TUCSON, Ariz. – For the 26 players currently signed with the New England Revolution, preseason is about building fitness, forming an identity and perfecting a playing style.
But for the unsigned rookie trio of Gabe Latigue, Donnie Smith and Luis Soffner, every day is a job interview.
All three were selected in either the SuperDraft (Smith and Soffner) or the Supplemental Draft (Latigue), but unlike number one overall pick and Generation adidas member Andrew Farrell, their spots on the 2013 roster are not guaranteed. Instead, they must earn their first professional contracts with their performances in camp.
It’s a pressure-packed situation which at times does weigh on the minds of the young hopefuls.
“It’s pretty nerve-wracking,” admitted Smith, who has received praise from head coach Jay Heaps for his attacking instincts down the left wing. “I’m usually pretty nervous before training, but once I get out there and start kicking around with the guys, it makes me feel a lot more comfortable as you get used to everything.”
Many players try to forget that they’re playing for a roster spot for fear the stress will negatively impact their performance, but in reality it’s impossible to completely block it from one’s psyche. Knowing this, Soffner instead uses the pressure to his advantage, forcing himself to dig deeper for motivation.
“I was fortunate enough and obviously honored to be drafted by New England, but it’s not guaranteed yet,” said Soffner, who recently won an NCAA national championship as the goalkeeper at Indiana University. “It does give you that extra push and that extra little bit of fight in practice. It’s always in the back of my mind to really try to make a statement and show that I deserve to be here.”
For Latigue, keeping an even keel throughout the process is critical. Through three weeks of preseason camp there have been both good days and bad days, but the key is maintaining a positive outlook at all times.
“You want to keep a positive energy throughout each session, throughout games,” Latigue said. “You never know what’s going to come your way so you play as hard as you can each day. There are going to be low points, but at the same time, if you have a bad session or something doesn’t go your way, you have to look past it and just focus on doing your best.”
The three remaining unsigned rookies in Revolution camp have already outlasted others in similar situations, but they’re well aware that the work isn’t finished. And it won’t be finished even if they do sign that first pro contract.
“You’re unsigned, so you have something to prove each day,” said Smith. “You can’t get complacent, because when you get complacent, you could be gone. I definitely want to prove something each day that I belong here and I can contribute to the team.”