New England Soccer Today

The boys are back in town

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Hoping to put their unspectacular 2010 season behind them, the New England Revolution kicked off their preseason this morning at the Dana Farber Fieldhouse with a host of fresh faces, both young and old. Well, older.

In addition to seven draft picks, a couple of notable veteran newcomers – former Paris Saint-Germain defender Didier Domi and two-time MLS Cup champion Ryan Cochrane – are also hoping to turn the tide after the club missed the MLS playoffs for the first time in nine years.

“There were a lot of things that we were lacking last year,” said Revolution manager Steve Nicol. “Although the commitment was there, we didn’t do well last season because we didn’t have enough quality.”

Even though it’s almost impossible to gauge how much quality or talent a club can boast after one round of training, there were encouraging signs during today’s session that the failures of last season were refreshingly absent.

Although every preseason kicks off with an air of excitement, the players on the indoor practice pitch appeared playfully optimistic. While the majority of the veterans who once steered the club to postseason glory may be gone, a host of young players are ready and anxious to take their places, make an impression, and ultimately, make their own mark with the team.

One such player who hopes to make a long-lasting impact is third-round pick Steve Perry, who enters camp hoping to earn an MLS contract before the preseason concludes.

“I feel like I’m coming into a great situation here,” said Perry. “The Revolution have a storied club in MLS, so I’m really excited to be here.”

That enthusiasm wasn’t limited to the freshman. Even Domi, a veteran of high-profile competitions such as UEFA Champions League, commented on how excited he was to be here in Foxborough.

“I really wanted to come here to play in MLS,” said Domi. “It’s a new experience for me. I heard alot of good things from Thierry Henry. There’s a lot of good publicity (in France) for MLS. So I said, ‘Why not go to MLS?'”

That’s a question the likes of Nicol and Vice President of Player Personnel Michael Burns hope other international targets pose to themselves. With only 19 players under contract at the moment, there’s significant wiggle room to add a few more seasoned internationals given the fact that rosters will expand to 30 players this season.

“We made a couple of offers,” said Nicol. “Now, we’re just awaiting the paperwork and all that other good stuff to come through. Hopefully, it’ll happen pretty quickly.”

Regardless of who or when such internationals arrive, the team, as is, still sports a significant amount of promising talent across the pitch. The additions of  center back A.J. Soares, along with the experienced Domi and Cochrane, will likely bolster a defense that allowed a league-high 50 goals last season.

In the middle, the selection of imposing central midfielder Stephen McCarthy should sharpen an area where the team was, at times, embarrassingly weak in 2010. The selections of Fernando Cabadas, Ryan Kinne, and Andrew Sousa, all of whom bring different elements to the team, will be hungry to display their talents to the coaching staff, and will likely make the middle the fiercest battle of this preseason.

Up top, the Revolution enlisted a couple of new attacking options during the drafts. In addition to Perry, Alan Koger will also be fighting for a spot on the club as a non-contracted invitee.

All in all, it’s not a reach to say that this is a new, but exciting time for the franchise. Although the familiar faces of Steve Ralston, Jay Heaps and Taylor Twellman have all called it careers, this is a group that bears watching.

“There’s a significant amount of new faces,” said Revolution manager Steve Nicol. “(In that sense), I hope it’s different than last season.”

Even though it’s still very early, it appears this year will be different. The front office and technical staff appear to have taken the valleys of last season to heart. If the spirit of today’s preseason has left us with anything, it’s that a new beginning is in full swing.


Day 1 notes:

– All but two of the 27 players listed on the preseason roster were present for training. The most notable absence was that of captain Shalrie Joseph. When asked about the reason why his skipper hadn’t shown, Nicol replied, “I don’t know. I hope there’s nothing wrong.” However, Nicol does expect Joseph to return tomorrow. Meanwhile, camp invitee Roberto Linck was also absent for training. The reason for his no-show was also not given.

– Camp invitee Jason Griffiths, who played in six games for the Revs last season, will not be joining the club for preseason.

– As part of their preseason excursion to Orlando, the Revs are reportedly set to play the University of Central Florida on Friday, February 18th and FC Dallas on Sunday, February 20th, with another match to be set shortly.

– The bulk of training was spent on stretching exercises and footwork drills. The team also spent a few minutes on passing drills but, like previous years, it is not unusual for the team to spend the first week or two of the preseason working on fitness before opening it up to small-sided scrimmages.

– Most players sported track pants and long-sleeved jackets, as the fieldhouse was bone-chillingly cold this morning. In fact, it was so cold that the post-training stretching was moved to the Revolution locker room, where the warmer temperatures allowed the players to properly stretch.

– Unlike previous seasons, it appears there have not been any squad number switches among the veterans. Last year, Sainey Nyassi switched from #31 to #14 (before switching again to #17 after Steve Ralston returned for a spell), while Kenny Mansally switched from #29 to #7.

– Ilija Stolica appears to be growing out his hair…for those of you who care.

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