday afternoon, when the Revs will take on FC Dallas at 1 p.m. ET (streaming live on revolutionsoccer.net).
Zahibo will be expected to feature in a deep-lying central midfield position for the Revs, though it’s possible he’ll need time to build his fitness after limited time on the training ground.
“He’s a very good number six in there for us,” Friedel said. “We’re very lucky to have him.”
In the meantime, Zahibo continues to settle into life with the Revs, a task made simpler by the fact that he shares languages (French and Spanish) with multiple teammates and staff.