FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – In professional sports, there’s a certain charm to life on the road. Players and traveling staff are given the opportunity to explore unfamiliar cities, meet fascinating new people and experience the rush of walking into a variety of stadiums across North America.
Plus, after a three-month offseason spent primarily combating the harsh New England winter, sometimes it’s nice just to “get away.”
Not only does occasional travel break up the monotony of the every-day schedule, but it’s impossible not to gain a sense of togetherness when a group of 32 people spend virtually every waking moment together. And I do mean every moment – training together, eating together and relaxing together.
Based on that fact alone, the Revs should be a tighter-knit group than most families by now. Following a six-day trip to Orlando in late February and a 12-day excursion to North Carolina in mid-March, the Revolution has opened the 2010 regular season with a pair of road games in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. – another seven days on the road combined.
But all of the captivating cities, fascinating people and exciting stadiums won’t change their minds.
The Revs are glad to be home.
“It’s going to be great,” said rookie defender Seth Sinovic when asked about spending almost two full weeks in Massachusetts. “It’ll just give us a chance to settle in at home.”
Settling in at home is something that the Revolution hasn’t had a chance to do in recent months. The constant travel for preseason training trips and regular-season games has meant a life of airports and hotel beds for the Revs, who haven’t been home for an extended period since heading to Florida from Feb. 20-25.
In fact, from the start of that Orlando trip through last weekend’s trip to Washington, D.C., the Revolution spent almost half of its nights in hotels (21 nights on the road, 22 nights at home).
So much time away from home – and the hotel beds, airports and charter buses which inevitably accompany travel – has taken its toll on the players, who are looking forward to the opportunity to recharge their batteries.
“It’s great to be home,” said Chris Tierney, who grew up in the Bay State. “We finally get to prepare for a game on our usual training field. We get to sleep in our own beds before the game – which is huge – and cut out the travel.”
Not only will the Revs have the comforts of home while preparing for this weekend’s showdown with Toronto FC, but their opponents will finally be the ones sleeping in hotel beds.
“We’re looking forward to another team having to get on the plane and deal with all the factors of playing on the road,” Tierney said.
With the 2010 home schedule set to kick off on Saturday night against TFC, the Revolution will be looking to improve upon its home record from one year ago. While the Revs were a respectable 7-4-4 within the familiar confines of Gillette Stadium in 2009, the goal this year will be to return their home ground in Foxborough to one of the most difficult venues for opponents to visit.
One factor which could aid the Revs in that quest is the brand new playing surface recently laid down at Gillette Stadium. Just a few weeks ago, the original artificial surface was replaced with FieldTurf’s Duraspine PRO system, which is more resistant to matting and delivers an increasingly natural look and feel.
While the Revolution will have the benefit of occasionally training on the surface, visiting teams will not have that luxury and most likely won’t play on the FieldTurf Duraspine PRO surface until pre-game warm-ups.
Of course, all of these factors take a backseat to the boost the players receive from playing in front of their home crowd.
It’s been more than four months since the Revs took the field in front of their loyal supporters at Gillette Stadium, and it’s safe to say that everyone is looking forward to the chance on Saturday night.
“The fans have been great ever since I’ve been a part of this organization,” said Tierney, who is in his third year with the club. “That’s something that we definitely look forward to and hopefully the support continues to grow this year as it has over the past two years I’ve been here.”
Even Sinovic – who has not yet had the chance to play a professional game in front of a home crowd – is expecting the fans to provide that extra bit of motivation.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “We’ve got the new [FieldTurf], and obviously the fans are going to be great, so we’re excited to be home.”