BRADENTON, Fla. – The New England Revolution responded to head coach Brad Friedel’s call to increase work ethic and effort in-game following last night’s performance against Orlando City SC, defeating USL League One side Greenville Triumph SC, 4-1, in an abbreviated 80-minute scrimmage on Thursday afternoon at IMG Academy.
While the sides were level 1-1 at the half, it was a rejuvenated Revolution team that completed a second-half comeback for a well-timed preseason victory.
“We started a little bit slow, which was probably normal given what happened last evening,” said Friedel. “It was really good to see the likes of Colby [Quinones], Trevor [Burns] come on – [Nicolas] Firmino got some more minutes.
“Justin Rennicks, we got to see him up as a number nine and, again, just overall more minutes for the players.”
The Revs put out a mix of rookies, veterans and Academy players to start the match, but Friedel made it clear that no matter who was on the pitch that the team needed to play with high intensity.
That's exactly what New England demonstrated as they notched a quartet of goals scored by Diego Fagundez, Cristian Penilla, Brian Wright, and a trialist.
While it may have been mostly veterans who got on the board, it was Homegrown rookie Rennicks who played balls to both Fagundez and Wright to set up two of these efforts.
“We picked it up towards the end,” said Wright. “Coach talked about the intensity and to keep it going. We’re almost at the end of preseason – one more game – so [we] definitely need to keep this intensity going.
“We hope to [carry] this momentum into the last game on Saturday.”
Academy players capitalize on the chance to play with the first team
The Revolution Academy provides many unique training opportunities for their athletes, and players present in Bradenton, Fla., capitalized on the chance to play with the first team.
Academy player Tyler Freitas, who also trained with the Revs during their first preseason leg in Marbella, Spain, featured as a starter against Greenville, and at the 60-minute mark, when Freitas came off alongside Revs rookie Firmino, both Academy players Quinones and Burns were called on to finish off the game.
“It’s important for them to come into the group, but it’s also important for them to get acclimatized as we’re looking at them in the same way as any other player to see if we give them contracts if they’re ready to play professionally,” said Friedel.
“This isn’t a fun camp for them; they’re on trial just as anyone else, so I thought by and large most of them did very well.”
The scale of this type of opportunity to get minutes with the first team is extremely important, and is one of the unique benefits of the Revolution Academy.
Since the first Homegrown signing of Diego Fagundez, the Academy has produced six first-team players, and the original Homegrown veteran has noticed how much value these type of situations provide the young Academy athletes.
“It’s a huge opportunity for them,” said Fagundez. “I remember my first year, we didn’t really have a lot of Academy [kids] come. Now they’ve been coming for a couple years now (and) they know what to do. I think they know that if they step on the field, they need to give it all they have, work hard, and so far everybody’s been doing that.
“We’re looking forward to hopefully bringing more so that the Academy can grow a little more, but I think everybody’s just happy overall.”
Homegrown Firmino finds chances in first extended run-out
Preseason offers newcomers a chance to acclimate to professional play, and Firmino is taking advantage as he settles in with his first extended run-out with the first team.
The Somerville, Mass., resident played for 60 minutes against Greenville, and you could tell that the rookie was out to impress.
“I think it’s showing in the games that every time he steps on it that he wants to be on the ball, wants to make everybody better, and I think little by little he’s going to learn a lot from us and he just needs to take that,” said Fagundez. “With the coaching staff and players that we have, we can definitely make him a better player.”
Firmino eagerly approaches any playing opportunity, and this was evident on Thursday as you could see the hunger in the youngster’s demeanor on the pitch.
The Homegrown wasn’t shy to take two shots, both of which were on target. Firmino had a powerful right-footed shot that was tipped over the crossbar in the first half, and came out in the second half with a drive from inside the penalty area that forced another save.
“Since he’s come in here he’s gotten a couple games under his belt,” said Friedel. “He’s just recently turned 18 years of age so it’ll be a process for him on his development, but we see good signs.”
Revs have one more chance to showcase in preseason on Saturday
Following Thursday’s match against Greenville, the Revs have a one-day turnaround time before playing their final preseason game against Icelandic side KR Reykjavik on Saturday.
New England will train on Friday before aiming to carry the momentum from Thursday’s victory on the pitch this weekend.
“We’ve got to just be sharp in our last game,” said Wright.
“We want to make sure that our intensity is as high as it can be before our last game. Fitness levels, make sure we want that to be there as well, and then just end on a good note, and then carry that into the season.”
The match against KR Reykjavik is set for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. There will be a live stream available, and further details to access this will be available on www.revolutionsoccer.net and on the team Twitter (@NERevolution) handle.