BRADENTON, Fla. – New England Revolution head coach Brad Friedel said that he was expecting a “far more competitive bunch” on Saturday against Icelandic side KR Reykjavik, and the Revs delivered on his sentiment with a 2-1 win in their preseason finale.
“That was a different type of game – very physical – a lot of challenges going out there,” said Friedel. “And the players competed, which was nice, because that was one element we were missing against Orlando.
“We got it back against Greenville, which was nice to see. It was a good team performance today for a preseason game."
A pair of goals from Cristian Penilla and Luis Caicedo lifted the Revs to victory, but it was an all-around team effort in this aggressive match. Rookie DeJuan Jones played a ball that bounced off the far post, giving L. Caicedo the perfect opportunity to finish the rebound with a late game winner.
As a whole, the Revs finished preseason with three wins, two draws and four losses across nine matches, but having two back-to-back victories will help propel them into the regular season and build momentum heading towards next Saturday’s season opener against FC Dallas.
“I think we're in a good place,” said Teal Bunbury. “I think it's really important that we were able to get a win. I was pleased with how the guys played, how we responded from our last game. I think that was something that was huge.
“It's been a tough and pretty long preseason, but I think we've benefited from it. I think we've grown from the start to where we are now."
Angking, J. Caicedo, Farrell all recovering from injury
Three players are working through injuries, including Isaac Angking, Juan Fernando Caicedo, and Andrew Farrell. Friedel provided updates on the trio after Saturday’s preseason match.
“Isaac is nearing being able to join the group full time,” said Friedel. “He had a little bit of quad strain.”
One of the Revs' newcomers, J. Caicedo, picked up a small muscular injury, and is “very, very close” to being able to jump back in with the team.
While both Anking and J. Caicedo are close to recovery, veteran Farrell unfortunately did not make the preseason trip to Bradenton, Fla., and has a little bit of a longer road following his injury.
“[It was] a freak training ground accident,” said Friedel regarding Farrell. “It actually was an injury to his eye. It's kept him out even from being allowed to do a lot of anything for a couple of weeks.
“We'll see what progress he's made when we get back. Hopefully, he'll be with us for the first game, but it'll be touch-and-go."
Veterans "have been really impressed” with rookie DeJuan Jones
It’s no secret that players who are on trial during preseason give it their all, and Revs newcomer DeJuan Jones has done exactly that throughout the past few weeks.
The first-round SuperDraft pick (11th overall) is currently fighting for a roster spot, but has continued to demonstrate what he can do every time he comes on pitch.
Jones played a key role in setting up L. Caicedo’s game winner against Reykjavik. Jones took a shot himself and while he hit the far post, put L. Caicedo in the perfect position to finish the job and secure the Revs a win.
“I’ve been really impressed with him, to be honest,” said Michael Mancienne regarding Jones. “I think he’s a very good player, a very good prospect and he has a bright future ahead of him.”
The 21-year-old continues to demonstrate his talent both in game situations and training, and additional New England veterans have certainly noticed.
“He's been doing excellent,” said Bunbury. “From the moment he got here, he's been working hard. He asks questions. I think that he's grown from the beginning of camp to now. I think you can tell he's a sponge out there, and he wants to soak things in.
“He's got a motor, he's got athleticism, and he's also really good on the ball. Really pleased with how his preseason has gone."
Revs looking forward to Dallas after "a very good preseason"
Following a two-week stint across the Atlantic in Marbella, Spain, and another two weeks down in Florida, the Revs are finally New England-bound on Sunday as they return back to their home base in Foxborough, Mass.
“We'll have a recovery day tomorrow down here,” said Friedel. “We'll fly back home, and then we'll start getting the team together for the Dallas game.
“All in all, it was a very good preseason. The players worked very, very hard, and we're all very much looking forward to the season starting."
It’s approximately a week out from the Revs' season opener in Dallas, and following all of their diligent efforts during preseason, they are feeling ready to take on the new campaign.
“[Now we’re going to] prepare mentally. We're already physically ready,” said Mancienne, who wore the captain’s armband in the preseason finale. “I think everyone is at match fitness and raring to go."
The Revs were able to bond both on and off the field throughout preseason, with chances to get to know each other on a personal level while also developing game tactics and philosophies.
"I think all the time spent together – a lot of the stuff off the field, just becoming a closer-knit group – I think that's going to correlate to on the field," said Bunbury.
“There's a lot of players that can be starting and only 11 get selected to start. We know it's going to be a long season this year, and everybody is going to have to step up."
The Revs will kick off the 2019 MLS season in Dallas on Saturday, March 2 at 4:30 p.m. ET.