FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Although it’s been one of the mildest winters in recent memory here in New England, this morning’s snowfall – tame though it may have been – emphasized the fact that this time of year simply isn’t conducive to outdoor training in the Northeast.
The Revs will spend this week going through their paces inside the sheltered confines of the Dana-Farber Field House on the grounds of Gillette Stadium, but they’ll depart for warmer climates on Saturday, Jan. 21, when they head to Casa Grande, Ariz., for the first of two preseason training trips to the Grand Canyon State.
“It’s something we need to do because there are so many changes,” said veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis. “For us to implement all the things that we want to do, it’s not really conducive to do it here in the [Field House]. It’s great to get out to Arizona, get out to the sunshine, get out onto a field and work on the things we need to do.”
Last year the Revs didn’t report for preseason camp until Jan. 31, but this year they’ll be more than two weeks into the work load and already returning from their first training trip when that date rolls around on the calendar. It’s a change partly necessitated by the earliest regular-season start date in MLS history (March 10), but also largely driven by the presence of new head coach Jay Heaps.
According to Heaps, his new staff requires the maximum amount of time with their players as they aim to shape the team’s identity, encourage a new culture of accountability and implement an entirely different, attack-minded playing style prior to First Kick.
“We need to form an identity,” said Heaps. “We as a coaching staff have an idea of where we want to take this team, but we have to get [the players] to buy into that. We want to get them to believe in what we’re trying to do and it’s important to get as many touches as we can, as many training sessions, as many times as we can get in front of them to kind of hammer home that message.”
“If this is the (first) day that we can be here and do work, this is the day we should be here doing work,” said second-year center back A.J. Soares. “The coaching staff was here early, they were excited. They met with us and gave us that message that this year, it’s going to be a step up. We’re going to be a better team because we’re going to do everything to a higher level.”
The road to improvement will kick into high gear in Casa Grande, where the Revs will focus on unifying the core group already in camp and incorporating the club’s newest players, including those who’ve yet to join up.
Both Benny Feilhaber and Kelyn Rowe are expected to join the Revs at some juncture during the trip following the conclusion of their duties with the U.S. Men’s National Team and U.S. Under-23 National Team, respectively, while the recently-signed Colombian duo of Fernando Cardenas and John Lozano could also meet the team in Arizona pending receipt of their U.S. P-1 Visas. The Revs also hope to bring in multiple trialists during the trip as they continue to shape the roster ahead of First Kick.
“We have two or three names that we really want to see in action and it’ll be important to get them there,” said Heaps. “But really it’s about finding that identity and then making sure that in training and in that time in Arizona, that we start to build it.”