The New England Revolution are coming off a record-breaking, Supporters’ Shield-winning regular season and a disappointing early exit in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
So what will the Revs do for an encore to 2021? The first step to those answers came on Tuesday when the club held their first training session of 2022.
“It was good to get them back,” Revs head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena said in a virtual media availability. “We did that in our fieldhouse because of the weather conditions here and for the most part they look good for the first day. Obviously we're going to build on that, we’re gonna have a couple of weeks here in Foxborough, then go out to Los Angeles for a couple of weeks before we return for the CCL.”
The lead-up to the start of the season – a Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 clash against Haitian side Cavalry A.S. at Gillette Stadium on Feb. 15 – is shorter than Arena is used to. Preseason is usually about six weeks so cutting two weeks off of that, with some players away with their respective national teams, adds a wrinkle to preparations.
“It's gonna probably take us up until the beginning of February to get a whole group together, so it’s a real challenge,” Arena said. “We have enough experience here with this that we're not getting too crazy about thinking we can plan perfectly for 30 days. I wasn't able to plan how you figure out taking three and a half weeks off to prepare for a playoff game last year. So we're kind of like in the same situation now except for the fact we're going to have the ability to play some practice games to get our team ready.”
How will the Revs look in 2022? Arena said there will be some tinkering with formation and personnel in preseason and “a few minor changes” to the roster. But the squad that had the greatest regular season in MLS history (73 points) is largely intact, absent of course Tajon Buchanan and his big-money transfer to Club Brugge in Belgium.
The big additions, to this point, at least have been domestic, bringing in US men’s national team midfielder Sebastian Lletget and veteran defender Omar Gonzalez – two players Arena is very familiar with after coaching both during his time at the LA Galaxy.
“Sebastian’s a quality midfielder. He's going to be able to, I think, help our attack,” Arena said. “Omar’s obviously an experienced defender, good communicator and good organizer and he can be helpful. Obviously very good in the air in both penalty areas, which is important as well.”