MARBELLA, Spain – There was plenty for the New England Revolution to take away from Friday afternoon’s preseason friendly against FC Viktoria Plzeň – including some lessons after the Revs conceded a pair of late goals in the 2-2 draw – but the general consensus was that the MLS side acquitted themselves well against the Czech champs and a UEFA Champions League competitor.
Viktoria recently finished third in Champions League Group G behind Real Madrid and AS Roma – defeating Roma in their home fixture – and they’ll enter the Europa League in the Round of 32 with a clash against Dinamo Zagreb in two weeks’ time.
New England carried a 2-0 lead into the late stages courtesy of goals from Cristian Penilla and Brian Wright, and although they saw that lead slip away in the final 10 minutes, head coach Brad Friedel was pleased to see the way his side matched up with top-level opposition.
“They beat AS Roma at home, so they’re a good team, you could see,” Friedel said. “It puts it in perspective how good the players we have (are). It was a good opportunity to get 30-, 45-, 60-minute runouts, so we’re very, very pleased.”
“Definitely (nice) to see that we were able to get a result against a quality side,” said Wright, who finished off a pass from Diego Fagundez in the 73rd minute. “Kind of disappointed that we let up those two goals, but it’s still early in preseason, so looking to just build on the positives and keep moving forward.”
Gil sets up opening goal in Revs’ debut: “He showed some flashes today”
Just two days after officially joining via transfer from Deportivo de La Coruña, attacking midfielder Carles Gil made his Revolution preseason debut by playing the entire first half and providing the assist on Penilla’s opening goal.
Gil was sharp from the opening whistle, and his perfectly-weighted through ball to spring Penilla down the left wing in the 35th minute was a standout moment in a strong 45-minute showing.
“It was important that he gets some continuity with the team,” said Friedel. “You can see the quality that he has on the ball. He played a really good ball through for Cristian Penilla’s goal. Penilla’s starting to get some match sharpness, as well.”
It was encouraging to see Gil’s chemistry with his new teammates even without the benefit of a proper training session under his belt, and those connections should only develop further as he gets more and more involved throughout preseason.
“(He’s) definitely a quality player,” Wright said of the 26-year-old Spaniard. “He showed some flashes today, some distribution, his quality on the ball, and he looks like a calm player. I’m looking forward to getting to train more with him and an opportunity to play with him.”
Another goalkeeper battle underway as Cropper, Knighton, Turner all impress
All three of the Revolution’s rostered goalkeepers have seen action through the first two preseason games, with Brad Knighton getting 90 minutes (split between the two matches) and the duo of Cody Cropper and Matt Turner seeing 45 minutes apiece.
Knighton and Turner combined for the shutout in the 0-0 draw with Shanghai Shenhua FC on Thursday, while Cropper was sharp in Friday’s first half, making five saves – including a stellar double-stop in the 39th minute – to give Friedel and his staff plenty to assess.
“I thought Cody played well today,” Friedel said. “I thought Matt played well the other day and Brad played well the other day and today, so there’s another battle on for the first position. We’ll see how it shapes out.”
Turner was the primary starter in 2018, making 27 starts, while Knighton made a string of seven straight starts late in the season. Cropper hasn’t featured in a competitive match since 2017, but he sees a fresh opportunity to battle for the starting role this preseason.
“There’s a good group of goalkeepers here,” Cropper said. “There’s a high level of competition and I think taking it day-by-day, minute-by-minute, game-by-game is the only thing you can really do. I know all three of us are going to create a good environment for one another to compete in.”
Agudelo and Caicedo nearing returns as they push for preseason debuts
Juan Agudelo and Luis Caicedo have yet to feature this preseason as they’re currently recovering from minor knocks, but the duo is on the mend and both are expected to return soon.
New England have two more friendlies during their time in Spain – on Sunday, February 3 against Russian side FC Krasnodar, and on Wednesday, February 6, against Ukrainian power FC Dynamo Kyiv – and Friedel said both Agudelo and Caicedo could be in contention to play a role in those matches.
“They should be on the training field [on Saturday] and then we’ll just see where they are with regards to physical fitness, and see if they can take part in the games on the third and the sixth,” Friedel said.
FC Krasnodar up next for Revs on Sunday morning
After a chance to regen on Saturday the Revs will play their third match in four days on Sunday morning, as they’ll take on FC Krasnodar. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. in Spain (5 a.m. ET), and we’ll provide live updates of the action on the team’s official Twitter account (@NERevolution).