FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – For the first time since mid-February there is no New England Revolution game to look forward to this weekend as Major League Soccer begins an extended break during the group stage of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The Revs won’t return to league action until June 28 – when they’ll host the Philadelphia Union – and don’t open their U.S. Open Cup campaign until next Wednesday, offering a well-timed respite ahead of a grueling July schedule which will see the Revs play six games in 27 days.
“Usually you don’t get [a break] and we’ve all been looking forward to it from the beginning of the year,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “When you collectively looked at the entire year and you saw that the two weeks was going to come, you knew you’d be able to build in some rest.”
Of course, there are some on the Revolution roster who’d prefer not to rest at the moment. Back-to-back losses to Montreal and New York just before the break put a slight damper on New England’s stellar run through April and May, when the club shot to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Those consecutive defeats have left the Revs with a bitter taste heading into this gap in the schedule, but they remain atop the East and third in the overall MLS standings. A difficult start to the season (1-3-1) was followed by a stretch of seven games unbeaten (6-0-1) before the pair of recent setbacks, leaving Heaps and his staff to pause and reflect on the Revolution’s up-and-down campaign.
“When you go into a break, I think you have to collect and look at what you did well and what you didn’t do so well,” said Heaps. “I think we’ve been streaky. Let’s be honest, we’ve won games and we’ve lost, and we’ve got to find a way to balance that out a little bit better.”
Heaps said it will be important for some of the Revolution’s most physically-taxed players to “recharge” during this break, and indicated that the Revs will rely on their depth and a bit of roster rotation when they visit the Richmond Kickers in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup next week.
After training through Thursday, players will be given a three-day weekend to recover both physically and mentally, but the break will be about more than simply resting tired bodies and minds. The time away from league action will be designed to help the Revs harness the positives from their first 14 games of the season, while at the same time sharpening their approach ahead of the remaining 20 contests.
“When we come back, we’re going to be going at full speed,” said recent high-school graduate Diego Fagundez. “I think it’s going to be tough for everyone [after two losses], but we have to make sure we’re focused and make sure we take this time off seriously.”