FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – With Major League Soccer taking a brief hiatus for the group stage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, a recent four-day break from training provided a unique chance for New England Revolution players to enjoy a rare midseason “vacation”.
Veteran defender Cory Gibbs took the opportunity to relax around the house and spend time with his wife, Zena. Rookie left back Seth Sinovic visited family in his hometown of Leawood, Kansas, marking his first trip home since signing his first professional contract in March. Forward Kheli Dube stayed local and simply lounged around the house, using the time to let his body recuperate from a difficult stretch of games in May.
No matter what their activities during the mini-break, each and every member of the Revolution took the chance to refocus mentally ahead of the club’s return to league action on Sunday night, June 27, against the Chicago Fire. The match kicks off the unofficial “second half” of the MLS season, as the Revs won’t have another break of this length between games for the rest of year.
“I think we needed this break,” said Dube, who leads the Revolution with four assists but has been frustrated not to find the back of the net himself after scoring a career-high eight goals last season. “We’ve been having a tough time in the league and having a break to think about it (was important). Now we can get back and focus on the upcoming game.”
The Revs began the 2010 season brightly by winning two of their first three games, but they’ve gone 1-6-2 in their last nine league matches and have been outscored by a margin of 18-7 in that stretch. They currently occupy sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 3-7-2 (11 pts.).
Their most recent league match was a maddening 3-0 loss to Seattle Sounders FC, a game in which the Revolution registered just two shots, only one of which was on target. By the time the Revs take the field to battle the Fire on Sunday night, it will have been more than three weeks that they’ve been dwelling on that performance.
“We got a lot of stuff off our minds (during the break), thought about a lot of things,” said Gibbs. “We just regrouped. I think the first session back went well. We got a run in and we feel sharper.”
After their four-day break, the Revs returned to training on Wednesday morning with a spirited session as they began preparing for the visiting Fire. The workout lasted an hour-and-a-half and while the hiatus was necessary for its physical and mental benefits, it was clear that the players were ready to get back to work.
“I think everybody’s anxious to get another game in,” said Sinovic, who has a healthy 23-year-old added that in his case the break was needed more mentally than physically. “We want to start putting some wins on the board and see if we can get ourselves back in the playoff race.”
It’s been nine years since the Revolution missed out on the postseason, and while there’s still plenty of time to make up ground in the Eastern Conference, the players are fully aware that a bit of urgency is necessary to avoid falling into an even deeper hole. With the top two teams in the East – the Columbus Crew and New York Red Bulls – already 10 points ahead of New England in the standings, the time is now to turn the season around.
Because this weekend’s match begins what is essentially “the rest of the season” for the Revolution following the World Cup break, it’s critical that the club gets off on the right foot and sets a positive tone for the remainder of the year.
“It’s very important,” said Gibbs of Sunday night’s game. “This is crunch time. The second half (of the season) is always the most important. We need to start getting points.”
Sunday night’s meeting with the Fire contains a plethora of storylines, not the least of which is the fierce rivalry between two clubs which have met in the MLS Cup Playoffs for five straight seasons. On top of that, there’s the likely return of starting goalkeeper Matt Reis – having recovered from offseason shoulder and knee surgeries – and the recent news that Taylor Twellman has suffered a setback in his recovery from a long-term head injury and has been added to the season-ending injury list.
With so much unfolding, it would be easy to get distracted from the task at hand, but the bottom line is this: if the Revs hope to have any chance at meeting the Fire in the postseason for a sixth consecutive season, they’ll have to start picking up three points on a consistent basis.
According to Dube, there’s no better time to start than this weekend.
“Right now we’ve just got to try to grind out a win,” he said. “That’s what’s needed. We don’t need any ties, we don’t need any losses. We need to work hard and just grind out a win.