TUCSON, Ariz. – Entering Wednesday night’s Desert Diamond Cup group stage finale against Real Salt Lake, the New England Revolution is on the verge of returning to the competition’s title game for a second straight year.
A win over RSL would see the Revolution join Seattle Sounders FC in Saturday’s championship match, which will be televised live on NBC Sports Network beginning at 8 p.m. ET. The Revs could also advance to the DDC final with a draw on Wednesday night, provided the New York Red Bulls don’t defeat Seattle by three or more goals.
But while playing for a preseason trophy in front of a national television audience would be a nice bonus, securing a spot in the title game is not the priority for a Revolution side still building toward the March 9 season opener.
“I think we compartmentalize those types of things,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “We’re looking for the performance more than the result right now. Obviously when the game is on the line, you want the competitive game to play out, but there’s also some form of performance that we’re looking for more than the result at this time.”
With the result secondary, Heaps will manage minutes on Wednesday night by using largely different lineups for each half, limiting most players to 45 minutes. The Revs used a similar approach in the DDC opener against Seattle before pushing many players to 65 minutes against New York. In the Revolution’s final preseason game on Saturday – regardless of opponent – Heaps plans to use many players for the full 90 minutes.
The regular season will typically feature weekend games with six days between matches, while the DDC features four games in a compressed 11-day span. In order to begin working toward a regular-season rhythm, Heaps has preferred to equate the midweek DDC matches with high-intensity training sessions.
“Rather than coming [to the training field] and playing 11-v-11, we’re using the game tomorrow night as a training session,” he said. “It’ll be geared as a game, but what we’re hoping to get out of it is a workload similar to about an-hour-and-a-half, two-hour training session.”
While Heaps is more concerned with performance than result on Wednesday night, he still very much wants his side to compete and push for victory. Competition is a critical part of every Revolution training session and Heaps expects his players to want to win every time they step on the field, whether it’s a game or a drill.
“Everything we do here is a competition, so when you step on the pitch, it’s a competition. Guys are competing for spots right now,” said Heaps. “We’re looking at a lot of different things, but in the end, you do want the result to go your way. It’s just not totally at the top of the list right now.”