Now that the Revolution have wrapped up their preseason schedule, now is as good a time as ever to look back see what we learned in the last five weeks. In no particular order, of course.
–Matt Reis may have just locked up the first string goalkeeper’s job following Saturday night’s strong outing. Jay Heaps praised Reis’ performance, and added that he and Nick Rimando “have the two best feet as goalkeepers.” Combine that sentiment with Reis’ preseason showing and Bobby Shuttleworth’s inability to take the job by force, and it very much appears that Reis will do what he’s done every year for the past eight years: hold onto the starting goalkeeper spot.
–In addition to Reis, Scott Caldwell and Lee Nguyen looked especially crisp this winter. At 5-8, Caldwell doesn’t play big, especially for a central midfielder, but the kid sure can find his teammates. Not only did he show flashes of creativity, but he has a great knack for being a stubborn presence on defense. Meanwhile, Nguyen looked better than ever with his injured shoulder fully healed. He menaced the opposition, made good runs inside the attacking third, and was clearly the most creative player in camp. With a full preseason under his belt, Nguyen’s second year in Foxboro may be even better than his first.
–It’s tough to judge a performance based on tweets and highlight reel alone, but it sounded like Tyler Polak put in a statement game on Saturday. Going the full 90 at left back, the 20-year-old helped keep the ambitious Red Bulls off the board, with a key win on a 50/50 ball near the back post – and with Tim Cahill breathing down his neck, no less – to preserve the shutout. True, preseason performances are never the most consistent barometers of success. However, if Saturday’s game was a preview of coming attractions, then Polak might be primed for a breakout season.
–Rookie Donnie Smith looks like he’s on his way to signing a deal. The left-sided midfielder saw action in all six games – his best coming against NY, when he assisted on Jerry Bengtson’s goal and created the penalty that Nguyen converted – and given the amount of time he saw on the field, appears to be a part of the team’s plans this season. It wouldn’t be surprising if, given Chris Tierney’s injury, he starts the season in Foxboro.
–Meanwhile, Luis Soffner appears to be an early favorite to get assigned to Rochester, should he sign a contract. The rookie goalkeeper saw scant minutes this preseason, likely due to the battle between Reis and Shuttleworth.
–More favorites for a spot on the Rochester roster (a place where, coincidentally, ex-Rev Blake Brettschneider is currently listed): Gabe Latigue, Sainey Nyassi, Bilal Duckett and Matt Horth. Latigue’s currently unsigned, but his set piece abilities make him an intriguing prospect. Nyassi needs regular playing time if he’s to ever return to his early-career form. Duckett is a versatile defender, but didn’t quite distinguish himself this winter. Horth may see time with the first team, but he’s a victim of numbers, even with Saer Sene a good two months away from action.
–By now, it looks as though Andrew Farrell will be the first choice right back until further notice. Going into camp, it was unclear whether he’d assume a spot in the center or out on the right. Well, he’s proven capable in both roles, but given the impressive camp A.J. Soares registered, Farrell’s your starting right back.
–The way it looks, two days after the final preseason game: GK: Reis, RB: Farrell, CB: Goncalves, CB: Soares, LB: Alston, LM: Nguyen, CM: Simms, CM: Cisse, RM: Rowe, CAM/FWD: Fagundez, FWD: Bengtson.
–Speaking of formations, the Revolution seemed to utilize a flexible 4-4-2/4-2-3-1, mixing and matching midfield options. The back four stayed, well, relatively the same, in terms of shape. However, the most pressing issue seems to be up top, where it’s clear Bengtson needs a big body to play off of. Note: that big body won’t be ready until April. In light of that, Chad Barrett is going to have to get fit – and quickly, because Fagundez in the withdrawn forward/#10 role offered little to the attack this winter.
–Not that we didn’t know this already: Jay Heaps is a big fan of the Desert Diamond Cup set up. Following Saturday’s consolation game, Heaps gave the media some insight as to why he enjoys the Tucson experience: “We love coming here. For us, it provides a really good opportunity to play four excellent games with three different teams, and so the whole thing’s perfect for us because it’s set up like a real game, meaning that we take the bus here, we eat together, we prepare and for me, it really helps us in situations to get ready for the season.”
–Players who separated themselves from the pack: Caldwell, Nguyen, Farrell, Smith, Soares and Reis. Players who need to put together stronger showings during the regular season: Shuttleworth, Cisse and Nyassi.
–We hardly knew ye: Olivier Kapo (0 games), Nerman Crnkic (0 games), Cameron Brown (1 game), Anthony Salciccia (1 game), Luke Spencer (1 game), Marko Jesic (2 games, 1 goal), Alex De John (2 games), Chris Thomas (2 games), Quinton Griffith (2 games)