Brandon Bye vs. LAFC (2021 preseason)
Willy Whitelaw

Notebook | Preseason finale replicates regular season intensity as Revs wrap in LA

LOS ANGELES – Saturday afternoon’s preseason finale at Banc of California Stadium had a little bit of everything, including six goals split between the sides as the New England Revolution wrapped up an 18-day stay on the West Coast with a 3-3 draw against Los Angeles FC.

Adam Buksa scored his team-leading third goal of the preseason just 65 seconds after the opening whistle and Matt Polster’s long-range drive doubled the lead five minutes later, while Carles Gil converted from the spot in the second half to push the Revolution’s tally to 11 goals in their final four preseason matches.

But there were also signs that it’s still early in the context of 2021 as the Revs conceded a late equalizer to LAFC for the second time in a week, highlighting specific areas to hone in on ahead of next weekend’s season opener against Chicago Fire FC.

“I think offensively we did well,” said Andrew Farrell. “We created chances, scored a couple, got the pen. I liked the work from Adam [Buksa] up top getting in behind and making it tough on their defenders. They had a high line and we got balls in behind them and tested their backline.

“Again, we’ve got to do better on a couple set pieces, a couple turnovers that led to counterattacks. But it was good to get 90 minutes for a lot of guys and get ready for the opener at Chicago next week.”

Farrell was one of nine players who went the full 90 minutes on Saturday, and particularly in the sweltering southern California sun, it was a solid test of preseason fitness.

“It was a hot one today and I think the fitness has been good throughout,” said Farrell. “Just to get 90 minutes right before the big one is really good.”

Physicality up as both sides try to replicate regular season intensity

Revolution head coach Bruce Arena wanted Saturday’s match to replicate a regular season contest as much as possible, and in many ways, it did. Intensity was high and play was physical – much more so than a typical preseason match – with several yellow cards dished out to both sides, including a pair to LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta, who was sent off.

“We definitely pushed each other,” said Polster. “A lot of tackles, a lot of competing out there. It’s good to get us ready for the game against Chicago coming up. I know we’ll be ready.”

“The intensity is amped up just a little bit more in preparation for next week,” added Farrell. “It was good. It was good to have that fire burning.”

A limited capacity crowd also added to the realism of the contest, as more than 700 vaccinated essential workers and their families were in attendance for the match at Banc of California Stadium.

Farrell and Kessler rekindle partnership in central defense

Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler started 22 games alongside each other in 2020 and weeks ago Arena tabbed the duo as the likely starting center backs to begin the regular season, but prior to Saturday they hadn’t seen any action together in the 2021 preseason.

Kessler missed the first three preseason contests because of international duty and the ensuing COVID-19 quarantine protocols, while Farrell sat out Wednesday’s abbreviated scrimmage against LA Galaxy II, when Kessler made his preseason debut. But the partnership was rekindled on Saturday as they played the full 90 minutes against LAFC.

“That’s the first time this preseason that we’ve played together, so it’s important to get that partnership going,” said Farrell. “We had, I think, something good last year, but without playing that long together, it doesn’t just come back quickly, so we’ve got to keep on working on that.”

Revs return to Foxborough for final preseason preparations

Immediately after Saturday’s match the Revs boarded a flight back to New England, having wrapped up their 18-day stay in LA with a 2-1-2 record in five preseason contests. They’ll now have one more week of training in Foxborough to get themselves ready for next Saturday’s season opener against Chicago Fire FC, slated to kick off at 8:30 p.m. ET on WBZ-TV, myRITV, and 98.5 The Sports Hub.

By the time the Revs are underway in Chicago, it will have been 133 days – or four-and-a-half months – since the Eastern Conference Final, and everyone is anxious for that long wait to be over.

“We’re definitely ready,” said Polster. “I think we have a couple things to tweak on set pieces. Other than that, I think our play was okay. I think if we just keep pushing ourselves next week for Chicago, we’ll be alright.”

“I’m so ready,” added Farrell. “It’s been a while, so can’t wait for April 17.”