MLS preseason kicks off at IMG Academy in Bradenton

MLS kicks off preseason soccer at IMG Academy

jdill@bradenton.comFebruary 1, 2014 

BAYSHORE GARDENS -- It wasn't a packed house, but the wet weather that fell in Manatee County on Friday still didn't cause a bunch of empty seats at IMG Academy for the Major League Soccer preseason opener between the New England Revolution and Malmo FF.

In fact, IMG soccer director Scott Dean said the crowd -- an estimated several hundred -- exceeded expectations as cold rain drenched the area Friday.

"You just never know with the weather," Dean said. "Looking at it, I'm happy with it. I think for the first go-around the way the weather was to still see the turnout, I'm happy."

While the Revs and Malmo battled, there was no doubt that the conditions would cause any delays or a possible cancelation to the preseason debut Friday.

That's because IMG's state-of-the-art stadium, which was unveiled last August for the high school football team's opener, is equipped to handle large amounts of rain.

"We walked the field a half hour, 45 minutes before kickoff and it was nice and firm," Dean said. "What people probably don't understand is what most professional teams will do prior to kickoff is water the field. They kind of like to have that wet-type, moist surface where the ball will skip a little bit and play true."

And that wet surface provided a good battleground between two contrasting styles of play. Malmo, the reigning Swedish champions, showcased a physical style, while New England began the contest with tons of possession and pace up top to sneak behind Malmo's high defensive line.

Consequently, the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

The next MLS preseason match is a doubleheader Wednesday.

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