KENNESAW, Ga. – Although the final result does not matter in the standings, New England Revolution coach Steve Nicol believes his side's preseason finale against Houston on Sunday could provide an important mental boost to his squad.
New England offered up a disappointing performance in Wednesday's 3-1 defeat to Columbus in the first match of the Atlanta Pro Soccer Challenge, but a better showing against the Dynamo would ensure the Revs could start their preparations for the season opener at Los Angeles next Sunday on a positive note.
“It's huge,” Nicol told MLSsoccer.com after the Revs wrapped up their final training session at Kennesaw State University. “It'll be good for the psyche. We'd like to win the game, but if we can do some good things and be solid, then that would be ideal for going into LA.”
Although a positive performance would serve as the ideal foundation to build upon before heading to southern California, Nicol said he isn't prepared to risk any of his injured players to produce it.
Revolution defender Franco Coria (hamstring) and goalkeeper Matt Reis (back) will not feature in the match after picking up knocks over the past few days, while the likes of Kevin Alston (hamstring), Ousmane Dabo (quadriceps) and Didier Domi (returned to Boston with knee swelling) will also miss out.
Nicol said he plans to exercise caution with the remainder of his squad as he prepares for the final preseason affair.
[inline_node:327585]“Yeah, but without wrapping people in cotton wool,” Nicol said. “We're not going to go overboard, but there is no point in taking a chance on anything.”
Coria's absence from the starting XI will likely pave the way for Ryan Cochrane to make an appearance against his former club. Cochrane swapped Houston for New England when he landed with the Revs during stage two of the re-entry process in December and the veteran centerback said he would relish the opportunity to play against his former club.
“It'll be a little bit strange, but it's not the first time I've had to line up against them,” Cochrane said. “When I went to San Jose, I did the same thing. These games are really fun for me. I enjoy facing my old team.”
While Cochrane admits that he will appreciate the opportunity to face his old teammates, he also said he realizes how vital it is for him and his current comrades to cobble together a solid performance in the final outing before the regular season starts.
“It's important,” Cochrane said. “You want to be sharp in the last game and you want to go in with a positive attitude. We want to come out of the game with a win going forward towards LA.”