FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Of all the MLS cities the New England Revolution visit for road matches, Vancouver is the only one they typically can’t get to on a direct flight out of Boston or Providence.
That won’t be an issue on Thursday afternoon, however, as the Revs will board one of the Kraft family’s private jets for the cross-country voyage, turning what’s normally a grueling day of travel into a much simpler – and much more comfortable – trip to Canada.
“The comfort of the travel is not going to be an issue,” head coach Brad Friedel said about the effect of long-distance travel on newer players who haven’t experienced it before. “We’re obviously going to have favorable times that we’re flying, so I don’t think that will be any sort of problem whatsoever.”
A typical travel party for a regular-season road trip is about 30 people including players and staff, but this weekend’s trip to Vancouver will see that number skyrocket to north of 100. Not only will the Revs travel their entire first-team squad (rather than just a match-day 18), but they’ll also bring their Under-15, Under-17, and Under-19 Academy teams along for the trip.
All three Academy squads will play against their respective counterparts in the Vancouver Whitecaps’ Academy on Friday afternoon, but perhaps more importantly the young players will learn the ins and outs of a first-team road trip, from travel, to meals, to tactical preparation.
“Being able to cross time zones, go across the continent, come in the night before a game on a six-hour flight, and be able to perform either the next day or the day after, requires a real mental strength,” said Director of Youth Development Bryan Scales. “That has to be worked on, but it also has to be identified.
“This is something that [the Academy players] have to be able to understand – that there’s a difference between vacation and a business trip. This’ll be a fun business trip for our guys.”
The trip will feature a joint dinner between the first team and Academy on Thursday night, while Friedel and his staff will meet with the Academy players and coaches during the trip to lay out the tactical approach ahead of Saturday, when the youth players will take in the first-team game at BC Place.
“Brad and his staff will speak to the Academy kids,” said Scales. “They’ll let them know what the emphasis is for the game, how they’re getting ready, and kind of give them an inside scoop on what it’s like traveling with the first team.”
“I think it’s a good opportunity for them to see how the first team conducts themselves when they travel,” added Friedel. “I think it’s good for them to see how we prepare for a very important game, and also how we prepare for a very important week ahead.”
While the Revs consistently bring select Academy players on their preseason trips to Tucson, Arizona, and incorporate Academy players into first-team training during the summer months, never before have they brought entire squads on a regular-season, first-team trip.
In fact, Scales believes this might be a first-of-its-kind trip in Major League Soccer.
“I don’t know if it’s been done before, to be honest,” he said. “I don’t know of any other MLS academies that have done this with as many of their Academy teams as possible.
“We’ve worked with Brad’s staff all week – all the Academy staff – behind the scenes in their preparation of the training sessions leading into this Vancouver game, so that when we travel out there, we’ll know how they’re picking the team, what the emphasis is in training, and what the tactics are for the game.
“We’ve used it for coach education, and we’ll use it for player education, too. It’s pretty special.”