FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Nearly a decade has passed since Nick Downing last donned the red, white and blue of the New England Revolution.
A former Project-40 defender, Downing hasn't played for New England since 2003 and hasn't played professionally since 2004, but he recently returned to familiar colors to work in another capacity. His post-soccer career path has paved the way for him to link up with former teammate Jay Heaps and former US Under-17 coach Jay Miller as the Revolution's first strength and conditioning coach.
“It's been great with a few ex-teammates and a bunch of new faces,” Downing told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday morning. “It's always been a good organization for me. I'm excited to be back and to work with some new guys.”
Work remains the operative word for a Revolution side aiming to improve its fitness heading into 2012. Two telling statistics from last season display the need to bolster that particular department: The Revs finished 14th in goals conceded (23) and tied for last place in goals scored (12) during the final 30 minutes of matches in 2011.
Downing will lean on the experience he gained as a professional player and rely on the knowledge gathered during his work at Pure Performance Training in Needham, Mass., to address those concerns and prepare the Revs for the season-opener at San Jose on March 10.
In concert with Heaps, Downing has crafted a three-part plan designed to carry the players through preseason and establish the level of fitness necessary for the upcoming season.
“I try and put it into three blocks: There's an introductory phase, a preparation phase and a game phase,” Downing said. “You can imagine what those look like. You go from slow and steady to a little bit more intense. As you get closer to the season, the guys need to be as sharp as possible. That's going to be my main objective: getting those guys sharp without getting anybody injured.”
It will take plenty of energy and time to achieve that goal, but Downing said he plans to do whatever it takes to make sure he fulfills his duties as he slips right back into those familiar colors and starts his second stint with the club.
“The process has been long,” Downing said. “There has been a lot of stuff put into it, a lot of science put into it. There's been a lot of talk between Jay and I about what he's looking for and what I think we need. But, in the end, it's his team. I'm behind him in any way I can be. If it means getting these guys fit, then it's easy for me.”