Preseason training stints offer valuable link between first team and Academy

Preseason 2017 - Tucson, Arizona - Day 30 - Training - Group Pic - Academy

TUCSON, Ariz. – Diego Fagundez, Scott Caldwell and Zach Herivaux are the first three Homegrown players in New England Revolution history, but the trio’s shared past dates back to well before they were playing the game professionally.

All three players spent extensive time training with the Revolution first team while they were still youngsters in the club’s Academy. Fagundez spent a full year alternating between the Revs’ Under-16 squad and the pro team. Caldwell trained with the Revolution every summer during his time at Akron. Herivaux traveled on a pair of preseason trips to Tucson while he was still an Academy player.

Those experiences offered endless benefits to both the players and the club. While the Revolution’s technical staff was able to assess the players in a professional environment, the players were given the opportunity to train at a high level, settle into the locker room, and form relationships with the first team.

As a result, when Fagundez (2010), Caldwell (2013) and Herivaux (2015) made the jump to the pros, they were already familiar with the process and had been accepted by their older, more veteran teammates.

“For them to have that experience before they were actually signed, it’s almost turnkey now when they join the team as a professional,” said General Manager Michael Burns. “There are no surprises. They know the coaches, they know the players, they know the locker room; there’s a comfort level.”

That’s why the Revs continue to maintain an ever-present link between the Academy and first team, and the club’s preseason trips to Arizona remain one of the best opportunities for Academy players to get a fully immersive experience with the pros.

Back-to-back UnitedHealthcare Academy Player of the Year Justin Rennicks joined the Revs in Tucson the past two years, while current UConn goalkeeper Austin Aviza also spent time with the first team in Arizona. Both Rennicks and Herivaux saw time in the Desert Diamond Cup as Academy players.

This year, Under-18 midfielder Joe Brito and Under-16 midfielder Kevin Vang joined the Revs in Tucson, with Brito seeing action against both the Colorado Rapids and Houston Dynamo.

“It rewards the players that are doing well within their (Academy) teams,” said first-team head coach Jay Heaps. “It’s a great connection. It also lets us get them into our group and let our older guys know who they are, and establish that bond between first team and Academy.”

As preseason winds to a close for another year, both Brito and Vang will soon return to their Academy sides to continue preparing for the spring portion of the 2016-2017 campaign. But the persistent link between the first team and Academy will remain, and come summertime, more Academy players will find themselves training with the first team on a regular basis.

That’s a cycle that will continue for the foreseeable future, as the Revs continue to try to draw first-team talent out of their ever-growing Academy.

“It’s something that myself and Jay and our first-team coaches and our Academy coaches talk about regularly throughout the course of the year,” said Burns. “We love doing it. In a way, it rewards some of our Academy players that we feel have deserved an opportunity to train with the first team.

“It’s great for our Academy program, it’s great for the individual players, and we’ll continue to do this, whether it’s in Arizona for preseason or whether it’s in the summer when they’re on break.

“We think it’s great on all fronts.”