CARY, N.C. - Steve Nicol hasn't been shy about his admiration for the Atlantic Coast Conference and the players it produces, as the Revolution’s head coach has annually drafted players from perennial powers Wake Forest, Virginia and Duke.
Tomorrow morning, Nicol will witness an example of the conference’s talent up close and personal when the Revs take on Duke in a close-door scrimmage at 9:15 a.m. at WakeMed Soccer Park.
While the game is perhaps an opportunity for Nicol and his technical staff to do some early scouting for next year’s MLS SuperDraft, that task is undoubtedly a distant second behind preparing the current squad for the start of the 2010 regular season, which kicks off next Saturday, March 27, when the Revs visit the LA Galaxy at The Home Depot Center.
Following a 2-0 win over the Charlotte Eagles (USL-2) last Saturday night in Charlotte, the Revs have now scored eight goals and conceded just two en route to a 2-1-0 record in the 2010 preseason. A 6-0 victory over a team of local college all-stars in Orlando highlights those statistics, while a 2-0 loss at the hands of fellow MLS side FC Dallas in the preseason opener is the only blemish.
Because of the packed schedule in North Carolina – seven training sessions and three games in 12 days – Wednesday morning’s meeting with Duke could provide an opportunity for many of the Revolution’s younger players to play significant minutes.
Nicol has stated his intention of resting a majority of the players who started last weekend against Charlotte, so those who saw action as second-half substitutes against the Eagles could find themselves in the starting lineup on Wednesday.
One of those players is 24-year-old Mike Videira, who spent time as both a central midfielder and withdrawn forward in a 30-minute stint in the win over Charlotte.
Now in his second season with the Revolution – and his third professional season overall after spending one year in Europe – Videira hopes to have more of an impact in 2010 after making 12 appearances (including five starts) in 2009.
For Videira, the meeting with Duke is not only an opportunity to play significant minutes in preparation for the season, but also a chance to line up against his alma mater.
A native of Milford, Mass., Videira spent four years (2004-07) representing the Blue Devils. For three of those years, he played alongside current Revolution teammate Darrius Barnes, who is nursing a quad injury and will not play against his former school.
“I’m excited for the game,” Videira said. “It should be fun. It’ll be a good test for us to play our second game [just a few days after playing Charlotte]. We’ll see if we can keep the wins coming.”
During the course of four years on Tobacco Road, Videira became quite accustomed with Duke’s soccer program. He scored 17 goals and added 15 assists in 80 career appearances with the Blue Devils, and was a three-time semifinalist for the Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy.
As if that wasn’t enough familiarity, Videira also spent one week in January training with the current Duke squad as he prepared for the 2010 preseason. That recent interaction has given him valuable perspective on the type of challenge the Blue Devils will provide on Wednesday morning.
“I know a lot of the older guys I used to play with,” he said. “And now I know a lot of the new guys who weren’t there when I was because I trained with them for a week. The guys are really into it, they’re really committed, and there’s a lot of camaraderie on the team.”
Another player eager for more playing time is fourth-year midfielder Nico Colaluca, who joined the Revolution in a midseason trade last May. A tenacious presence in the middle or on the wings, Colaluca has shined in the 2010 preseason, and earned an assist on Kenny Mansally’s insurance goal in the recent win over Charlotte.
In a way, Wednesday morning’s scrimmage against Duke differs from the other two matches on the North Carolina trip. Both the Eagles and Carolina RailHawks (NASL) are professional organizations, and both of those matches were scheduled for nighttime kickoffs in front of large crowds. Meanwhile, the meeting with the Blue Devils will be played behind closed doors shortly after 9 a.m.
From Colaluca’s standpoint, the fact that his opportunity to start a preseason match might come against a college team rather than a professional opponent doesn’t matter in the slightest.
“For me, it doesn’t really matter who we’re playing,” he said. “I’ll take every game the same way. I’ll go out there, take care of my business, and try to have a good showing for the coaches.”
Whether Colaluca, Videira, or anyone else impresses Nicol enough to earn playing time in the season opener against the LA Galaxy could be known as soon as Saturday night, when the Revolution takes on the RailHawks in the club’s final preseason match.
Nicol has already said he plans to use a full-strength lineup in that game, so many answers could come into focus in the next few days.
But the RailHawks and the Galaxy will be discussed another time. For now, the Revs are focused on the Blue Devils