TUCSON, Ariz. – Jay Heaps will have one eye on the March 10 season opener against the San Jose Earthquakes when his New England Revolution side continues group play in the Desert Diamond Cup on Saturday night against the New York Red Bulls.
Heaps continues to assess his roster and the 10 unsigned players currently in camp – eight of whom played in the 3-2 win over the LA Galaxy on Wednesday night – but the Revolution’s head coach is also eager to begin readying the current squad for its trip to Buck Shaw Stadium in two weeks.
“We have to balance it,” said Heaps. “It’s a numbers game and it’s a balance game getting significant minutes for certain players and also (continuing) identification. We’re really in a balance mode and I feel like we as a staff have really done a good job of segmenting what we need to get done, doing it and following it to a plan.
“Some of the starting players will get significant minutes tomorrow night,” added Heaps, who plans to use the Revolution’s two remaining Saturday preseason games to get his core group into the proper rhythm. “Guys who are on the cusp or guys who are going to play minutes during the season but may not necessarily be in the starting group will get more minutes on Wednesday night.”
It’s likely both Kevin Alston (calf) and A.J. Soares (knee) will be held out for precautionary reasons for the second straight game despite having recently returned to full training. Heaps has targeted next Saturday’s match – either the championship or consolation game for the Desert Diamond Cup – as the potential return date for the defensive duo, while Ryan Guy (calf) is scheduled to see significant playing time on Wednesday night against Real Salt Lake.
As for those unsigned players in camp looking to make an impression, they’ll likely split time between the next two games against New York and RSL. Who plays in which game is largely dependent on travel schedules and which players are slated to remain in camp for a longer period.
“(Tomorrow) you’ll see one or two guys who will be leaving us to at least get them on the field,” said Heaps. “We have a couple of the trialists a little bit longer so you might see more of them on Wednesday night.”
Regardless of the personnel on the field against the Red Bulls, the Revs will be looking to build upon the positives gleaned from their recent victory over the Galaxy. Most notably, the Revs were potent going forward and scored three goals against LA – something they did only three times in 34 regular-season games in 2011 – and that attacking verve is something Shalrie Joseph would like to see consistently in 2012.
“I think it’s huge for this team, especially having a young team, that we [scored] a lot of goals,” Joseph said. “That helped our confidence and helped our chemistry. Just trying to keep the ball a little bit better, try to move forward in numbers, create more chances and just score goals. Goals win games and if we can do that (against New York) I think it’d be encouraging.”