Preseason Notebook | Arena offers updates as full team training begins in Foxborough

Gustavo Bou preseason training 2021

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Monday morning brought both a new month and the start of a new MLS season, as the New England Revolution officially began full preseason training with a session inside the Empower Fieldhouse on the grounds of Gillette Stadium.

New England – which had most of its squad report voluntarily last week, prior to the March 1 report date – will train for seven weeks ahead of their yet-to-be-announced season opener the weekend of April 17. They’ll build steadily towards that date with a trip to Los Angeles scheduled for later in preseason, according to Bruce Arena, but these early days are all about forming a foundation for fitness.

“We just want to see the kind of fitness level the players are at and get a quick evaluation on the new players that have joined us this year,” Arena said after the first session on Monday. “Then (we’ll) try to move the team forward as we get into the second week of training.

“A number of players have been here some weeks now working hard, and you can see that the fitness level was pretty good for the start of preseason. That’s something that’s a real positive and we hope we can move them along a lot quicker.”

Majority of squad in camp on day one; Buksa and Mafla expected to arrive soon

The vast majority of the Revolution’s first team roster was on the field for day one of preseason camp on Monday, including new arrivals Emmanuel Boateng, A.J. DeLaGarza, Earl Edwards Jr., and Wilfrid Kaptoum, as well as several players from Revolution II.

There were two exceptions in Colombian left back Christian Mafla, scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, and DP forward Adam Buksa, who is also expected to arrive soon as COVID-related travel issues have temporarily delayed his return from Poland.

“There’s some issues with his travel,” Arena said. “There needs to be certain documents to get him through and get him out of Europe.”

Kessler joins up with U.S. U23 national team for Olympic qualifying camp in Mexico

One other player was not on the field in Foxborough on Monday morning: Henry Kessler, who has traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico, to join up with the U.S. Under-23 national team for a training camp ahead of the Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, scheduled for later this month.

Kessler, who earned his first call-up to the U.S. U23s in January, is one of four center backs in camp hoping to claim a spot on the final 20-man roster, which will be selected by head coach Jason Kreis ahead of the start of the competition on March 18.

“Watching what his experience was and the contributions he made to the Revolution in 2020 and their MLS season ultimately was a big contributor into why he’s getting an opportunity, as well as speaking with his coach,” Kreis said of Kessler. “Bruce is a big fan of his. Bruce really thinks he’s a guy for the future for us.

“So we brought him in in January. I quite liked what he was about. He’s a very intelligent, cerebral central defender that can organize players around him. He’ll continue to get a look in for us and we’ll see which of those four central defenders – if we choose to take four or three – what our final roster looks like for sure right now, I’m not exactly sure.”

The U.S. will play group stage matches against Costa Rica (March 18), the Dominican Republic (March 21) and Mexico (March 24), aiming to earn a spot in the competition’s semifinals and ultimately the final, with only the two finalists claiming spots for their countries in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Arena aiming to make one more addition prior to season opener in mid-April

Two international signings and three MLS free agents have joined the squad for 2021, while two others (Edward Kizza and Francois Dulysse) were selected in the SuperDraft as Arena and his staff have aimed to bolster the squad following last year’s trip to the Eastern Conference Final.

The coming weeks will be an important period for those fresh faces as they integrate into the group, but Arena has also said he’s not quite done building his roster just yet.

“I think we’ll bring in possibly another player before the season starts,” Arena said. “Then (we’ll) evaluate where we are during the season and see if there’s any additions we need to make in the summer transfer window.”