FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Cabin fever struck soon after the New England Revolution departed for the offseason.
While players usually take a bit of time off to recover from the grueling exertions of the nine-month campaign, they soon resume workouts with an eye toward preparing for training camp.
By the time the end of January hits, players are clamoring to end their isolated workouts in the gym to join their teammates on the practice field. While the enthusiasm is appreciated, it must also be tempered a bit in order to ensure the preseason progresses smoothly, according to Revolution midfielder Chris Tierney.
“Everyone's going to be very eager to get out there,” Tierney told MLSsoccer.com. “I think it's going to be good to ease in a little bit, get to know each other as people and understand everyone else a little bit.”
Revolution coach Steve Nicol prefers to start training camp with a week or two dedicated to strength and conditioning work. Although every player prepares for the early stages of camp, the collective fitness work establishes common ground and lays the foundation for the extended campaign ahead.
“During the first couple of weeks, it really doesn't matter what you did during the offseason,” new Revs defender Ryan Cochrane said. “You're still going to come in and you're still going to have some heavy legs. It's about getting your feet under you and building up that camaraderie with the new guys coming in. It's important to meet everybody and get a feel for everybody's personalities.”
The preliminary activities will gradually yield to more emphasis on technical sessions. Scheduled trips to Orlando (Feb. 14-24) and Kennesaw, Ga., (March 3-13) should allow Nicol and the Revs coaching staff to focus on full-field work and tinker with tactical approaches.
“Once the soccer starts, it'll be a little crazy and frantic for the first couple of days, but there's definitely an aspect of pacing to it,” Tierney said.
The preparations will increase gradually as the Revs wind their way through a series of friendlies to get ready for the season opener in Los Angeles on March 20. As the crucial date approaches, the Revs must avoid moving too quickly as they seek to acquire match fitness and develop the necessary chemistry to succeed during the regular season.
“You have to know that it's a marathon, it's a long season,” Revolution defender Darrius Barnes said. “You have to take it slow and get yourself integrated into everything. The preseason is the time to get the chemistry right. At first, it isn't about how sharp you are on the ball. We need to get the team gel together a bit and then pick it up as we move along.”