The New England Revolution played their first game of 2014 when they fought Malmo FF to a 1-1 draw on Friday, January 31. The Revs struck first when Kelyn Rowe attacked a poor back pass and put the ball in the back of the net. Malmo was able to bring the game level in the 26th minute when Magnus Eriksson pounced on his own rebound. Large scale changes in the second half didn’t affect the score line as the Revs were forced to accept a preseason draw. Below are five thoughts from the game.
1. The Jose Goncalves plot thickens. Fans were instantly worried when they noticed that their captain and defensive rock was absent from the starting lineup. Those worries grew when Goncalves, who has been training with the team, wasn’t brought in during the second half. Little is known about the situation since conversations are happening behind closed doors, as they should. Hopefully the issue will be resolved soon because fans are eager to see Goncalves back on the field. (Note: Team staff writer Jeff Lemieux later tweeted that Goncalves was held out because of a minor knock.)
2. Dimitry Imbongo still has flaws. The Congo native has improved greatly during his two years in Foxboro, but Friday’s game showed that the big man still has a ways to go. During his first half stint as the lone striker, Imbongo showed deficiencies when it came to his first touch and his shooting, especially on free kicks. Imbongo still has a role on the team as a bruiser that can hold the ball, but he will need to show more if he wants to stay on the Revolution roster past 2014.
3. Heaps likes to convert players. One of the most notable moves that Heaps has made since becoming head coach was converting Stephan McCarthy to center back. The former midfielder looked comfortable with the move as he earned significant minutes over presumed starters John Lozano and AJ Soares. Heaps appears to be making a similar push this year as he experimented with Donnie Smith at left back and Alec Sundly at center back. While these moves might have been done out of necessity more than anything else, it’s clear that Heaps doesn’t mind rearranging players.
4. Bobby Shuttleworth looked good. Questions were raised when Matt Reis retired and Brad Knighton was brought in. Although Shuttleworth is now in his sixth year with the club, many Revolution fans are uncertain about his status as the team’s number one. Shuttleworth helped bring clarity to the goalkeeping situation by putting in a solid 90 minute shift during which he made two particularly important saves. The competition between Shuttleworth and Knighton is certainly real, but it looks like Shuttleworth is ready to claim the starting position.
5. Let’s keep our options open. Heaps turned heads with his starting eleven that featured Andrew Farrell as center back, O’Brian Woodbine as right back and Marko Perovic in the midfield. All three players made the most of their unique situations. Farrell made important tackles, Woodbine showed a desire to attack and Perovic brought a much needed veteran presence to the team. In the second half, Donnie Smith, Pierre Omanga and Juan Perotti showed flashes of excellence. Preseason is a time where teams can experiment ahead of the grind that is the regular season. While it’s important that the Revs establish a solid starting lineup before the season opener against the Houston Dynamo, the team, and fans, should be willing to look at the current squad with an open mind.
Potential Opening Day Starting Lineup (As of 2/1/2014):