FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Just about every interview during the first media access of any given preseason begins with the same benign question: “How was your offseason?”
It is, admittedly, an icebreaker, not really even considered part of the formal interview. It’s not meant to draw out the most interesting answers, but is instead intended to kick off the conversation for a new year in a safe, unthreatening manner.
But when New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps was asked about his offseason after the Revs kicked off training camp on Tuesday evening, he bypassed the idle chit-chat.
“The offseason was miserable,” Heaps said with a wry laugh. “It was longer than it should’ve been.”
It was, in fact, the longest offseason the Revs have had since Heaps’ first year in charge back in 2012, as they missed out on the playoffs by virtue of goal difference. It was in sharp contrast to their offseason between 2014 and 2015, just six weeks long after reaching MLS Cup and playing into December.
And while much of the talk in the early weeks of preseason will be about a fresh start, there’s little question that the disappointment of last year remains an underlying motivation for the Revolution.
“We fell short of our goals last year,” said Lee Nguyen. “We’re going to take it one step at a time; set little goals for ourselves to try to achieve throughout the season. But at the same time, try to achieve that big goal at the end.
“We know that there are steps to take along the way.”
That “big goal at the end” is, of course, that ever-elusive MLS Cup. It’s a mountaintop the Revs have so nearly reached on five separate occasions, and for the club and fans alike, it’s the ultimate target.
With a new campaign kicking off and optimism high, it’s a target every team believes is within reach.
“It’s a new season. Everybody has a chance to win MLS Cup right now, and that’s the mindset,” said Kei Kamara, entering his first full season with the Revs after arriving mid-year in 2016. “If anybody here’s thinking that’s not what they want to do, then obviously they’re not in the right job.
“There’s nothing less than a trophy that you want to really play for.”