Friedel, Revs search for 1st preseason win against San Antonio
U.S. soccer hero takes on challenge of struggling Revs side
The New England Revolution has been doing preseason in Tucson since 2012, the first year the Old Pueblo hosted full camps for Major League Soccer teams. They likely came out here for the sunny weather that’s promised in the brochures.
It didn’t work out that way this week. Practice on Thursday was a rain-out. The team ventured out Friday for a still rainy afternoon practice.
The Revs have had a couple of poor seasons. After a 2014 run that led to an MLS Cup final, they failed to qualify for the MLS Cup for the last two years. Coach Jay Heaps near the end of last season, leaving an opening for a new coach. The job went to Brad Friedel, who comes with a pedigree that includes 82 caps for the United States and numerous accolades for play in the English Premier League.
Among the changes that Friedel has made has been banning cellphones in the locker room and implementing European-style fines to enforce team discipline. More obvious for fans are new roles for both Diego Fagundez and Kellyn Rowe, players that Friedel calls “extremely talented.” Fagundez will be up top as a center forward and Rowe, who had played a variety of positions, will be in the center midfield.
The move for Fagundez paid off on Wednesday with an equalizer versus FC Dallas in a match at Kino.
There are also a crew of players new to the squad.
“We have added a bit of steel with someone who is really good on the ball, Wilfried Zahibo. We’ve added a quite a bit of pace a left fullback with Gabriel Somi,” he said. “Jalil Anibaba has come in with Nicolas Samayoa, two completely different players, different ages...both have added a different dimension to our central defense.”
He also had praise for Cristian Penilla, a midfielder on loan from Mexican club Pachuca. Penilla scored the team’s other goal against Dallas.
The team is currently still on the hunt for its first preseason win, and are aiming for that on Saturday when they take on second-division side San Antonio FC at 4 pm. Wins are nice, but the aim is building chemistry among the team getting the players used to a new style.
“We’re really happy with the way most of the players have adapted,” he said. “We’re not there yet, but we are getting there.”
Building fitness is a priority during preseason. Five Revolution players put in a full 90 minutes on Wednesday. There are a few players who are still not ready to be on the field, however. Krisztián Németh and Juan Agudelo will not be ready to train until next week.
“Sunday stroke Monday,” said Friedel in the way he learned in England.
Midfielder Zacharay Herivaux is out with an ankle injury. Lee Nguyen is not in camp because of an ongoing contract dispute.
Ted Prezelski writes about all things soccer, fútbol and piłka nożna for TucsonSentinel.com and at the blog How Flair is Punished (mindingthe.net).