The New England Revolution suffered their first loss of the preseason on Saturday when they were bested by Chivas USA, 3-2. Lee Nguyen and Teal Bunbury gave the Revs an early lead, but the Rojiblancos scored three answered goals through Erick Torres, Carlos Alvarez and Mauro Rosales. Below are five thoughts from the game.
1. The Revs scored two noteworthy goals. In the 11th minute, Nguyen opened his preseason account when his 19 yard free kick deceived the Chivas USA wall and goalkeeper. The goal was a rarity as the team has long struggled on set pieces. The technical play of the Revs often attracts fouls, so it’s positive to see that they can punish an opponent that is employing roguery.
The Revolution’s second goal, which came in the 20th minute, was just as satisfying as recently-acquired Bunbury scored on his debut. Diego Fagundez played provider on the goal after settling a long ball from AJ Soares. Although Bunbury has only been with a team for a short time, he has already developed great relationships with players like Fagundez, Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe.
2. The Revs used the long ball a lot, and it was successful at times. Perhaps trying to test Bunbury’s skills as a holdup player or punish the high line of Chivas USA, the Revs frequently used long ball tactics on Saturday. Route one soccer isn’t exactly “the beautiful game,” but it can be quite effective. Both of the Revolution’s goals were sparked from quick, long balls out of the back. It’s good that the Revs can effectively hit a ball over-the-top, but hopefully they continue to play the possession-oriented soccer that earned them league-wide respect.
3. Mullins should be penciled in as an opening day starter. Originally projected as a top two draft pick, many pundits didn’t know what to think when Mullins fell to the Revs at eleven. The Maryland product has shown no ill-effects in regards to the drop as he has had a solid preseason that could earn him a spot on the starting lineup when the season begins. On Saturday, Mullins took confident shots, created threatening opportunities and drew dangerous fouls. The rookie still has room for improvement as he gave the ball away a little too often. Still, it should be encouraging that Mullins is fitting in with the team.
4. The defense might not be as settled as we thought. Although the Revs returned the key pieces from one of last year’s stingiest defenses, there’s still plenty of competition. Injuries to Andrew Farrell and Chris Tierney have afforded Kevin Alston, O’Brian Woodbine and Donnie Smith significant preseason minutes. Alston’s improved attacking prowess, Woodbine’s ability to cross and Smith’s athleticism will give the coaching staff a lot to think about ahead of the season opener. Meanwhile, a healthy Stephen McCarthy will always challenge Soares and the goalkeeper battle looks far from settled.
5. Daigo Kobayashi and Marvin Ogunjimi showed flashes, but that might not be enough. Kobayashi entered the game in the 31st minute, replacing Rowe. The former Whitecaps player showed that he has the technical ability to mesh with the squad’s current playing style. If signed, Kobayashi could push Rowe and Nguyen, who didn’t have a lot of direct competition last year. Kobayashi will likely have to accept a pay cut if he wants to play for the Revs.
In his 45 minute performance, Ogunjimi showed that he’s not shy in front of the net as he took a couple of impressive shots that could have been goals on a different day. However, the Belgian might not be the right fit for the Revs because he looked more like a poacher than a holdup player.
Potential Starting Opening Day Lineup (as of 2/23/2014):