FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Hope springs eternal at the start of every Major League Soccer season. As players reconvene and preseason camps kick off in every corner of the U.S. and Canada, optimism soars for all 26 teams as players, coaches, and fans alike cling to the belief that this is the year it all comes together.
That optimism is shared by the New England Revolution, but for good reason. Gathering for the first time at their sparkling new Training Center and fresh off a remarkable second-half turnaround that saw them return to the playoffs under the guidance of sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena, there’s legitimate reason to believe that 2020 could be a special year in Foxborough.
“There’s always optimism starting a new season, but it definitely does feel a little bit different coming off a good second half of (last) year, a lot returning guys, a few new ones and just having a good, cohesive group coming together,” said Scott Caldwell, beginning his eighth season with his hometown team. “It’s something that we’re really looking forward to.”
New England returns 19 players from the squad that lost just three times through their final 22 regular season games last year (9-3-10), including MLS Newcomer of the Year Carles Gil, blockbuster midseason arrival Gustavo Bou, and goalkeeper Matt Turner, currently in camp with the U.S. National Team.
Arena has added seven players to that group, highlighted by Polish forward Adam Buksa (as a Designated Player), left back Alexander Büttner, and MLS veterans Kelyn Rowe and Seth Sinovic.
Those arrivals – combined with the Revolution’s success under Arena in 2019 – set the stage for increased expectations in 2020. The players understand and embrace those expectations, but at the same time, they’re focused more on daily improvements than long-term achievements.
“We just want to be a good team. That’s what we’ve been saying since day one,” said Antonio Delamea, who reached the playoffs for the first time in his third season with the Revs. “I think we’ve been (taking) really slow steps, but really hard and successful steps to this goal.
“It’s only now on us to be committed. I think this is one of the most important things now. We all know people expect a lot of us, and we just need to thrive under this pressure and show what we’re capable of.”
No figure in American soccer understands what it takes to be successful more than Arena, winner of five MLS Cups and three Supporters’ Shields, and his preseason message to the group isn’t “let’s go win a championship,” but rather, “let’s get better every day.”
That, Arena says, it what sets you up for long-term success.
“The season’s going for another 10 months, so we’re not talking about championships at the moment,” Arena said on the first day of preseason. “We’re talking about trying to make this a good team from the starting game of the season throughout the regular season.
“If we do that, we have a chance in the postseason.”