As chilling temperatures descended upon the Boston area this week in winter's first extended foray into New England, several members of the Revolution organization could reflect on time well spent in considerably warmer weather in Phoenix last weekend.
Instead of bundling up to avoid the cold, New England's U-16 and U-18 academy teams traveled to Arizona to play three matches in the US Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase.
The U-18s returned to Massachusetts with a winning record (2-1-0), while the U16s (1-2-0) included recent Home Grown signing Diego Fagundez (pictured above) in their ranks.
But the results paled in importance to the possibilities afforded by keeping players in shape after the end of the high school season and polishing their skills against three out-of-region teams not featured in the regular Academy schedule.
“It's a good [opportunity] on a lot of fronts,” Revolution vice president of player personnel Michael Burns told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Wednesday.
For the players, the gathering of elite clubs from across the country allows them the opportunity to impress the gaggle of college coaches in attendance and make a name for themselves among elite company.
For Revs director of youth development (and U-16 coach) Bryan Scales and U-18 coach John Frederick, the tournament marks a significant step forward as they attempt to construct their respective sides for the start of the Academy season in early March.
“We told the guys after the Phoenix tournament that this was a good starting point for us,” Scales told revolutionsoccer.net in a video interview on Thursday. “There is a certain amount of reprogramming or deprogramming – however you want to look at it – after the high school season. The academy games are a lot different for these guys.”
Both Revolution Academy squads have experienced some roster turnover in recent months in preparation for the upcoming campaign. These extra matches – three in Arizona, plus two regular-season matches in New York in late November – provide the foundation for constructing a new squad during the winter.
“It's good that they're able to get some games together and gain some cohesiveness,” Burns said.
A period of assessment is also in order as Frederick and Scales figure out how the existing pieces will fit together as the teams train their focus on the upcoming season.
“For the most part, I think the last month or so has been good for us to get a gauge on what guys do and how these guys play,” Scales said. “We've gotten some of the new guys into and acclimated to the group. … It's been very good for that respect.”
Both sides will take some time off from their regular training schedule – usually including three practices per week in Foxborough – for the holidays, but they will return to a preseason-type itinerary in January to continue their indoor preparations in the middle of a brisk New England winter.
Ready to Launch: MLS Matchday 2010, The official MLS iPhone app. It's FREE! Download it here!