FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Now entering his 16th season in Major League Soccer, veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis still gets a jolt at the start of each and every preseason training camp.
Reis and his New England Revolution teammates reported to Foxborough for entrance physicals on Thursday night and went through conditioning testing on Friday afternoon. The club was scheduled to run through its first training session on Saturday afternoon before departing for a 10-day trip to Casa Grande, Ariz., on Monday.
The work begins in earnest as the players spend the opening days – and sometimes weeks – working their way back to full fitness, fine-tuning their touch on the ball and reconnecting as a squad.
“It’s the start of something,” Reis said. “You know having been through it so many times that it is a grind and it is a long process, but it’s good to start the process, it’s good to get back and it’s good to see a lot of the guys. We know that what we’re working for is a long way off, but it takes these first couple weeks to make sure that you have what it takes to get there at the end.”
One distinct difference between last year’s training camp and the 2013 edition is a greater sense of consistency, including both the players on the roster and the coaching staff. As head coach Jay Heaps enters his second year at the helm, the 36-year-old and his players can now build upon the work put in last season without spending so much time getting used to one another.
“For all of us, last year – Jay included – it was a big change,” said Reis. “Having a full year under our belts makes us all in a little bit better situation to move forward. I think we’re all ready and we’ve got a bunch of guys who have been with each other for this whole past year. We’re ready to move forward.”
“The first year, we wanted to change the culture. From game preparation to offseason, we talked about it from day one,” said Heaps. “Now we want to raise the standard. I think that’s the most important thing for us. We made a lot of strides forward last year – and a couple strides back – but this year, it’s about making sure that our standard is high and that we hold each other accountable.”
Accountability was a major buzzword in New England Revolution camp last season, but Heaps believes it’s a concept which develops more authenticity with time. Having established a baseline in 2012, both players and coaches now have a greater sense of the potential which exists in the squad, making it easier to demand the best from each and every team member on a daily basis.
“I think they know what to expect from me and I think I know what to expect from most of the guys now, short of a couple guys we added,” said Heaps. “That’s what accountability is; knowing what you can expect from everyone every day and then demanding that from them. I think when you ask too much of a guy, you may put too much pressure on them. But when guys start to know each other really well, you can expect that performance day-in and day-out. That’s where real teams become strong.”