FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Heading into the 2018 season, Brad Friedel repeatedly stressed his desire for the New England Revolution to roll two deep at every position.
When the Revs host the Colorado Rapids on Saturday (1:30 pm ET | MLS Live), that mantra will be tested to its brink, with starting center backs Antonio Delamea and Claude Dielna suspended. Delamea, the team’s 2017 MVP, and Dielna, the club’s captain, were each dismissed in the club’s season-opening 2-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union, and Friedel said the solution is as simple as plug and place.
“It’s the same exact approach and slotting in different guys,” Friedel told MLSsoccer.com. “We have a very good squad here, and we’re well equipped if we have injuries or suspensions.”
Namely, Friedel pointed to MLS veteran Jalil Anibaba as a depth option, as well as rookies Nico Samayoa, a fourth-round MLS SuperDraft pick, and Brandon Bye, a first-round selection who largely played at right back all preseason.
For another possibility, Friedel highlighted right back Andrew Farrell, who hasn’t extensively played in the middle since 2015 and his latter two years at the University of Louisville. Farrell acknowledged to MLSsoccer.com that he experienced ups and downs in that role alongside departed Revolution defender Jose Goncalves, and work remains for the collective.
“We just have to communicate a lot better on the backline,” Farrell said. “That’s something even stretching back to last year that wasn’t good enough and that’s why we struggled. With two guys like Claude and Toni out, we’re all going to have to step up, especially me and Jalil.”
This vexing position is somewhat self-inflicted, though, as New England have now sufferred six red cards in their last five road games stretching back to 2017. Despite Dielna and Delamea’s missteps against Philadelphia, Farrell doesn’t think there’s a discipline issue on the field or the red card trend will continue.
“It comes down to game management,” Farrell said. “If a guy gets in behind, give the ‘keeper a chance to make the save. If he doesn’t make the save, we’re 11 vs. 11 and we can get back into it.”
There’s an even further wrinkle when Friedel & Co. welcome fellow first-year coach Anthony Hudson’s Rapids, namely at goalkeeper.
Matt Turner, an undrafted and third-year player, got the starting nod vs. the Union over 11-year veteran Brad Knighton and recent US national team January camp participant Cody Cropper, who missed out via illness. Friedel assured, however, that the starting job is Turner’s to lose behind a group that allowed an Eastern Conference-worst 61 goals in 2017.
“Maybe the outsider view is I’m a new face, but the guys here in the locker room and the coaching staff, they believe in me and they trust in me,” Turner told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s going to be easy to bring everyone together in a collective effort [on Saturday].”
As a final foil, Kelyn Rowe, who featured for the US national team on Jan. 28 vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina, didn’t start against Philly. He came on for the match’s final 14 minutes, and Friedel assured the midfielder isn’t destined for a long-term stint on the bench.
“In training, his attitude has been exceptionally good,” Friedel said of Rowe. “In the first game of the season, we chose a different 11, but by no means does that mean that Kelyn won’t be starting games for us also.”