FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Ousmane Dabo didn’t view his first training session with the New England Revolution as another mundane affair. No, it was more than that.
It was the beginning of a new journey. And it showed.
While Dabo, who has played across Europe for the entirety of his 15-year professional career, could have brushed aside the moment as simply one of the many training sessions he’s participated in as a professional soccer player, he instead reflected on his happiness to meet his new teammates, as well as the intrigue of playing outside of Europe.
“”I’m very happy to meet the guys and meet the players,” said Dabo. “And (to) start this new life.”
The decision to start this new chapter for a player who’s enjoyed spells with Manchester City, Internazionale, and Lazio was one that was made after keeping a pulse on the possibilities MLS afforded to many of his European colleagues.
“I’ve been told that it’s a good league and it’s improving every year,” said Dabo. “I saw Thierry Henry came here, (David) Beckham, and (Freddie) Ljungberg. (They are) all very good players who are famous in Europe. So, I said ‘why not?’. I wanted to discover something else. I think America is the future, so I’m happy to be here.”
For both the Frenchman and Revolution manager Steve Nicol, the midfielder’s arrival is a welcome development after months of speculation. After all, not every MLS club can patch up its midfield with a former Serie A star.
The recruitment of Dabo commenced last year, after the manager met with the midfielder in Paris.
“I saw him in Paris and we had a good chat,” said Dabo. “He explained to me how he wanted the team to play.”
Once the conversation concluded, Nicol wanted to make sure that the then-33-year-old center half still had gas left in the tank. Naturally, Nicol did what any manager would do: he asked the player to demonstrate his skills.
“I had to train in front of him and everything went well,” said Dabo.
However, given the long and drawn out nature of many international signings, there was some concern that fitness would be an issue once he arrived.
“You know the way this works is that as soon as you sign players, they can’t train with the team (immediately),” said Nicol. “So, obviously the longer all the paperwork and all nonsense goes – although they’re doing they’re own work -they lose a little bit of sharpness.”
Knowing this, Dabo took a proactive approach with the understanding that there would likely be a delay before he could join the team.
“I had a fitness coach with me so I kept training everyday,” said Dabo. “Although I’m not 100% fit, I’m in good shape.”
Completely fit or not, one person who is particularly pleased to finally have his newest charge in training at the Dana Farber Fieldhouse is none other than the man who recruited him.
“Dabo just keeps the ball plain and simple and thats what we’re looking for from him,” said Nicol. “You know the (amount of) experience he has.”
That experience should, in all likelihood, better a midfielding corps that struggled to hold itself together due to injuries and inconsistency last season. Paired with Shalrie Joseph in the center, the middle third will likely possess the ball with far greater frequency this season.
Yet, despite the expectations that the club’s possession will improve overnight as the result of a single signing, Dabo knows that playing in MLS is no easy task, even for an experienced player like himself.
“It’s very physical,” said Dabo regarding the style of play in MLS. “(It’s) a little bit like the Premier League. I will get used to it and I will try to bring my experience to all the young guys here.”
That valuable experience will be a boon, especially given the number of younger players in camp. But, Dabo admits that he is not exactly the arm-around-your-shoulder type of person.
“I’m not the type of guy to go and tell them what they have to do, “said Dabo. “I’m quite shy, so if they ask me for some advice, I will give it to them. So, if they need my help, I will help them, of course.”
And while the current Revolution roster doesn’t boast a ton of experience, Dabo was nevertheless impressed by what he saw after his first training session.
“I saw good quality and saw a lot of good players,” said Dabo. “I’m very confident for this season and for the future here.”