FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Snow and slush carpeted the Gillette Stadium turf on Saturday morning as the New England Revolution academy teams went through their paces, but the players on the field didn't care.
After spending most of the winter cooped up in the Dana-Farber Field House, they were just happy to get onto a full-sized pitch to accelerate their preparations for the resumption of the US Soccer Development Academy season.
“We've been going three practices a week for the past two months, so I think everyone is pretty excited to finally get out on the field and into the stadium for the first time,” Revolution U-18 forward Cole DeNormandie told MLSsoccer.com after the session concluded.
Practical concerns dictated an outdoor scrimmage between the U-16s and the U-18s as the undersoil heating system melted away the remnants of Friday's modest storm. With NJSA 04 (New Jersey) and Match Fit Chelsea (New York) set to visit on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, to start a six-match homestand for the U-16s and U-18s, the Revs academy sides needed to train outside to adequately prepare for the upcoming challenges.
“You're working against a couple of different variables,” Revolution director of youth development and U-16 head coach Bryan Scales said. “No. 1, it's the first time that we've been able to get outside.
"No. 2, we want to make sure that we're starting to put together a starting group and they're getting to work together a little more on a big field to deal with the space, deal with the angles and deal with all of the things you have to deal with on a real soccer field. Being inside is great, but you go a little stir crazy in there after a while.”
While training indoors may not constitute ideal preparation for the outdoor season, it did allow the Revs academy sides ample time to develop chemistry within their squads and maintain an adequate level of fitness.
“At the beginning of the season, we had a lot of new kids,” Revolution U-16 defender Mitchell Taintor (pictured above) said. “For the kids who are here for a second year, it's our job to incorporate them into the team and help them feel welcome. That's half the battle for having a good team – if the kids don't feel comfortable around you, then nothing is going to work. We've started to become a family, so the soccer is clicking a lot better.”
The upcoming pair of matches will reveal how well the diligent preseason work will pay off in a competitive setting. Persistently dreary weather throughout the northeast during the winter should serve as an equalizer for all of the sides in the early stages of the campaign.
As he stood on the sideline and watched the last remnants of snow melt off the field, Scales said he believes the opportunity to train at Gillette Stadium will boost both Revolution academy sides as they prepare for the pair of matches this weekend.
“Everybody else is probably dealing with the same type of issues,” Scales said. “I think we're a little bit ahead of where we were last year because we've structured training a little bit differently. Guys are getting their fitness and we've had some very good training sessions. This final day – out here, dealing with the snow and getting outside on a big field – was important for us fitness-wise, soccer-wise and to build some chemistry within the group.”
Check out the Feb. 24 edition of the ExtraTime Radio podcast, featuring D.C. United's Charlie Davies, Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando and league executive Nelson Rodriguez talking about the new playoff structure.