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February 22, 2017
Revolution win Desert Diamond game, Toni & Benji make defensive debut

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Juan Agudelo and Lee Nguyen scored twice as the New England Revolution took a 6-2 win over Sporting Kansas City in the Desert Diamond Cup at Kino Sports Complex Wednesday.

Diego Fagundez and Daigo Kobayashi also scored for the Revolution (3-2-2 preseason), which will conclude the tournament with a game Saturday.

Agudelo has scored in consecutive games since joining the team after playing for the U.S. national team.

Kobayashi scored from point blank range after Andrew Dykstra misplayed a cross from Tyler Turner in the first minute. In the 21st minute, Jimmy Medranda equalized with a curling left-footer just inside the far post from outside the penalty area.

The Revolution notched five goals in a 27-minute span after making 11 changes after halftime, defender Benjamin Angoua making his debut alongside Antonio Mlinar Delamea in central defense.

“I was really impressed with the way they communicated,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said of Angoua and Delamea “I was happy that (Angoua) got his minutes. He was physical when he needed to be physical. He played well with his feet. So, it was a good first 30, 35 minutes. I think he could’ve gone a little longer, but we wanted to be conservative with his minutes today.”

Midfielder Xavier Kouassi played the first half in his second start for the Revolution.

“It probably felt like 145 minutes to Kouassi, only because we were under the gun for a lot of that half,” Heaps said. “But I thought he did a nice job of getting himself through it. I think that’s the most important thing right now, is [taking] steps and making sure that we’re not overdoing him, but we’re making progressive movements in terms of minutes, in terms of what he’s doing to get himself stronger and more physical.”

Agudelo tallied off a Nguyen through ball, curling a shot past Adrian Zendejas inside the near post in the 54th minute. Agudelo finished with a left-footer in the goal area off a low Kei Kamara cross in the 60th minute.

In the 67th minute, Kamara passed to the top of the penalty area to Nguyen, who found Fagundez for a tight-angle finish at the left post to extend the lead to 4-1. Kamara earned a penalty kick, Nguyen converting in the 72nd minute. Nguyen then maneuvered around Zendejas and finished with a low shot in the 81st minute. Graham Zusi cut the deficit with a long-distance shot in the 89th minute.

“It’s an exercise that we’d worked on the last three or four training sessions, just trying to get the flow going and looking to be a little bit more varied in how we attack,” Heaps said. I think today was a good example of that. We were able to get behind, but we also played underneath, and it was a good 45 minutes, the second 45. I think for the first 45, some areas to work on. We gave up a little bit too much space, a little bit too much possession, but the second half really was a change of momentum and good to see us get some goals.

“You’re seeing movement. What I liked was everyone in the attack was a part of it. Kelyn (Rowe) was doing a nice job of creating space. He didn’t get on the end of a ton, but he opened it up for Kei. Diego was there. Lee and Juan were really good. I thought we did a good job of supporting each other without getting too stretched. A couple of times early in the half we got stretched a little bit, but we were able to close it up and make sure that we were better defensively, as well.

“Saturday will be important. I think it’ll be really important that we stretch minutes for certain guys, but also have a sound game plan going into it. We don’t know our opponent yet, but at the same time, we want to get on that week schedule. So we played Saturday, today was more of an exercise, and then we get back at it again on Saturday.”

Said Fagundez: “It was a lot of fun. You can tell just by watching the game that, not just myself, but everyone was enjoying themselves. The way (the team was) playing, moving off the ball, communicating, and of course finishing our chances, that’s what we want. I think it’s going to give us confidence for the next game. Of course, Saturday, and then we have to do our business there and then the season starts. It’s one of those things that we move forward, because it’s another game, but we have to take all the positives and make sure that we learn from our mistakes, but of course keep having fun. I think overall we’re all playing well. We just have to communicate a little bit more. But it shows on the field that if we’re doing everything we can, we can definitely score goals.

“Every game is different. We all wake up and it’s a new day and everyone’s feeling differently. I think today, everyone was ready. No one wanted to lose again. We let it slip the other day and we made sure that this one was going to be ours. It showed on the field that we were all tucked in, we were all doing our jobs and when we got our chances, we had to finish them.

“We just have to go do our job, make sure everyone gives 100 percent, make sure no injuries, and when we get our chances, keep finishing them. We have to stay 100 percent positive and keep moving forward and be ready for that opening game, because it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be important and we’re going to have to try to go and get three points.”

Said Nguyen: “It was a lot of fun, because we did what we wanted to do, and in the end we put our chances away. I think that also relieved a lot of pressure on the defensive side, because we were able to just relax and keep the ball and create more chances after that.

“We can see we keep on improving game-by-game while we’re here, and our shape’s getting better and a lot of the guys are getting to know each other. I think this was the first time Toni and Benji played together on the back line, so it was great to see that combination and at the same time, I think a lot of the guys that you’re going to see in Colorado, we got to play together today.

“We were very solid in the back and through the midfield. We kind of switched up at the end there, changed the formation just to try to get a little taste of a different look. That was the first time we’d played it in a game, so that’s why there were probably little gaps here and there, but for the most part, in the 4-4-2, it was solid. I was very happy to see the guys keep a clean sheet for 40 minutes. That was good. We’ll take that into the next game and hopefully improve more.

“It’s great, because obviously, it’s getting close to that time in the season. It’s time for the guys to get their fitness levels up, and at the same time, we want to stay as healthy as possible so we can have everyone for that first leg.”

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