TUCSON, Ariz. – Having spent 22 of the past 33 days training in the Arizona desert, the New England Revolution is just about ready to head home and make final preparations ahead of the March 9 season opener. But before leaving Tucson the Revs will play once more in the Desert Diamond Cup consolation match on Saturday evening.
While the Revs have generally limited players to anywhere between 30-60 minutes of game action through the first five preseason matches, that formula will change against the New York Red Bulls. In preparation for the season opener in two weeks, head coach Jay Heaps plans to push some of his players toward a full 90 minutes.
“It’s going to be about us really fine tuning our last performance,” said Heaps, who added that the Revs will likely play a scrimmage next weekend when the rest of MLS opens the regular season. “I think you’re going to see some guys play a little bit longer. Guys will get longer minutes to really establish themselves for the season.”
One player who could see increased time is central midfielder Clyde Simms, whose longest preseason stints have been 45 minutes. Simms started 29 games for the Revolution last year, but the MLS veteran is currently part of a fierce midfield competition which includes newcomers Scott Caldwell, Kalifa Cisse and Andy Dorman.
Should he play extended minutes on Saturday, Simms will be ready, and he’s confident the work he and his teammates have put in during recent weeks will pay off when the regular season gets underway.
“My body’s good and it feels strong,” Simms said. “Personally, I definitely like where I’m at two weeks out. I think a lot of the guys are along the same lines. We’ve worked really hard this preseason and it’s been tough on our bodies. I think we’ll start to calm it down a little bit and we’ll start to feel and see all the work we’ve put in so far.”
Fitness shouldn’t be an issue for the Revolution after a lengthy preseason, but there are still on-field components the club will be working to fine tune in the next two weeks before traveling to visit the Chicago Fire. Saturday’s meeting with the New York Red Bulls will present a key opportunity to improve in the desired areas.
“Defensively, with our shape, I think that’s huge with every game, but the more time we spend together, it needs to get better and better,” said Simms. “I think we’ll spend a lot of time the next two weeks on [organization].
“Also, just getting sharper with the ball. I think that’s something we’ve definitely seen progress in throughout preseason and hopefully we can continue that going into the game tomorrow night.”