KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The overwhelming uncertainty of March, April and May eventually led way to the New England Revolution’s gradual return to training in early June, and now July will bring a return to game action, as the Revs arrived at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida on Thursday afternoon.
New England’s first game of the MLS is Back Tournament – against the Montreal Impact on Thursday, July 9, at 8 p.m. ET (Univision, Twitter, 98.5 The Sports Hub) – is no longer just a light at the end of the tunnel, but an actuality that the club is preparing for in earnest.
“I think everybody’s had a really positive attitude about the whole thing,” said goalkeeper Matt Turner. “Training sessions have been super competitive from the start and guys are vying for spots again in the starting XI, and everyone is really excited to get down there and get out there to start competing.”
Before the Revs’ first game, though, they’ll spend a full week training in Orlando, making final preparations for their rematch with the Impact, who handed New England a 2-1 loss in the season opener back on February 29 at Olympic Stadium, one of just two games the Revs played before COVID-19 suspended the MLS season.
That weeklong adjustment period will be important for several reasons – no one has ever played in conditions quite like these, with the entire league contingent staying at the same hotel and playing without fans in attendance – but one of the most important will be adjusting to the weather conditions.
“I think the first thing we need to get a feel for when we get down to Orlando are the conditions and how much the heat and humidity are going to affect us, and how we organize our team to play games in those types of conditions,” said sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena. “It’ll be interesting.
“I think we’ve had a great month of training (in Foxborough). Our team is as fit as we can be given the circumstances. It’ll be interesting to see if all this hard work we’ve put in gives us some rewards.”
The rewards, should the Revs claim them, are significant. The three group stage matches against Montreal, D.C. United and Toronto FC will count towards the regular-season standings, players will vie for portions of a $1.1 million prize pool, and the tournament champion will earn a berth to the 2021 Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League.
Perhaps most importantly, the Revs want to win for their fans, who’ve been waiting almost four months to see their club back on the field in competition.
“We want to go down (to Orlando) and make sure we give our fans something to be proud of, give people something to cheer for,” said Turner. “We’re taking this really seriously, so we want to go down there and we want to win.”