Everton won again on their 2021 United States tour, and did not need a penalty shootout this time either, as they overcame UNAM Pumas 1-0 with a Moise Kean goal in the twentieth minute proving the winner.
Speaking after the game, manager Rafa Benitez was asked if he thought the players’ fitness was where he expected it to be with the last preseason game coming up in ten days against Manchester United.
“The preseason is for improving the fitness and the understanding between players. We are still too far away since this is a special year with players still away for the Copa America and Euros.
“Obviously we are improving and are still a bit far away, but hopefully in the next fourteen days we can get better and get to the level we want to be at and compete at the level we want to in the Premier League.”
That game against the Red Devils is on Saturday August 7th and will be the Toffees 5th of the preseason.
“I think it’s important to play a team at the level of Manchester United. It will give us an opportunity to see the level of the players.
“In terms of other games, I don’t see too much space for that. We don’t have time with players coming back at the beginning of August after the Copa America and the Euros.
“It will be much better to stay together, training together, for the understanding of the players and the manager. It may be better to have a (internal) game between us.”
Moise Kean continues to be linked with a move to Paris St Germain, what were Benitez’s thoughts on the game’s Man of the Match.
“I think it’s important for a striker to score, so that’s good news for him, good news for us, and at this early stage of preseason we have to keep working and see what happens.
“The problem with the transfer window is that it ends at the end of August. You are playing in games and still making decisions on players so that is important for them to understand they have to carry on. For him to score goals is the best way to make his point.”
Jean-Philippe Gbamin has looked rejuvenated this preseason after all his injury woes, what were Benitez’s thoughts on him?
“Obviously he has had big problems in the past, now he’s training well and getting stronger. I can see him challenging for a position and that is good news for us, the competition will increase the level of the players and the level of the team.
“He is doing well, he is working hard like the rest of the midfielders, and in a few weeks we will see how he is doing.”
James Rodriguez’s performances were always something Carlo Ancelotti was asked about, and it’s looking like Benitez will get those questions too every time he meets the press.
“It’s preseason so we have to give minutes to everyone, but the opportunities for James to play and show his quality to everyone is important.”
On opponents UNAM, Benitez added that he was caught off-guard by how they pressed his Blues.
“We were expecting they were going to play in another way, we had watched some games. Still, it was good news for us as we were learning how to manage attack and defence against a different system and that was a big opportunity for us to grow and improve, and I think we did well in the end.”