TUCSON, Ariz. – Wednesday afternoon’s 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City provided critical preseason minutes for a host of New England Revolution players, but perhaps none more so than forwards Juan Agudelo and Krisztián Németh.
Both players missed the Revolution’s first five preseason matches while battling injury, and both have followed a similar path back to the field. The duo returned to full training on Monday, and both Agudelo and Németh got a little more than 30 minutes of game action under their belts on Wednesday.
Head coach Brad Friedel’s primary concern was seeing both players come through the runout unscathed, and their performances left him confident that they’re well on the road to full fitness.
“They look fit, and their movements were all very good,” Friedel said. “I don’t think we’re going to have any – well, knock on wood – any recurrence of the injuries.
“We were very, very pleased with seeing them get 30 minutes coming out unscathed, and with their overall effort in the game.”
Agudelo, who saw 20 minutes of action with the U.S. National Team in a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina in late January, said he feels 100 percent in terms of fitness, but admits that his sharpness is still coming back after a three-week spell on the sidelines.
Agudelo also said he has a bit of catchup work to do in terms of tactics and approach, as he works to fully understand his role in Friedel’s system.
“It’s a new system, a new rhythm, so I was just trying to get into it,” said Agudelo, who played as the target forward with Németh operating underneath at times. “(I’ve been) battling to try to get back and to try to build that chemistry that everybody that’s healthy has been building during this preseason.”
Németh, who also dealt with a frustrating calf injury after arriving in New England last August, thought he had his name on the scoresheet when he nodded home Diego Fagundez’s set-piece service from the left wing, only to see the goal chalked off after video review ruled him to be offside.
Still, it was a promising sign for Németh, who’s hoping to be rejuvenated in 2018.
“It just feels good to be back to the team,” said Németh, who also saw a bit of time on the right wing. “We worked hard when I was injured. I was waiting for this moment just coming back to play some minutes.”
Both Agudelo and Németh are expected to be key pieces of a dynamic Revolution attack this season, which officially kicks off next Saturday when the Revs visit the Philadelphia Union.
The objective is for both players to be fit and available for that match, and Németh, for one, has no doubts that he’ll be ready to go when the Revs head to Talen Energy Stadium.
“I’m getting sharp and I feel good fitness-wise, so I think I’m going to be ready for the Philly game,” said Németh, who’ll have one more preseason runout on Saturday in the Mobile Mini Sun Cup finale. “When you miss [time], you need a couple of days just coming back. This week we have a game on Saturday, so again I’m going to have some minutes. For next week, I’m going to fly.”