A.J. Soares

Players sense a fresh start as preseason camp opens

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Monday morning marked the beginning of a new era for the New England Revolution.

With 54 days to prepare for the season opener against the San Jose Earthquakes on March 10, the Revs opened preseason training camp in earnest with their first session under newly-appointed head coach Jay Heaps. It was a spirited workout inside the Dana-Farber Field House which captured the overarching sense of excitement enveloping the club as it heads in a new direction.

“You could see today at training there was certainly a buzz and the players were flying,” said Heaps, who outlined some of the changes taking place in a team meeting prior to the session. “From a player standpoint, I want to give them a fresh start. I want them all to feel that they’re coming in here, they’re going to have a new set of eyes on them and they’re going to have a new set of responsibilities.”

Center back A.J. Soares – now entering his second season in New England after a standout rookie campaign – sensed a different atmosphere immediately upon walking through the doors of the revamped locker room. A series of aesthetic improvements merely scratched the surface of the new space which now includes a fully-equipped workout facility and a room for film study.

“I almost feel, again, like I’m coming in for the first time,” said Soares. “I’m really excited and you get that feeling from everyone, too. Everyone’s really excited to be here. It’s like you’re coming to a new club, really. That’s what it feels like.

“It’s upgraded,” he continued. “Everything’s up on par with the top clubs in MLS in terms of facilities … You get that vibe that everyone’s excited to get here, work hard and do all the extra things you need to do to be a good team.”

The shift in philosophy was similarly felt on day one by veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis, who’s entering his 10th season in New England, seven of which were spent playing alongside Heaps. This will be Reis’ first season in Foxborough under the direction of a new head coach following the departure of longtime boss Steve Nicol, who had been at the helm since 2002.

“It’s a little different not having Stevie around,” said Reis. “But at the same time, all the changes in the locker room, structurally, to the team and adding Nick Downing (as the strength and conditioning coach) are great. I’m excited for the prospect of getting back to our winning ways and getting back in the playoffs.”

Heaps is keenly aware of the transition period which awaits as fundamental changes take hold, which is the primary reason the Revolution’s new head coach commenced training camp on the first possible day. But if it’s a fresh start Heaps is after following a frustrating 2011 campaign, early signs indicate he’s on the right track.

“You can only change so much, but in an offseason, this is probably the biggest change any of these guys have felt in a career,” said Heaps. “Anyone that’s been in this organization knows it’s been the biggest changes it’s had.”