The New England Revolution began the second part of the preseason with a 2-2 draw against FC Dallas a few days ago. The Revs next preseason game is later today against USL side San Antonio FC, a club Zach Herivaux is familiar with having spent some time on loan there last year.
Herivaux will not be getting significant minutes against some of his former teammates, because Herivaux is out injured. The Revs are a little thin at holding midfield right now and that was before Wilfried Zahibo saw red against Dallas as well. While the red card was bad, I’m more upset that new Revs head coach Brad Friedel doesn’t seem to think that challenge was a big deal...
FRIEDEL’S REACTION TO ZAHIBO’S RED CARD
Friedel on Zahibo’s early red card: “I’ve got no issue with the tackle. Referees make decisions, and we’ll get on with it. Some referees will call it, and some won’t; that’s just how it goes.” #NERevs— Jeff Lemieux (@jeff_lemieux) February 14, 2018
Let me do a very brief 3rd Yellow analysis of Zahibo’s red card:
That is a red card, and that is a red card the DisCo will probably give a three game suspension for. No, it doesn’t matter that the FC Dallas player slid as well, Zahibo is late, he leads with his studs and making that challenge from that close of a range means it’s also excessive force in my book. It wasn’t a poorly timed challenge as it was an horrendous decision to even attempt the challenge in that spot (high risk, low reward, high risk of injuring an opponent) and per preseason rules, Zahibo should be sitting out today’s game against San Antonio due to suspension though that might be still be up in the air for reasons unknown.
Zahibo is lucky that’s all he’s sitting out, and I understand it’s preseason but I don’t think Brad fully understands just how bad that challenge could have been given his reaction above and Friedel wanting Zahibo available tonight for San Antonio. That’s not a 50/50 or orange card situation where we might need VAR to confirm the red card, Zahibo almost caused a serious injury on that play and it’s minutes into a preseason game and to pass it off as a simple referee decision or that it’s preseason doesn’t give me a good opinion of Friedel as a head coach early on.
If Friedel wants to down play the red card, then he needs to choose his words more carefully. That was not a good challenge and a coach should not be condoning that kind of behavior or play on the field because it puts the team in bad situations. For a team that had six red cards last year, including two by Xavier Kouassi in just about 1200 minutes played, passing off a challenge like this is borderline irresponsible in my opinion. Your players are going to continue to do it, and while they’re serving lengthy suspensions, the rest of the team will have to play on short handed.
Friedel probably meant to say that he wants Zahibo to stay aggressive but he needs to pick his spots better. Or something like that, because the comment he made above is insulting to the referee who made the call.
That would be Fotis Bazakos by the way. Yes, I just defended Mr. WTFotis himself, who not only made the correct call, but on top of that I have to explain to my head coach why his comments about said call make no sense.
2018 is gonna be weird guys...I can just feel it...
DEFENSE STILL NEEDS WORK
Okay, I’m not going to lose my mind on the defense here. Antonio Delamea has missed time being in Slovenia, becoming a dad, getting his green card, etc. Zahibo was a late arrival in camp as well and there’s a lot of new pieces on the backline that I’m reasonably excited about.
Jalil Anibaba is about as solid an MLS defender as they come and having him off the bench to play center and right back will be a tremendous asset when he’s not called into start. I haven’t gotten a chance to see Gabriel Somi play on the left that much, but Brandon Bye looks like he’s going to get minutes this year as he’s had a strong preseason camp.
The two goals the Revs gave up against Dallas were of the soft variety, but that’s not what bothers me about the Revs defense:
Pro: In three of their four preseason matches, the #NERevs have battled back to earn positive results after conceding the first goal.— Jeff Lemieux (@jeff_lemieux) February 14, 2018
Con: They've conceded first in all four of their preseason matches.
A fighting spirit is great ... but obviously you'd prefer not to need it.
Yes, I know the Revs are still missing Juan Agudelo and Kristian Nemeth up top due to injuries, but this is not a good trend, even in preseason. Like Jeff, I also love that the Revs are battling back, but they shouldn’t have to do it every single time, not even in preseason.
CRISTIAN PENILLA IS GOOD AT SOCCER
I know Revs fans are normally apprehensive about international signings because, well I want to keep this column short so I won’t go there...
(Side note, look at the crafty play from the kids Wright and Bye here...love it.)
But seriously, Penilla looks good and it’s not just the goal scoring although that’s a tremendous bonus even in preseason. What makes me think Penilla will be a great signing isn’t the goals, but rather the chemistry he already seems to have, especially with Fagundez in this video clip from Diego postgame.
Penilla seems to be in line for major minutes on the wing, so depending on Friedel’s formation that could push either Diego or Rowe inside or someone like Teal Bunbury to the bench. Either way, the Revs are never short on attacking options and that goes especially for this year.
We still haven’t seen the best Revs lineup in preseason yet, and certainly won’t today so it’s hard to see where New England really is under Friedel at this time. The more reps the backline gets the better, holding midfield is again an issue with suspensions and injury and the offense could improve drastically when Agudelo and Nemeth are healthy enough to feature.
Two weeks until the regular season begins.