Preseason opens with optimistic air following last year’s playoff appearance

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Each year, regardless of the sport, optimism courses through preseason camp. Presented with a clean slate, players and fans alike let themselves hope that perhaps this will be the year that their side produces a deep playoff run. Maybe even a championship.

In the case of the New England Revolution, that optimism is justified.

Following last year’s third-place finish in the Eastern Conference and subsequent playoff meeting with eventual MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City, the Revs are a confident and expectant bunch as preseason camp gets underway. Not only is there an expectation that they’ll return to the playoffs in 2014, but they believe they can take the next step and make the leap from playoff contender to title contender.

“It’s every team’s goal to make the playoffs and it’s ours every year,” said Kelyn Rowe, who returns after career-best marks in both goals (7) and assists (8) last season. “It’s obviously a reachable goal, because we’ve done it. We did it last year and we’re going to do it again this year.

“Then it’s that next step. Can you win that first (playoff) series? Then can you win the next series, get to MLS Cup and win that? It’s a progressive goal, but after each game, you have to set your standards, and our standards are high.”

New England’s increasing aspirations are bolstered by the club’s returning core of contributors; nine players who started both of the Revolution’s playoff games last season return in 2014. And as a younger squad with a current average age of 25.3 years old, improvement is expected with experience.

There’s no question the basic elements are in place for another strong season, while the technical staff continues its quest for additional attacking reinforcements. But simply having a capable squad isn’t enough; the Revs know they’ll need to put in the work in order to keep climbing the ladder.

“We know that it’s a long road ahead of us,” said Chris Tierney, now the Revolution’s longest-tenured player having joined the team in June 2008. “Other teams get better and we’re going to have to get better, too. But we’re optimistic. We know we have a great group and good chemistry, good players, so we’re excited about our chances.

“We know that we’re moving towards something good with our squad and our group of players. We know that there’s more out there for us to claim and it’s just about making sure we’ve put in the work to go and do that.”

That work began in earnest on Saturday morning when the Revs trained at the Dana-Farber Field House in Foxborough, where the club will train once more on Sunday before departing Monday morning for a 12-day preseason trip to Bradenton, Fla.