ALLSTON, Mass. – Deploying what was essentially a B team, a tough test loomed before the New England Revolution on Wednesday night at Harvard’s Jordan Field. Only 15 players were on the gameday roster, as injuries and international call-ups added up. Jay Heaps’ squad’s response?
No problem, with the Revs rolling to a 2-1 win over D.C. United in the fifth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
“I feel like our squad is very deep, if not the deepest team we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said goalkeeper Brad Knighton. “Guys get opportunities that normally don’t get opportunities in MLS play, and it’s up to them to capitalize on the opportunities. I feel like we’ve done that in the last two Open Cup games.”
In all, key starters Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe were off preparing for the 2017 Gold Cup with the US, and midfield enforcer Gershon Koffie was partaking in a pair of friendlies with Ghana. The injury bug took its toll, too, particularly in midfield. A trio of key cogs – Xavier Kouassi, Daigo Kobayashi, and Scott Caldwell – were all out with varying ailments. Then Antonio Mlinar Delamea, a starting center back, fractured his nose in New England’s loss last weekend to Toronto FC.
“Start to finish guys knew what we had to do,” Heaps said. “We didn’t have a full bench because of the injuries and call-ups. I’m excited the guys were able to put the full shift in and really have good performances.”
Come the second half – and with a 2-1 lead courtesy of strikes from Fagundez and rookie Brian Wright – Heaps decided to finally bring on some of the usual starters.
“No matter what players are on the field, everyone’s digging 100 percent,” Fagundez said. “No matter who’s there, you know what you’re going to get and what to do. We just came out here and showed we wanted to win.”
But while the Revs earned a result with their B squad against Ben Olsen’s group, they’ll be hoping to return to full strength soon.
They travel to face the Philadelphia Union on Sunday (5 pm ET, FS1 and Fox Deportes in US, MLS LIVE in Canada), and early signs, per Heaps, are that seven missing guys could still be out. Come then, the message will stay the same: Dig deep, no matter who’s out there.
“With it being a midweek and having an extra day of rest, we wanted to get all our guys minutes as well,” Heaps said. “That’s why Kei and Lee and Farrell all came in. We looked at it as getting some minutes so that we could use it for fitness along the way and be ready for Sunday.”