New England coach Jay Heaps asked his players to embrace the need to compete in every match before they embarked upon their preseason efforts.
After three victories in three attempts at the Desert Diamond Classic, the Revs appear to have taken those words to heart.
The trio of wins – including a 2-1 result against Real Salt Lake on Wednesday night – extended the Revs' unblemished run during preseason to six games and secured a rematch with LA Galaxy in Saturday night's final (10 pm ET, streamed live on MLSsoccer.com).
HIGHLIGHTS: Revs 2, RSL 1
“We feel like we’ve made steps,” Heaps told reporters on Thursday during a conference call. “It’s very cliché, but I say all the time: Every time we step on the field, we want to make a step forward.
“There are areas where we feel we have strengths, and there are areas for improvement. Every day if we can – after training, after a game – can assess those positively and negatively and hopefully correct the next day and push that step forward.”
A second date against the Galaxy offers one last chance to push forward ahead of next Saturday's season opener at San Jose. Most of the starting XI should feature in the final after Heaps opted to start a reserve-laden side against RSL in midweek. Heaps said the rotation policy will remain in place as he prepares his side physically for next weekend's trip to the Bay Area.
“As a coaching staff, it’s our job is to manage the minutes right now, so from this preseason, we’ve had [core] players back,” Heaps said. “We’ve wanted to make sure we’re getting minutes for certain players in the right way. Going into this final game, we’re hitting stride on our Saturday-Saturday-Saturday schedule that I think will help prepare us as we start the beginning of this year.”
Familiar foes also aid development
The focus on fitness work and routine should reap immediate dividends, but Heaps believes the decision to enter the Desert Diamond Cup could pay off as the season progresses.
By tackling fellow MLS sides in Tucson, the Revs established a baseline for the benchmarks they will need to hit during the season, according to Heaps.
“When you get on the field and you go into a preseason, like we’re going against MLS competition, that was a key for me,” Heaps said. “I like playing domestically for preseason. I like playing against teams we’re going to see during the season. As much as this is a preseason, [we’re] starting to really build what we’re going to expect from a coaching staff and a player standpoint.”
Decision time nearing for Lechner, Runstrom
No players came and went on Thursday as the Revs passed through the roster and salary budget compliance deadline without any significant roster movement.
Don't expect the status quo to hold for much longer.
Colombian striker José Moreno will arrive at some point in the next couple of weeks after he receives the necessary paperwork, while the Revs must still fill four open spots on their roster. Those signings will likely arrive from a group of players either currently or previously on trial with the club, though there is room for an outsider or two.
Seasoned European campaigners Florian Lechner and Björn Runström remain in the mix to perhaps nab a couple of those spots. Heaps said he has thoroughly run the rule over those players down in Arizona and noted that he plans to make a decision on them in fairly short order.
“We’re looking at them in a variety of different situations so our timetable is getting close,” Heaps said. “We still want to kind of get everything on the board and find out exactly where we are from a roster standpoint, from an international standpoint, and what do we see happening down the road and really make some educated decisions. We’re getting close to those kinds of decisions that we’re going to have to make. Very close.”