FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – After taking a few months off to stew over missing the playoffs for the first time since 2001, the New England Revolution returned to the practice field on Monday to start their quest to rectify the situation in 2011.
Absent was Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph, who missed the first training session for unknown reasons. Coach Steve Nicol said he expects Joseph – who did not notify team officials of his impending absence prior to the start of practice – to attend training on Tuesday morning.
The disappointment of 2010, Joseph’s absence and the presence of several new faces in the squad made for a different scenario than years past, but the tone of the first practice of the season did not depart significantly from previous campaigns, according to Nicol.
“The first day of every year is the same,” Nicol told MLSsoccer.com. “We can't wait to get at it, whether [last year was] a good, a bad year or an indifferent year.”
New England will channel their excess energy toward strength and conditioning exercises for the opening week of training camp. Focus on ball work and tactical shape will enter the equation later as the Revs prepare for excursions to Orlando (Feb. 14-24) and Kennesaw, Ga. (March 3-13), but the present brief requires players to acquaint themselves with the raft of new signings and restore their fitness.
“We want to get to know everybody else and learn everybody's tendencies,” Revolution defender Darrius Barnes said. “Guys have different styles of play. You see that all the time throughout MLS. Guys come in and they bring their own style. You want to incorporate that into the system we play.”
The pieces for the system are still falling into place. Along with Joseph’s presumptive return, three foreign signings are also in the works and could join fellow new additions Ryan Cochrane and Didier Domi in the squad over the next few weeks.
While it isn't essential to have the final squad in place at this point during preseason, the team will benefit by introducing the new players as soon as possible, according to Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney.
“The sooner everyone gets in and we have our core together, the better,” Tierney said. “We have six weeks. We have to take it slow and it's going to take time. It's very important for us to make an identity in preseason.”
Nicol won't alter his approach to training camp in the wake of last year's turbulent season as this Revs side forges its ethos, but he expects different results as they work through the preseason and prepare for the upcoming campaign.
“Well, I hope it's different than last year,” Nicol said. “It better be because we didn't do well.”