MARBELLA, Spain – Thursday morning’s preseason opener against Shanghai Shenhua FC offered the New England Revolution their first chance to take the philosophies they’ve instilled on the training ground and implement them in a game situation, and there were plenty of positive takeaways from the 0-0 draw.
Depoloying a pair of mixed lineups – both featuring several veterans and youngsters – for 45 minutes apiece, head coach Brad Friedel used the time as an opportunity for the players to build fitness, compete for minutes, and continue learning the system as preseason preparations progress.
Although clear-cut scoring chances were limited – rookie Tajon Buchanan’s late, long-range drive that was pushed off the crossbar coming closest to breaking the deadlock – Friedel was pleased with the development he’s seen from the group through the first two weeks of preseason.
“[Shanghai] are on their fifth game of preseason, and that’s our first, so they were ahead of us on fitness, but I think we looked probably the stronger of the two teams, definitely at the end of the second half,” Friedel said. “The first two [games] are going to be a mix. We’re just going to try to open it up and have some competition, and (we saw) some pleasing signs.”
“It’s always good to get out there and play someone different than yourselves,” said Scott Caldwell, who wore the captain’s armband in the first half. “Overall, I think there were some good things to take and some bad things. We’ll work on those things and continue to improve as we go through preseason.
“But overall, not a bad showing.”
Castillo solid in Revs debut: “It’s taken him zero minutes to get acclimatized”
Edgar Castillo has only spent 10 days training with his new teammates following his offseason trade from the Colorado Rapids, but the 32-year-old veteran didn’t look like a newcomer during a strong 45-minute runout on Thursday morning.
Playing the second half on a backline with Michael Mancienne, Antonio Delamea, and Brandon Bye, Castillo was solid defensively, calm in possession, and dangerous going forward.
“He’s a seasoned pro,” said Friedel. “It’s taken him zero minutes to get acclimatized to the group. [He’s] a wonderful addition to the team.”
“It feels good to get active, getting 45 minutes in on the field with the boys,” said Castillo. “(It was) my first 45 minutes and I felt pretty good.”
Early preseason minutes are about fitness and the battle for starting spots, and for newcomers like Castillo, getting accustomed to a new playing style and new system.
“It’s very important learning the system of a new team and getting adapted to that,” Castillo said. “I feel good and we’ll go game by game.”
Several youngsters get important first professional runout
Friedel said on Wednesday that many of the younger players in camp “are impressing,” and several had a chance to get their first runout against professional competition on Thursday.
Homegrown signing Justin Rennicks, SuperDraft picks Tajon Buchanan and DeJuan Jones, and Academy player Tyler Freitas all played 45 minutes, and all had standout moments, including Buchanan’s effort that hit the woodwork in the late stages.
“They all did well,” said Caldwell. “Justin had a few very, very good moments. I think as they continue to get more comfortable, they’ll do better and better. It’s good to see them grow here and get incorporated with the team.”
There will be a learning curve for all, of course, and Friedel said that’s to be expected, as it’s all part of the process of making the jump to the professional level.
“I think what’s really important is they have to understand that if they make mistakes, we don’t care about the mistakes,” Friedel said. “We just want them to learn from the mistakes. We want the players to be able to do what they’re good at and express themselves in the areas of the field that are right.
“It’ll just be a learning process for them, but they have the full confidence of the staff and we’re here to help them.”
Quick turnaround sees Revs battle FC Viktoria Plzeň on Friday
Thursday’s meeting with Shanghai Shenhua FC kicked off a stretch of three games in four days for the Revs, who’ll face Czech side FC Viktoria Plzeň on Friday (9 a.m. ET) and Russian club FC Krasnodar on Sunday (5 a.m. ET).
Friedel said Friday’s match will again feature a pair of mixed lineups for 45 minutes apiece, and it could potentially include a debut for new signing Carles Gil.
“It’s good having games the next day, the next day,” said Castillo. “That’s going to give us more rhythm in preseason, and it’s good to get on the field.”