Conference Call: Heaps, Reis & Soares

Revs head coach Jay Heaps, Matt Reis & A.J. Soares field questions from the media

Jay Heaps: Thank you very much for joining us on this call. Really, just a quick overview. This is the first real leg of our preseason. It’s a lot about finding out what we have, what kind of team we’re going to be and we’re able to do it an excellent facility. (There is) a lot of opportunity for players to get on the field, play with each other, get to know each other and also get some strength and conditioning in. Right at the facility they have all that. We hit a lot of different goals along these 10 days.

On the status of John Lozano and Fernando Cardenas

Jay Heaps: Here’s their status: they arrived last night, they are here in camp. We had a nice recovery day today because the team went hard yesterday. So we had a recovery day, some pool workouts. We were able to jump in with that and kind of meet the guys along the day.

On whether Lozano and Cardenas will be able to practice the rest of the trip…

Jay Heaps: They should be. We’re just waiting on medical clearance and (then) they’re good to go. In terms of P-1 visas and contracts for them to be here: they’re signed, sealed and delivered.

On goals and expectations of the 2012 season…

Jay Heaps: I think it’s a little premature to start saying what our full aspirations are. That was a question I posed to the guys day one: “What kind of team are we going to be? What are our expectations? Where do we see this thing going?” I’ve got my own personal ideas. I think the team has got to start buying into it and that’s where we’re going to go. For us to come out and give what our expectations are now would be way too early. But as this camp unfolds, as we start to find out what kind of team we’re going to be, how we’re going to play, I think those expectations are going to get a lot higher. It’s important for us to really learn a little bit about each other: for them to take a look at me, for me to take a look at them and start believing in a team that can go pretty far.

On the difference of a Jay Heaps training camp…

Matt Reis: I think that we are using everything that we have at our disposal. With bringing in (Strength & Conditioning Coach) Nick Downing and a lot of the expertise he brings in and a lot of stuff with heart rate monitors and really monitoring us as athletes and what we do and how we do it. There are definite plans to what we’re trying to do and creating a really good base for our fitness. Just moving forward, the facility here is perfect for what we’re trying to do and everything’s local. Outside of that, soccer-wise, it’s not much different. You can’t really recreate the game but we are putting in the work that we have to in order to be ready for this season. (It’s) a little different without Stevie (Nicol), but Jay (Heaps) coming from being coached (by) Stevie, there are a few similarities. At the same time, everything is new and exciting.

On getting away early to get a feel for each other…

Matt Reis: I think no matter what team it is – these kind situations where you’re isolated and all you can really do is spend time with your teammates – it helps. It helps build bonds and it helps guys get together and find out new and interesting things about each other. The work that you put in and the hard work that you put in is definitely the base that you can look back upon when it gets tough during the season and say, “listen, hey, we were out in Arizona running all over the desert,” and that kind of brings you guys all together.

On Benny Feilhaber and Kelyn Rowe and their arrivals at camp…

Jay Heaps: Kelyn arrives tonight and Benny arrives tomorrow.

On getting Feilhaber and Rowe in as quickly as possible…

Jay Heaps: I spoke with both of them and I was giving them each a day or two if they wanted to kind of decompress after their camps, but both of them wanted to get in here. So they’re going to do their decompressing here; they’re going to be around the guys. We’re going to give them a day or two to regenerate their bodies to get them back to where they need to be mentally. In terms of getting in here, we’re excited that they’re here, that they want to be here and it’s important for me because I want to see these guys start to interact with the players around them.

On the status of Rajko Lekic…

Jay Heaps: The status of Rajko Lekic is that we’ve been in talks. I think that it’s a little early to say. The offer that we extended was last year – at the end of the season – was the beginning of a dialogue. That dialogue is still running. We’re looking at a lot of different players as well. The door is certainly not on our end shut but we are trying to figure out what’s best going forward. To say there’s a dialogue is the best way to describe it – the talks right now.

On looking for a proven striker or a designated player…

Jay Heaps: Yes on proven goal scorer and I would say the designated player… by me hesitating you’re probably anticipating that the answer is going to be yes… I think the answer is: everything is on the table. Everything’s on the table.

On bringing back Ryan Kinne this season…

Jay Heaps: To be fair, I have not seen enough of Ryan Kinne’s last year and I was able to make it to two reserve games last year. I thought Ryan did well for himself. I think also, we don’t just make decisions on the fly. I did a little research from what he did in college and then I did some research with Remi Roy and our past reserve team coach, Peter Fuller, and both of them said he’s a player that maybe didn’t get to the field but still certainly had a lot left in the tank in terms of what he can do on the field. So I wanted to give him his fair shake and a fair look.

On bringing in Strength & Conditioning Coach Nick Downing and answering the problem of injuries…

Jay Heaps: It has a lot to do with a lot of different things. I don’t think you can always pinpoint injuries. So to say that Nick’s going to be a remedy; I wouldn’t want to put all that on his shoulders. But at least to monitor our bodies from a more scientific approach; (it) is the only way to go. If you look at every other team in MLS, teams around the world, they’re taking a long hard look at what the data says, not just what a player is saying. I could ask Matt Reis five times over, (or) A.J., “How are you feeling?” and they’ll say, “I feel great,” no matter what their bodies are telling them. So now we have a little bit of a look into what their bodies are saying, not what the athletes are saying. Now whether that translates this year into no injuries – that would be a little bit crazy for us to say that. But having said that, I think that when you can get more scientific, you have to start listening to the information that it gives you. Nick Downing, for me, isn’t just the remedy, he’s also someone that played the game. Fitness in soccer is different than fitness in football or basketball, it’s pretty obvious. But to understand that, I wanted to get someone here that had a resume that’s as good as most of our players.

On defenders in the back line…

A.J. Soares: I think regardless of who the pairing is in center back, consistency is definitely going to be important. I think you’re right to say that played a part in us giving up so many goals (last year). I think also with Jay being a defender who recently played for the Revolution, he’s going to give us a lot of insight into the league and help us out a lot with our defense shape. I think we’re going to try and dictate the game more from our standpoint: let our team dictate the game and that will take pressure off the defense. The combination of everything including the fitness level, including the guys being one more year experienced, all of it’s going to add up and the defense should be better this year definitely.

On filling roster holes…

Jay Heaps: I think most importantly that we’re trying to get better one through 28 across the board and I think the obvious hole when you’re looking at our roster is that goal scorer, that forward that can do a little bit of everything. We’re looking. We have a few people in camp now, we have a few people that we’ve seen play. We have a few people that we’re in conversation, with so there’s a lot of action for us going forward. Nothing is a done deal yet. I think that we certainly bolster our midfield with the addition of Kelyn Rowe and (Fernando) Cardenas who can also be a forward midfielder, so we feel pretty strong there. And then defensively, I think right now we’d like to add another defender and another outside defender, hopefully on the left side but someone who could maybe do both. It’s important for us to have cover everywhere. When I looked at this team four months ago, three months ago, I didn’t see a team that needed to totally be revamped all the way. I think that obviously we’ve made a lot of changes but at the same time we want to build a deep team and a lot of the players that played a lot of minutes last year, you have to take that in. I think that if those guys went and played a lot of minutes this year again, it’s not a step forward but at the same time if there are guys 11, 12, 13,14,15,16 that have played a lot of minutes last year and we get three more starters in there, then now we’re talking about a much deeper team and a much stronger team.

On changing as a player both physically and mentally…

A.J. Soares: Physically I’ve changed because my ankle is healthy. I’ve been rehabbing it hard throughout the whole offseason. The staff has done a great job this preseason helping me continue to progress. I think mentally I’m ready to take a step forward in terms of taking on more of a leadership role, having played a full season now. Physically, just feeling better, feeling like I have a year under my belt, got my feet under me. I’m ready to, like I said, take more of a leadership role and get this team back to winning ways.

On posting a Tweet saying he’s loving the New England Revolution’s new vibe…

A.J. Soares: In all ways, we have new upgraded facilities that are going to help us. We have new staff members who bring different approaches to our team. I think most importantly we got a head coach who’s excited to be here and makes this team better. I think everyone is buying in so far and that’s the vibe that I’m talking about when I’m saying that I love the new vibe. And of course we got Matt Reis over here who is pretty cool. So that’s the vibe I’m talking about.

On the positives of putting “a youth coach in a pro situation” (referring to new assistant coach Jay Miller)…

Matt Reis: I wouldn’t call him (Jay Miller) a youth coach. He’s coached at the youth national teams and he’s coached at a very high level throughout 30 years. Whether you’re working with kids that are under 15 or men that are under 36, it doesn’t make any difference. The game is still the same and his experience and knowledge throughout the years is far going to outweigh whether we’re talking about a professional team or whether you’re talking about a youth team. I think it’s only going to help us in the long run and we’re all working on this together. I don’t think it’s just up to him to make everything great but he’s going to bring his knowledge and he’s going to help us in terms of tactically and soccer-wise the things that we’re going to need to work on.

Jay Heaps: I just want to let you know that I think your question is a little tailored the wrong way because when you look at Jay Miller, you look at what he’s done at the national team level and the youth level, but he’s also been national team coach on an interim basis but he’s also been a full-time scout for some of our World Cup teams.

On what Jay Miller offers to the team tactically…

Jay Heaps: Well, probably about four lifetime’s worth of knowledge of the game. I think this game repeats itself. It’s got to get newer. There’s a lot of knowledge. For me personally, taking from a guy like Jay Miller, I have my own sense of the game. I’ve played it for many years. I’ve always been around it. I’ve loved it from every which way you can play it. But, at the same time, there are tactical ideas that sometimes you may overlook as a player and certainly the minute Jay Miller was hired we started diving into all the tactical changes we want to make as a team. He’s been huge for someone like me to bounce ideas off of, get his input, give up new ideas and someone to lean on when it comes to that area of the game.

On tactical changes being made this year…

Jay Heaps: We are going to make a lot of changes. Right now, like I said, we have ideas of where we want to go tactically and if I tell you this, it’s premature. I think that just fundamentally there’s going to be changes across the back line - how we play, not defensive, but with that ball. Where are our outside backs getting the ball? Where are our center backs going to be when they have the ball, are they going to be 10 yards apart, or 30 yards apart? These are things we’ve made changes or we’re going to make changes to. But, to start telling you exactly how we’re going to play without all of our players being here, we haven’t received Benny Feilhaber into camp yet, we haven’t received Kelyn Rowe, and the Colombians have just gotten here late last night. There’s a lot going on with what we’re going to do tactically.

On if there are plans to bring in another right back…

Jay Heaps: Yes, we want cover on both sides. We’re looking to find a guy that can do both. Across the back line, we don’t feel set. We feel like we have a really good base and if the guys here were 100 percent and no injuries for the year, we’d feel good. We need depth back there and that’s why we’re going to add a few more players in the back line.

On being the second youngest active coach in MLS…

Jay Heaps: I think the advantages are that I know a lot about the league. I know this league inside and out. First player personnel, I know what it takes to succeed at this level. Now look, I have a tough battle ahead to make sure the players hear what I’m saying. If I can verbalize exactly what I’m thinking and how I can convey that, that’s going to be the most important thing. In terms of stepping on the field, yeah I’ve jumped in a couple of times in the passing and some of those things but I want these guys to be in way better shape than I’ve ever been so I need to get out of the way.