TUCSON, Ariz. – Saturday night’s preseason finale against the LA Galaxy is technically a cup final, but New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps merely wants the match to replicate a regular-season contest.
A victory in the Desert Diamond Cup championship – which the Revs reached by virtue of their perfect 3-0-0 record in the group stage of the competition – would allow New England to hoist a trophy, but the primary objective on Saturday night is less about acquiring silverware and more about preparing for next weekend’s season opener against the San Jose Earthquakes.
“Tomorrow night’s going to be important that we replicate what we’re trying to do (during the season),” said Heaps. “We’re focused on San Jose, but at the same time, we’re going to have to make some changes because it’s also (preparation) for the season, kind of getting into the rhythm for the season.”
“That’s exactly what we’re trying to do,” said goalkeeper Matt Reis when asked if the preseason finale was a dress rehearsal for next weekend’s meeting with the Earthquakes. “We’re trying to get most likely our best 11 out there and what we think will probably be the lineup opening night.”
While Heaps and his staff carefully managed minutes in the first three matches of the Desert Diamond Cup – including resting much of the core group of starters for Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake – Saturday night’s rematch with the Galaxy will be approached with more of a regular-season mentality.
“There’s a couple instances where we’ve planned minutes, where we have minutes we want to get certain guys,” said Heaps. “But then after that it’s going to be more like a regular-season game in how we make subs toward the end of the match.”
Not only will the Revolution’s on-field approach mirror a regular-season match, but the off-field atmosphere will likely resemble the environment the Revs will experience next weekend at Buck Shaw Stadium. Upwards of 13,000 fans are expected to pack Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium on Saturday night and Heaps noted the benefits of learning to perform in front of a crowd.
“Any time you can get people watching you play and the intensity of a regular-season match, the atmosphere of a regular-season match, it’s one step closer to where we’re getting as a group,” he said.
Heaps has been pleased with the competitive edge his side has shown throughout preseason and expects nothing less than for his team to battle for 90 more minutes as the Revs aim to complete a perfect preseason. But the progression Heaps has concerned himself with isn’t necessarily linked to preseason results.
“We have to keep it in perspective what we’re going after,” he said. “At the end of that game, that’s exactly what it is; it’s preseason. If we went out and lost the first three games (of the Desert Diamond Cup), we’d still be in the same situation we are where we’re talking about what we’ve accomplished in preseason. So win or lose, we’re making sure we’re taking those progressive steps forward.”