TUCSON, Ariz. – There was no shortage of talking points for the New England Revolution following Wednesday afternoon’s 2-2 draw with FC Dallas, which served as an exciting opener to the Revolution’s quartet of preseason matches in the Mobile Mini Sun Cup.
Wilfried Zahibo’s sending off just seven minutes into his Revolution debut was no doubt a flashpoint, while Cristian Penilla continued to stand out with his second goal of the preseason. New England’s fighting spirit also shone through once again, as for the third time in four preseason matches they earned a result after conceding the opening goal.
But perhaps the most important storyline from a Revolution perspective was the preseason debut of Antonio Delamea, who played the first half alongside Claude Dielna in central defense.
Delamea – last year’s JetBlue Team MVP in his debut MLS season – missed the Revs’ first three preseason matches in Bradenton, Fla., while traveling to his native Slovenia to obtain his green card, so his 45-minute stint on Wednesday was his first game action since last October.
It was a lengthy break from competitive action, and Delamea is glad it’s over.
“I’m really happy to be back in a game,” Delamea said. “It’s been a long time since I last played. It’s really important for me to get back in shape, so we’ll do it game by game.”
Delamea admits he’s lost a touch of fitness while away from the team, but in a positive sign, he actually requested to play into the second half on Wednesday, only to be denied by head coach Brad Friedel.
“He wanted to play a little bit longer, but we want to make sure that we don’t risk injury, also,” Friedel said. “Most of the players in their first game will generally only get 45 minutes, and we’ll see how things go in the next game as far as minutes are concerned.”
“We still have [three] games left,” Delamea said. “I’m thinking I’ll get 90 minutes in the next game.”
Whatever minutes Delamea gets when the Revs face San Antonio FC on Saturday, his time on the field will be critical as he continues to forge a bond with fellow center back Claude Dielna, and adjusts to his newer teammates like Zahibo, Penilla, Gabriel Somi, Jalil Anibaba, Nicolas Samayoa, Brandon Bye and Mark Segbers.
“It’s important not just for us, but for the whole team to get more connected, to get to know each other,” said Delamea. “We have a few new guys who need to adjust [to playing] with us.
“We need to take as much as possible from these games to build a good chemistry inside the team.”