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February 23, 2011
Nicol wants to look at players, win games

by Charles Cuttone
Executive Editor

The preseason is about confidence, according to Revs coach Steve Nicol, and “you certainly don’t get confidence by losing games.”
The preseason is about confidence, according to Revs coach Steve Nicol, and “you certainly don’t get confidence by losing games.”
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue images
New England Revolution coach Steve Nicol has two objectives for the team’s preseason training camp: getting everyone time on the field and winning games. Those strategies might not always mesh, but Nicol is trying to make it work, and so far it has, as the team has won all three of its preseason games so far.

“It is preseason. You always think you are going to hit the ground running, but it never happens,” Nicol said after the Revolution’s 1-0 win over FC Dallas at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex on Wednesday.

“This week was always about getting people on the field and seeing what they’ve got,” said Nicol, who is looking to get the Revs back into the playoffs after they missed the postseason last year for the first time since 2001.

“We’ve managed to get a look at everybody,” he said of the Florida portion of training. “That was one of the main goals. When we go to Atlanta, it will be a somewhat different strategy.”

After 11 days in Orlando, the team will take off for 11 days in Atlanta, where they, the Columbus Crew and Houston Dynamo will play a round-robin tournament at Kennesaw State University Soccer Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga., beginning Wednesday, March 9, and ending Sunday, March 13.

In Wednesday’s game against FCD, Nicol used a mostly veteran lineup, including Matt Reis in goal, Chris Tierney, Pat Phelan and Sainey Nyassi in midfield and Ilija Stolica up front.

“We’ve basically just gone around and tried to get as many people on the field as we could,” said Nicol. “We want to win the games that we play, so that means that we can’t just throw anybody out there and just treat it lightly. I think it’s important that you win games. We wanted to make sure that a large part of the team got 90 minutes or almost 90 minutes.”

Nicol says he has been using the training sessions as a way to evaluate the club’s draft picks and trialists, while also using the first two training games, against the University of Central Florida and the U.S. U-17 team, to give everyone a chance to play. The tougher competition of MLS teams is seeing more of what is likely to be the team’s regular lineup.

“A huge part of preseason is just getting time on the field and getting yourself into good preparation and getting fit. Some would say that results don’t matter, that it’s all about the preparation. We tend to like to win games – I think it’s always a good habit,” said Nicol.

“The strategy behind (playing U17 teams) is that you don’t want to kick the season off playing against Real Madrid right away. You don’t want your first preseason games to be against a team who are clearly going to be miles ahead of you. It’s kind of a dual purpose: it’s a bit of fitness, but it’s also about confidence. Most players haven’t kicked a ball for three months, four months. You need to get confidence, and you certainly don’t get confidence by losing games. You get confidence by spending time on the ball. Every team is pretty much doing the same thing, just trying to steadily build their confidence – both fitness-wise and quality-wise – before the start of the season.”

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