FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England coach Jay Heaps could have sent his players home after the season ended with 1-0 victory at Montreal on Saturday.
Instead, he gave them a few days off and told them to report back for training on Wednesday. He offered a simple reason for the decision to schedule practice sessions through Nov. 16: he wants to lay the proper groundwork for the looming offseason.
“I think it's good to keep guys together and prep them for a long offseason,” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “This will be the longest offseason they've had in a while because they're going off for Thanksgiving early and the opening date is pushed back until after the [SuperDraft]. The players are going to have eight and a half to nine weeks off. We want to get them prepped.”
Those preparations include focused work with Revolution strength and conditioning coach Nick Downing to create a manageable routine ahead of the break. Heaps said he plans to employ shorter workouts to keep his players sharp and trained on the task ahead.
It is a delicate balance to strike given the fact that not every player in the locker room will return next year. Heaps said he plans to retain a core of players for next season and sees these extra training sessions as an opportunity to push that group onwards ahead of next year.
“I wouldn't say we're doing teambuilding,” Heaps said. “We're not going to dinner and things like that. This is still part of where we are. There are going to be some changes in the locker room, but we see a core group there that we want to go forward with. Any time they are together, they see each other and push each other and they're working hard, that's important.”
All of that toil will hopefully prompt the Revs to return in the proper shape to hit the ground running when training camp convenes in mid-January, according to Heaps.
“It's after-season training in preparation for the offseason and the preseason,” Heaps said. “We have to come into preseason a step ahead. It's a little bit shorter this year, a week shorter than it was last year. We just have to be ready for it.”