Photo courtesy of New England Revolution
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The sight of Jay Heaps decked out in New England training gear on the first day of camp reinforced the new reality created by a series of sweeping offseason changes.
Drastic alterations to the status quo have placed all parties – new coach Heaps, his assistant coaches and the 22 players currently on the roster – smack dab in the middle of a situation where they quickly need to discern how they best work together to improve in 2012.
“It's about trying to figure out the direction where we're trying to head right now,” Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph told MLSsoccer.com on Monday afternoon after he and his teammates went through their first Heaps-led training session. “Everybody's excited. Everybody's looking forward to the changes. Everybody's on board with whatever Jay needs us to do right now.”
The offseason overhaul encouraged Heaps to hold the first week of training camp in Foxborough to allow everyone to understand the new operating principles. They’ll then embark upon a week-long trip to Casa Grande, Arizona on Sunday.
“It's really about getting a feel for each other,” Heaps said about his first week in charge. “As much as I know these guys and as well as I know these guys, there's still a feeling out process. They have to feel me out and I have to feel them out.”
Establishing some common ground, then, is job one. After that, they’ll dive into tactics – specifically an attacking, possession-oriented approach on the field. And Heaps says he will demand accountability and responsibility off of it.
Some of those overarching expectations will remain consistent from Steve Nicol's ten-year tenure, but other demands may require players to adjust to Heaps' vision for the Revolution.
“I think we need to set our identity as a team early and figure out what kind of team we're going to be, whether that's a team that's going to try and play moreso than we have in the past [or not],” Revs midfielder Chris Tierney said. “That's what Jay has talked about doing, so we're excited to do that. I think we have the players here to do it, but, as it does with any team, it takes time. We'll be looking to put plenty of work in and get to know each other better. Hopefully, we'll be firing by First Kick.”
Such global concerns exceeded the scope of the first day of camp, however. The players listened to their new coach lay out his expectations in a team meaning, submitted to physical examinations and took the field with their teammates for the first time in 2012.
Most importantly, they undertook those duties with a palpable sense of energy as they plotted to condemn last season to the record books and set a new course under their new coach.
“It's been great because you can see the eagerness in their eyes,” Heaps said. “There's some excitement, which is exactly what we're going for.”
Feilhaber, Rowe with US
Missing out on the day’s festivities were attacking midfielders Benny Feilhaber and Kelyn Rowe, who are busy with the concurrent US national team and US U-23 team camps in Carson, Calif.
Feilhaber, who had four goals and seven assists in his maiden MLS campaign, started for the US and scored a goal in a scrimmage against the US U-23s over the weekend. Rowe played the second half for the U-23s.