BRADENTON, Fla. – Thursday afternoon’s match against Louisville City FC was the first preseason game played upon the New England Revolution’s arrival back stateside, and they suffered a 3-1 loss to the USL club at IMG Academy.
“It was a good run out, but it was also good to play against a team that probably treated it more like a league game,” said head coach Brad Friedel. “That's something that we have to do better at, and match the intensity when other teams are out there to beat you.
"But it was a very good learning experience for a lot of our young players.”
The first-half lineup played until halftime and featured several Revs rookies – including Tajon Buchanan, DeJuan Jones, and Nicolas Firmino. Three changes were made at the half to bring on fresh legs – Teal Bunbury, Scott Caldwell and Jalil Anibaba – and another set of five faces were brought on right after the 60th minute.
Justin Rennicks, who came on just after the hour mark, provided a spark by combining with Buchanan to give the Revs their only goal of the match in the 68th minute.
“I think in the first half we took a little bit for granted, and you could see a change in pace, a change in mentality from the players that came on in the second half, “ said goalkeeper Cody Cropper. “They really changed the outcome of the game."
The field players continue to work towards 90 minutes fitness and take the lessons in the importance of mentality as they continue to build throughout preseason.
Revolution rookies getting “a little rhythm” going
A high point in the Revs' play against Louisville was the notable contributions by some New England newcomers, highlighted by a goal headed inside the far post by Rennicks, who scored his first goal of the Revolution preseason.
“It was great,” said Rennicks. “Obviously I’ve been looking for one ever since the start of preseason in Spain, so to get one now opens up the gates (to get) a little rhythm going and hopefully just keep getting more.”
The goal came just three minutes after Rennicks entered the match early in the second half, demonstrating that fresh legs can make an impact.
While it’s still early in preseason, even the New England veterans notice the work that Rennicks has been putting in.
“I think he’s had a great mentality,” said Cody Cropper. “He comes in and makes a difference. He’s obviously done well getting minutes as he has and I think he’s taking advantage of those opportunities. He’s learning very quickly.”
To augment the play, the setup for the goal was created by another Revs' rookie, Tajon Buchanan, who played a left-footed cross, allowing Rennicks to follow through with the finish.
It’s evident that these two rookies are starting to create a strong bond.
“Even now in preseason I think we have a lot of chemistry, so I think future games, in the actual season or even the rest of preseason, we’re just going to keep connecting and keep making goals,” said Rennicks.
Jones steps up to preseason plate while Farrell recovers from injury
While seven-year veteran Andrew Farrell's presence is missed in preseason while he recovers from a face/eye injury that's currently keeping him in Foxborough, Mass., it’s provided a chance for other young players to rise to the occasion.
DeJuan Jones, a first-round SuperDraft pick (11th overall) currently fighting for a roster spot, got that chance as he had just over a 60-minute run out at the right back position.
The newcomer played with pace and intensity, making his speed noticeable on the pitch. He made several big runs, including one that connected a pass to Luis Caicedo that brought the Revs one of their best chances early on in the game.
“DeJuan [Jones] we played at right back because of Andrew Farrell's injury, and we don't want to overplay Brandon [Bye], so it was good to see a lot of the young players get a run out all together,” said Friedel.
“It'll be a learning lesson for them for sure, and a learning lesson for us at a great stage in their development."
Farrell will join the team in Florida as soon as he is able to travel.
Goalkeeper battle heats up as 'keepers have chance to play full 90 minutes
Friedel has made it very clear that all players are vying for spots in the starting 11, and that’s no exception at the goalkeeper position.
Each 'keeper – Cody Cropper, Matt Turner and Brad Knighton – has seen 45 minutes at a time through the first couple preseason matches in Spain. However, as the season opener inches closer with only a little more than two weeks to go, they will start to see longer, full 90-minute run outs.
“I think that there's a clean, healthy competition in goal,” said Cropper, who was the first to see a full 90 in Thursday’s match against Louisville. “Obviously, Brad [Knighton] and Matt [Turner] are both very good goalkeepers, and I'm just taking it day-by-day. I think each and every one of them is, as well."
Friedel expressed that as the preseason progresses, he will give Turner and Knighton each a 90-minute stint in the upcoming games.
“When we were over in Spain, we split everything 45 [minutes] – 45 [minutes].” said Friedel. “Normally, I would like the goalkeepers to play 90 minutes in a game, so the next game will be a different goalkeeper.
“And then they'll rotate, and when we get to the Orlando and Reykjavik games, we'll see what happens."