MLS | New England, Malmo FF draw in Bradenton's MLS preseason opener

jdill@bradenton.comFebruary 1, 2014 

BAYSHORE GARDENS -- Wet weather and contrasting styles provided the entertainment for fans who braved the conditions to take in the 2014 Major League Soccer preseason opening match Friday at IMG Academy's stadium.

The New England Revolution and Malmö FF were in preseason form, working out the kinks as the clubs trek toward the regular season grind that awaits following their stay.

Both sides tallied first-half goals en route to a 1-1 draw.

The New England strike came from Kelyn Rowe, who got some help from Malmö's defense.

"It was a preseason glitch, where it was a back pass that I thought he might go to the keeper, so I jumped it and happened to come right to my feet," Rowe said. "And I put it right past the goalie. It wasn't too special."

That fifth-minute goal was one of seven shots the Revolution, who reached the MLS playoffs last season, had in the match.

Malmö, the reigning Swedish league champions, had eight shots as both teams went end to end with their attacks. Emil Forsberg answered with a goal in the 36th minute for Malmö.

New England keeper Bobby Shuttleworth made a couple key saves in the first half to give his side a draw.

"I think the back line did a pretty good job staying organized," Shuttleworth said. "Especially for our first preseason game, I thought we

did a pretty good job of staying in our lines and getting good pressure on the ball and making it difficult for them."

But in terms of a first preseason match, the goal was to regain match fitness and move in a positive direction.

"The first game, you obviously want to show something," Rowe said, "and prove to the coach that you are still available or ready to go or get a contract. So you're really going 100 miles an hour. The willingness to settle it down and start playing, which we did a little bit here and there in spurts, it's good to get that out of the way."

Rowe is a former top draft pick by the Revs, who is in his third year with the club. He has adjusted to the professional game and said he knows what to expect during the preseason and the schedule of training, matches and days off with a coaching staff that has remained intact during his time with the club.

And facing a side like Malmö, which provided a physical battle, is sure to pay dividends during the MLS campaign.

"I think after the first 10 or 15 minutes, where we were running crazy at them, they finally settled it down and started playing really good soccer," Rowe said. "And you found with their goal and their chances that they can play in that final third."

The first match and week of training is beneficial to the Revs coaching staff.

Head coach Jay Heaps received an early gauge on how his team are compared to last season, and said he feels they are ahead of where they were at this same point last term.

"I like that we were able to take a step forward," Heaps said. "... We can use this as a stepping stone."

The steady rain that fell in Manatee County wasn't an issue for Rowe, who as a Seattle-area native thrives on the wet weather playing conditions.

He said he was impressed with the pitch at IMG's stadium that opened in August of 2013.

"The field held up great, didn't need studs, and it was the perfect field for us," Rowe said.

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