FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The third and final phase of the New England Revolution’s preseason training camp gets underway this weekend when the club heads to Tucson, Ariz., to participate in the Desert Diamond Cup for a third straight year.
The Revolution’s recent 12-day stay in Bradenton, Fla., was the first phase, designed primarily to help players regain their fitness and integrate the club’s newest additions. This week’s string of local training sessions inside the Dana-Farber Field House was the second phase, offering the chance to continue increasing that fitness base while transitioning into more technical, tactical work.
Tucson will be the final, and perhaps most critical, phase. The Revs will spend the next two weeks training and playing high-intensity matches against MLS opposition, leading right up to the March 8 season opener against the Houston Dynamo.
“It’s finalizing,” head coach Jay Heaps said when asked about the Revolution’s objectives in Tucson. “We’re getting more streamlined and more focused on March 8 as we get closer to the end of that trip.”
That means no more matches divided into three 30-minute periods, fewer instances of mass substitutions and a greater emphasis on playing a full 90-minute match, both physically and tactically. By the time the Revs participate in a DDC placement game on March 1, they’ll be preparing for the real thing.
While the four matches may represent the meat and potatoes in Tucson, highly-specialized training sessions built in around those matches will be the side dishes which tie it all together.
“The playing time’s going to be important, but it’s also going to be the training we’re doing around it, getting everyone on the exact same page what we’re doing tactically, positionally and what we want to do come March 8,” said Heaps. “To me, both weeks are really important out there in Arizona.”
Just about halfway through the Revolution’s six-week preseason camp, Heaps is pleased with the progress the club has made to this point. But complacency at this stage would be a massive mistake, and he knows the upward trajectory needs to continue through the Revolution’s time in Tucson.
“We think we know where we are, we have a good idea of where we want to be, and there’s still work to be done,” said Heaps. “But at the same time, a lot of the returning players, they’ve come back fit and they’ve come back sharp in understanding their roles. I think that’s a really good place to be.”