FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Juan Toja’s 2012 season was almost over before it began.
Arriving through the Allocation Process just days before MLS rosters froze for the rest of the season, Toja joined the New England Revolution in early September with just six games remaining on the schedule. He made his debut on Sept. 15 at RFK Stadium on a night when the Revs were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Knowing the postseason was out of reach and in need of time to regain his fitness after going without a club for an extended period, Toja used the final two months of the 2012 regular season as a sort of 2013 “pre” preseason. The Colombian midfielder worked toward his fitness goals in training each day while honing his match sharpness with five appearances off the bench.
“It was like a preseason of a preseason; it’s kind of weird,” said Toja. “For me, the preseason has already started because I have been working with the team these two months. We now have [the offseason] when I have to work very hard to get as [fit] as I can. So for me, the preseason started when I got here.”
A couple of minor injuries hampered Toja’s progress and prevented him from breaking into the starting lineup before the season ended, but the 27-year-old still believes the past two months served a valuable purpose as he laid a foundation for development ahead of the 2013 preseason.
“It’s not usually what I do or what I’ve done,” Toja said of joining a club so late in the season. “You don’t see it that much. But it is helpful to know the people, to work with the people you’ll work with next year, to know them better, to know where you’re going to work and to get used to the New England Revolution family.”
Toja will have even more time to get used to the New England Revolution family next preseason. The importance of preseason training cannot be overstated, particularly for a crafty midfield player like Toja who needs time to adjust to the Revolution’s style of play.
“I think a guy like Juan needs that type of preparation,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “We’ve shown with guys like Saer (Sene) and Fernando (Cardenas) that have had full preseasons with us, I think they adapt better and they learn the systems of the team. It’s just a good stage of bonding and good preparation early in a preseason.”
Preseason for the 2013 campaign will officially begin in January, but for Toja it will simply be a continuation of the groundwork he laid in the final two months of 2012.
“I knew that this was a process for me to get better and better every day and to be 100 percent as soon as possible,” said Toja. “I want to and I must work very hard to come back next season very strong.”