MARBELLA, Spain – Preseason preparations took another natural step in their progression on Sunday morning as several New England Revolution players continued to push their fitness with 60-minute stints in a 2-0 loss to Russian powerhouse FC Krasnodar.
All 10 field players who started the match played until the hour-mark, and center back Michael Mancienne – who wore the captain’s armband – said he was pleased with how that group handled the extended runout just two weeks into their preseason work.
“I actually felt really, really good,” Mancienne said. “It was good to get 60 minutes under the belt. The boys looked fit. I think everyone’s feeling fit and feeling good at the moment.”
Head coach Brad Friedel said he’ll take a similar approach to Wednesday afternoon’s preseason meeting with Ukrainian side FC Dynamo Kyiv, as another group of players will play for 60 minutes to ensure the entire team is progressing at the proper pace, and to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to make their case for a spot in the 18 and starting XI come March 2.
“You’ll see another mixture play 60 (minutes) against Kyiv,” Friedel said. “This trip is about getting players – not so much equal minutes, but a lot of minutes, and there are a lot of players that are on show and they want to try to impress us.”
Juan Agudelo and Luis Caicedo return from injury to make preseason debuts
Juan Agudelo (30 appearances) and Luis Caicedo (30 appearances) were key figures for the Revolution last season, but both had missed the first two preseason matches with minor ankle injuries.
It was a positive sign to see both back in action on Sunday, then, as Agudelo played the final 30 minutes and Caicedo got a brief 15-minute runout against FC Krasnodar, before both then took part in a training session after the match to continue building fitness.
“I felt like a little kid,” Agudelo said of getting back onto the field. “I was really happy to be out there with the boys and competing again. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life and it brought me some happiness today.
“I felt really good. Even when I wasn’t training with the group, I was doing some pretty hard fitness stuff. On the field, I actually felt really good. After the game was over we did some training, and again, I was able to finish it off strong.”
Although Caicedo’s stint was slightly shorter, there was no hesitation from the diminutive 22-year-old midfielder, who went into several hard tackles during his brief time on the field.
“That’s the thing with somebody like Luis – he’s never going to play 50 percent, that’s for sure,” Friedel said with a chuckle. “So you have to make sure if he does pick up a little niggle that it’s fully healed, because he’s not going to shy away from a tackle.”
Revs continue to test themselves against Europa League competition
New England’s final three opponents in Marbella all have something in common, as all three are currently preparing for the Europa League Round of 32, now less than two weeks away.
Sunday’s opponent, FC Krasnodar, will play German side Bayer Leverkusen in the competition’s Round of 32, while Czech champions FC Viktoria Plzeň – whom the Revs drew, 2-2, on Friday – are gearing up for a meeting with Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb.
FC Dynamo Kyiv, whom the Revs will play on Wednesday, will face Olympiacos in a two-legged affair.
That level of competition has proven beneficial for the Revs, who’ve been tested by some of Europe’s best at a critical stage in their preparations.
“I’m just going to reiterate how good the competition is here,” said Friedel. “I’ve got to say, I’m really pleased with this being only our third game of preseason, where we’re at with fitness, where we’re at with competing against some of Europe’s best. Overall, the trip has gone really well so far.
“The area is great and the competition is really second to none. It’d be difficult to find anywhere in the world where we’d get better competition to play.”
Final match in Marbella set for Wednesday afternoon vs. FC Dynamo Kyiv
New England’s fourth and final preseason match in Spain is set for Wednesday, February 6 (3 p.m. local time, 9 a.m. ET), when they’ll take on FC Dynamo Kyiv. The Revs have suffered one loss and played to a pair of draws in their first three preseason contests.