LOS ANGELES – A young New England Revolution squad made the most of their opportunity to impress on Wednesday morning, lifting the Revs to their first victory of preseason, 3-1 over the Colorado Rapids on the grounds of Dignity Health Sports Park.
New England’s starting group featured four Academy products – Isaac Angking, Scott Caldwell, Justin Rennicks, and Damian Rivera – and a fifth entered in the 30th minute when Nicolas Firmino replaced Angking. Rookie center back Henry Kessler, SuperDraft pick Simon Lekressner, and second-year players Tajon Buchanan and DeJuan Jones also started.
That group scored all three of the Revolution’s goals, giving the Revs a 2-0 lead at halftime and a 3-1 advantage by the time a more veteran squad took over at the hour-mark to see the game out.
“I think we did really well,” said Rennicks, who made two league appearances as a rookie last year and scored his first professional goal in the U.S. Open Cup. “We went out there with high hopes. We were organized, we did our job … we got our goals, and for the young guys, we played really well.”
17-year-old Rivera scores pair of goals in first MLS preseason appearance
Rivera had to wait an extra two days to make his preseason debut after he didn’t feature in Monday’s opener against the Galaxy, but the 17-year-old grasped hold of his chance when it arrived.
The Cranston, R.I., product – who was the second-youngest Homegrown signing in club history when he signed as a 16-year-old this past November – opened the scoring in just the seventh minute, ghosting in at the back post to finish off a low, right-wing cross from Jones.
Rivera then added a second goal in the 19th minute, this time using an individual effort to shake a defender inside the box, shift onto his left foot and blast a shot past Rapids goalkeeper Andre Rawls.
“I’m super happy for the kid,” said Jones, five years Rivera’s senior at 22 years old. “He’s got a lot of talent, so I’m super happy for him to get two goals today. I know he’s going to continue to get goals, continue to play well, so really happy for him.”
Rennicks said fellow Academy products like himself, Angking, and Firmino have been quick to serve as mentors and help Rivera’s adjustment at the MLS level.
“He was in the right place at the right time,” Rennicks said. “He got two goals, which is great for him, and hopefully he just adds to it. He’s been doing well.”
Jones plays big role in Revs’ attack from outside back
As a rookie, Jones made the transition from speedy attack-minded winger to speedy outside back, starting 10 games at left back, including the Revs’ playoff meeting with Atlanta United.
Jones started Wednesday’s preseason contest at right back and made himself a menace down the flank, consistently overlapping Buchanan on the wing. He did the same when he switched to the left side for the final 30 minutes, working in tandem with Kelyn Rowe.
The result was a pair of assists, as Jones set up both Rivera’s opener and Buchanan’s capper, both with low crosses after using his pace to get to the endline on the right side.
“(I’m) just building relationships with my teammates and my coaching staff, as well,” Jones said. “They’re acknowledging that I can get forward. Also, my teammates are recognizing that when I go forward, someone has to drop for me.
“There are relationships that I’m building, and I’m just continuing to do what I do best – get forward, get down the line, and serve in crosses.”
Mancienne makes brief return; four others remain unavailable
Michael Mancienne made his preseason debut on Wednesday – replacing Andrew Farrell at center back in the 60th minute – but just 17 minutes later he was forced off after taking a knock. Farrell came back into the match to finish out the final stages, having played the full 90 on Monday against LA.
Alexander Büttner, Luis Caicedo, Antonio Delamea, and Carles Gil were once again unavailable, and their preseason debuts will have to wait until the Revs move camp to Portland, Ore., later this week.
Revs shift camp up the coast to Portland, Ore., for final phase of preseason
New England will wrap up their week-long stay in California with one final training session on Thursday morning, before they’ll pack up and head north to Portland, Ore., for nine more days of preseason work.
There the Revs will play their final three matches of preseason against Minnesota United (Feb. 16), the Vancouver Whitecaps (Feb. 19), and Portland Timbers (Feb. 22), and head coach Bruce Arena is hoping to see significant progress through that trio of games.
“We need to play games that are a little bit more difficult, and they will be as we get into Portland, so I think that’ll be good for the group,” said Arena. “Hopefully we can catch up. I think we’re a little bit behind at this stage, so we’ve got to get moving our team a little bit quicker.”