Academy product Caldwell focused on final year at Akron

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – In recent weeks many onlookers at New England Revolution training sessions have been left wondering: Who’s the new guy with the shaggy mane of curly hair?

It turns out the “new guy” is actually a familiar face in University of Akron midfielder Scott Caldwell, who’s currently in the midst of a four-week training stint with the Revs. Caldwell’s midseason visits to Foxborough have been a regular occurrence since the soon-to-be college senior graduated from the Revolution’s Academy program in 2009.

“I’m definitely more comfortable the more I come back,” said Caldwell, a native of Braintree, Mass. “But it’s still the same. It’s great to play with great players that help me improve every day.

“It’s perfect,” Caldwell said of the opportunity to train with an MLS team between college seasons. “It allows me to really stay at a high level and even try to improve in the offseason. That’s something I’m sure a lot of guys don’t get so I’m lucky to have that opportunity.”

One noticeable difference this time around is the makeup of the Revolution’s coaching staff, which has undergone an overhaul since Caldwell’s last summer visit. All of Caldwell’s previous training spells came under the direction of Steve Nicol and the Akron co-captain admits the environment is a bit different under new head coach Jay Heaps.

“There’s a different kind of energy, atmosphere,” said Caldwell. “But it’s all great. I’m enjoying it and I enjoy being with the guys. The guys are great to me; they always have been. Just this new energy, it feels good. They’re playing well.”

Caldwell had a breakout junior year at Akron in 2011, scoring a career-high six goals and adding a team-leading 11 assists to follow up on a memorable end to the 2010 season in which he scored the game-winning goal in the national championship game. But the Zips were stifled in their attempt to repeat as national champions, bowing out in the third round of the NCAA Tournament to eventual national runner-up Charlotte.

“Last season was a disappointing season for all of us at Akron,” Caldwell said. “We’re really putting everything forward to try to win a national championship. If we don’t do that, then we’ve failed this season. That’s what we’re going for.”

In two weeks Caldwell will return to Akron to commence summer classes and begin preparing for his senior season with the Zips. As of now, Caldwell is scheduled to graduate in December, just in time for the start of MLS training camps in mid-January.

But Caldwell refuses to look too far into the future and has instead focused his energy on making the most of his final year at Akron.

“I’ve always said I want to play professionally; that’s always been my dream,” Caldwell said. “But this (college) season, really, is the first thing on my mind. Right when that’s over, then I can figure [the future] out, but we must have a good season and win a national championship.”