KISSIMMEE, Fla. – After using the same starting XI in the first two matches of the MLS is Back Tournament, head coach Bruce Arena promised changes ahead of the New England Revolution’s group-stage finale against Toronto FC on Tuesday morning.
Arena then delivered on that promise, making six changes to the lineup as the Revs battled to a 0-0 draw, clinching their spot in the competition’s Round of 16 in the process.
Three of those changes were on the backline as Andrew Farrell made his tournament debut, joined in central defense by Henry Kessler and flanked on the left by DeJuan Jones. The other three changes came in the attacking third, with Teal Bunbury, Diego Fagundez, and Tajon Buchanan all getting the nod.
Wilfried Zahibo also made his tournament debut, coming off the bench at halftime.
“We had a little bit of rotation. It’s good to see,” said Arena. “We made six changes today and for the most part some guys gave us a really good effort.
“I thought bringing back our center backs, Farrell and Kessler, they did a good job. I thought a real positive for us in the second half was Zahibo. I thought he did an outstanding job. He really helped us change the game a little bit. Diego Fagundez played a good 90 minutes. I think [Gustavo] Bou and [Cristian] Penilla contributed as they came in, as did [Justin] Rennicks.”
New England used 19 different players in their three group-stage matches, going unbeaten (1-0-2) and conceding just a single goal. That not only leaves several players fresh ahead of the Round of 16 – slated to kick off this weekend – but also bodes well for the Revs as the season progresses.
“I think the potential of our team is huge,” said Kelyn Rowe, one of five Revolution players to start all three group-stage matches. “I think we have a lot of good players that can come off the bench, a lot of good players that are starting. You can see in the rotation the depth that we have, this last game (against Toronto) especially. So that’s very good.
“This tournament especially, yes, I think we can do very well. But for the rest of the season hopefully to come and for seasons after that, I think we’re going to be very good.”
With five regular-season points secured from the MLS is Back Tournament the Revs now turn their attention solely to the knockout rounds, where they’ll continue to rely upon that depth as they could be back in action as early as Saturday night.
“Everybody who came on contributed,” said Farrell. “Our midfield did a great job. Our forwards created chances. In the second half, I think we were really proud of how we did. We came out and were on the front foot.
“Obviously a lot of positives to take from it. Obviously we wanted to win, but we’ll take the point and get ready for (the Round of 16).”