FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – For the first two weeks of preseason training camp, the New England Revolution has escaped the harsh winter weather by keeping their workouts sheltered within the confines of the Dana-Farber Field House at Gillette Stadium.
As grateful as the Revs are to have such a facility at their disposal in Foxborough, players and staff alike are more than ready to pack their bags and head south to a more forgiving climate.
“It’s great that we have the [Field House] here so we can train,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “But we’re not an indoor team. I think that kind of says it all.”
Warmer temperatures await Nicol and his charges in Orlando, Fla., where the Revs will arrive on Monday for the start of an 11-day training trip based on the campus of the University of Central Florida. During their stay in the Sunshine State, the Revs will play their first three preseason matches of 2011 against their host UCF (Feb. 18), the U.S. Under-17 National Team (Feb. 21) and FC Dallas (Feb. 23).
While the extended Florida journey and accompanying outdoor training will signify a shift toward more focused ball work, tactical instruction and game situations, one final training session at the Dana-Farber Field House on Saturday morning signals the end of two demanding weeks of fitness training and team building exercises.
“For the most part, the first couple weeks are about getting the rust off a little bit,” said second-year forward Zack Schilawski. “(You) get back into the flow of things and make sure everyone’s gradually getting a little bit more fit and a little bit more in tune with what’s going on.”
With 12 training sessions completed and the overall fitness level slowly but surely climbing toward game shape, the Revs can now begin the critical task of forming their identity under the sunny skies in Orlando.
“[We need to] figure out our style of play and continue to get better,” said third-year center back Darrius Barnes when asked about the club’s goals in Florida. “That’s the main thing is for everybody to continue to get better, both individually and collectively.”
The individual progress will continue on a daily basis with six training sessions scheduled at UCF, while the collective development will receive a tremendous boost during the trio of exhibition matches.
“It’s important for guys to get some games under their belts and for the coaches to look at players in game settings,” said Schilawski. “[Then we can] figure out how we’re going to play, who’s going to play where and how everyone can contribute. It’ll help kind of define our roles for the rest of the season.”
While the lessons already learned during the Revolution’s two-week camp in Foxborough will be vital moving forward, the truly significant work ahead of the season opener against the LA Galaxy on March 20 has yet to begin.
“The most important thing about the first couple weeks is just getting to know everybody and trying to figure out their habits a little bit,” said Barnes. “When we get outside in Orlando, then we’ll start piecing it together.”