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February 16, 2017
Heaps encouraged, despite Revolution loss to Dynamo

TUCSON, Ariz. -- New England Revolution coach Jay Heaps was encouraged, despite the team’s 2-0 loss to the Houston Dynamo in the Desert Diamond Classic opener Wednesday night.

The Revolution were playing without U.S. national team striker Juan Agudelo, plus Kei Kamara, Je-Vaughn Watson (Jamaica national team) and recently-signed central defenders Benjamin Angoua and Antonio Mlinar Delamea (visa issues).

“Really a tale of two halves,” Heaps said. “I think, fortunately for us, we got off to a good start. It was 0-0, but I thought we had some good movement, some good play in the first half. We weren’t as dangerous as we’d like to be, but solid, defensively, didn’t give up much. Second half, we were really scrambling a little bit for bodies, because we still have Je-Vaughn away, Juan’s coming in, and the two center backs are sorting out their visas. We were a little bit light on numbers, so we had a lot of trialists in and guys that we hadn’t really seen, quite frankly, hadn’t even trained with us. So, putting them all together and trying to tactically get them all on the same page in about a 10- or 15-minute session before the game, but thought the guys worked hard there. That last 45 minutes was not easy and our guys worked really hard to just try to play together.

“I think that was their (the Dynamo) first team. We got mix-matched. That was, I think, close to their starting group. It was difficult for our guys. It’s good, though. We had some young guys out there. Guys that are young guys on our roster that are trying to fight for minutes, and then we had some trialists that we’re looking at. And we were able to get Joe Brito in, an Academy product, as well. He came on a little sooner than we wanted when Zach (Herivaux) got hurt, but at the same time, when you have three or four guys that are just basically picked up today – Joe got off a plane today, I don’t think he was expecting to play a full 30 minutes. But overall a good test for our guys, start to finish.”

Midfielder Xavier Kouassi made his first appearance, before being replaced by Daigo Kobayashi in the 18th minute.

“I think it’s important,” Heaps said. “Fifteen minutes was always the number. He’s still a little bit, from a fitness standpoint, a little bit further away. But at the same time, I think it was a good stepping stone to get a game in, live action, prepare for a game and get in there and compete at the highest level. I think it was a good first test for him and now hopefully, that continues to kind of spark even more minutes coming up.”

Said Revolution goalkeeper Cody Cropper: “Obviously, disappointing to lose, but I think it’s a good game for us to open up [the second leg of] preseason, really. It’s obviously disappointing, like I said, with the loss, but just a good game to get out, get the legs going coming off a double session yesterday and obviously flying the day before. Good to get to better weather. But it’s something that we can take into the next game versus Colorado on Saturday and hopefully turn the result around.”

“It’s been good. Obviously, like you said, last year was quite difficult coming in midseason, not knowing anybody apart from one or two names. But this year’s been a little bit different, from the start. It’s been good to see more and more what Jay, (assistant coaches) Remi (Roy) and Tommy (Soehn) and Carlos (Llamosa) want from the goalkeepers and just from the general standpoint of the team. So, overall it’s been good.

“I think it’s a big game (Colorado) for us. I’m sure the minutes will change. Maybe a few players will play 60, some will play 30 instead of 45. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to get a better understanding of what Colorado brings, especially for myself never having played them. If I do get on the field, it will be a great opportunity for me to get some understanding of what they’re about. I think every game really at this point is feeling out every different team and seeing what they do. Like tonight, Houston, I was told that they wouldn’t press, but they did, obviously with the coaching change that they had in Wilmer (Cabrera). So, it’ll be interesting to see Colorado on Saturday and how we can adjust.”

Cropper and defender Andrew Farrell were replaced after the first half with the game tied, 0-0.

“I think it felt good,” Farrell said. “We got here yesterday and we had a double session yesterday and we were excited about the game and a little bit of competition and playing against another team in Houston. We did well. Obviously, something that we wanted to translate from last camp to this camp was our defensive shape and I think for the most part we did a good job. We limited their chances in the first half. In the second half, I think they got a good run of play, but for the most part, I think defensively, we were better. It’s something we want to grow on and keep working on.

“I think it’s about not necessarily the guys who are missing, but the guys who are here and the guys learning our system. Not just necessarily the backline, but the midfield and the forwards. We’ve got a lot of guys who aren’t here with us, but a lot of the guys who are here on trial and our draft picks have stepped up and are filling in really well. I think it’s a good step. We obviously didn’t get the result we wanted, but we move on and get ready for the next game.

“Keep progressing. Keep getting that shape down in the 4-4-2 diamond that we’ve been playing. Keep limiting the chances. I think going forward, getting better in the final third and that transition from defense to attack, I think that’s something we’ve been working on in this camp. When we get the ball and we get a turnover, we can force them to make a good chance and get a good shot on goal. It’s something we want to work on and we’re taking the right steps that way.”

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