ORLANDO, Fla. – As the season opener inches closer - just about two weeks away - there are plenty of lessons to learn, including those from Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Minnesota United FC at the Orlando City SC Invitational.
“We got more minutes for some players,” said head coach Brad Friedel. “I thought we created some good chances. Didn't struggle. A little bit sloppy in the center of the field at the start of the second half, but all in all, not bad.”
“There's definitely things we have to work on on both sides of the ball,” said Scott Caldwell. “We'll review it.
“Just looking at it, I think we got to find the forwards going forward more to create more chances. Overall, it wasn't bad, but we got to get results. We got to get into that habit, and it starts now."
Each opportunity for the Revs to play pushes the team’s fitness a little bit further, and this match served the purpose of doing exactly that. The lineup featured eleven fresh faces, different from those who started two days prior against Louisville, providing a chance for others to get an extended run out.
“(We’re) quite pleased that Brandon Bye and Edgar Castillo got 90 minutes, which is really important,” said Friedel. “Cristian Penilla [got] 80 minutes, and a few others in the 60 and 70 minute range, so we're starting to get there."
“I think that was another positive takeaway,” said Caldwell. “I think we did a great job getting fitness. Maybe making more runs than normal in certain areas of the field, and I think that's a good thing to take away from it."
Rookie run outs are a “big learning experience”
Chances for the Revs rookies to get preseason minutes is crucial, and newly signed homegrown duo Justin Rennicks and Nicolas Firmino are taking full advantage.
“Big learning experience for them,” said Friedel. “We want them to develop as quickly as they can, so we're going to give them a lot of chances to do that."
Rennicks saw his first extended run out, playing almost 75 minutes against Minnesota. The Massachusetts native has not been shy to handle the ball, proving so after he scored last match against Louisville and then came close on Saturday as he hit a right footed shot on target, forcing a save by the ‘keeper.
On the other hand, Firmino came off the bench as one of four substitutions at that timestamp, and fought to show his skills. The 18-year-old almost found a second half equalizer as he came close to cleaning up a rebound in the penalty area.
“They’ve been working hard and have been learning a lot, and they continue to impress, so it’s good to see that,” said Caldwell about the pair of homegrowns. “They’ve just got to keep it up. It’s a long season – they’ll learn that. They’ll just have to keep going every single day.”
Revs look ahead to “get ready for the next one”
As the Revs now head back to their home base in Bradenton, Fla. at IMG Academy, they will look to implement Saturday’s takeaways starting Sunday when they will hit the ground running at training.
“We’ll have to recover a little bit,” said Caldwell. “Then get ready for the next one, continue to build our fitness and look at the positives and negatives in order to keep getting better.”
New England will have three full days to recoup and train before Wednesday’s second leg of the Orlando City Invitational, this time against the Lions themselves.
However, the primary objective for the duration of preseason is to get the squad physically prepared for the season starting in March, and that will continue with Sunday’s training session.
"(A focus is) match fitness,” said Friedel. “Fingers crossed players don't get injured in the games and hope we can win the next game, of course. But there's a lot of different elements to preseason."
Wednesday’s match against Orlando City SC is set to kick off at 7:30 p.m. ET.