The New England Revolution continued their perfect preseason on Wednesday, Feb. 19 when they played Real Salt Lake to a 0-0 draw. Both teams were liberal with substitutes as they opened their Desert Diamond Cup campaign. Although the match wasn’t streamed, the lineups and online commentary provided plenty of talking points. Below are five thoughts from the game.
1. The acquisition of Teal Bunbury is huge. On Wednesday, the Revs sent their natural first round pick in the 2015 SuperDraft and allocation money to Sporting KC in exchange for a a young, strong striker with MLS experience. Bunbury, who is coming off an injury laden season in which he only made 12 appearances, will immediately strengthen the Revolution’s options on the frontline. The former Sporting KC player is a versatile enough to move from the center to the peripheries, much like Juan Agudelo did last year. Bunbury, who is expected to arrive next week, will have competition in the form of Jerry Bengtson and Dimitry Imbongo, but neither player has locked down the starting position.
2. Woodbine maintains the title of “Preseason Ironman.” After failing to make a bench appearance in 2013, Woodbine has now logged 240 preseason minutes. The Jamaican international has occupied both outside back positions, showcasing his versatility. Woodbine has also proven to be a valuable asset in the final third as he likes to get forward and has the ability to cross, a skill that earned him the nickname of “Reno Beckham.” The development of Woodbine will be an intriguing storyline to watch because his success could move Andrew Farrell to the center.
3. The debut of Steve Neumann is crucial. Neumann has fully recovered from an ankle injury that forced him to experience Bradenton from the sidelines. While preseason injuries are never ideal, they are particularly devastating to rookies that are looking to make the transition to the pros. Neumann will now have two weeks to get game fit and impress the coaching staff. A good preseason could place the Georgetown product into the starting lineup since the team is in need of a Saer Sene stand in. Neumann, who typically operated as a second forward in college, contributed a 45 minute shift as a midfielder on Wednesday.
4. Diago Kobayashi could provide the Revs with some attacking flair. The Japanese playmaker became a free agent after a single season with the Vancouver Whitecaps in which he contributed two goals and four assists in 30 appearances. The 31-year-old entered MLS in impressive fashion by contributing a goal and an assist in the first two games. He then struggled to get on the score sheet, upsetting many because his approximate salary of $223,000 was fifth highest on the team. Kobayaski’s numbers last year weren’t overly impressive, but it’s important to remember that foreign players often take time to adjust to MLS play. Kobayashi, who trialed with the Whitecaps earlier this preseason, obviously wants to stay in MLS. If he’s willing to take a pay cut, he could be an interesting pickup for the Revs.
5. There is still time. The second-half emergence of the mysterious Mr. X, later revealed to be Diago Kobayashi, serves as proof that there is still time to trial and sign players. As General Manager Mike Burns mentioned to the media, the Revs would have liked to have the roster set by Jan. 1 in an ideal world. The soccer world isn’t ideal, however, and it’s more important that the team takes their time to ensure that their signings will work out. The failed acquisitions of players like Jose Moreno and John Lozano have created a more cautious front office. While this shift might be frustrating at times, it should also be commended.
Note: This article orginally stated that Neumann played as an outside midfielder. As stated by Corey Major (@GuyPatterson), it's more likely that Neumann played as a center midfielder. The article has been updated to reflect that idea.
Potential Opening Day Starting Linup (as of 2/20/2014)