February 20, 2012
by Adam Burrows
DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH
Heaps looking to polish his Revs squad with Arizona tourney
New England Soccer News contributor
FOXBOROUGH, Mass.--The New England Revolution traveled to Arizona on Monday for their final competitive tune-up before opening the 2012 season against the Earthquakes in San Jose on March 10.
|Shalrie Joseph and the Revolution will take on the New York Red Bulls, LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake in the preseason FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The Revolution will compete in the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup with games at Kino
Veterans Memorial Stadium against defending MLS Cup holders LA Galaxy (February 20), New York Red Bulls (February 25), and Real Salt Lake (February 29). The round-robin tournament will conclude with championship and consolation games on March 3.
In the wake of two consecutive losing seasons that left them outside the playoff picture, the Revolution reorganized their front office, brought in a new coaching staff, and revamped their lineup.
The Tucson tournament will give rookie coach Jay Heaps an opportunity to assess the new talent that has arrived through international transfers and the MLS SuperDraft.
After their Monday morning training session at the Dana Farber Field House, Heaps spoke about the team and his goals for the trip.
“We’re still in identification mode, still looking at some players and some formations. We’re not 100% set on what we want to do. It’s an important two weeks.”
During the January transfer window, the Revolution signed a pair of players from Columbia, central defender John Lozano and forward/midfielder Fernando Cardenas, both of whom played for relegated first division side America de Cali.
Heaps praised Lozano, who will be key to upgrading the Revolution defense, which surrendered a team-record 58 goals in 2012.
“He really gets the centerback position. He understands his role, gets the position. He’s a full-on professional every day.”
New England also is awaiting the arrival of Columbian striker Jose Moreno, obtained in a loan deal in early February from Once Caldas. Reports have emerged in recent days that Moreno wants to remain in Columbia, though his comments might reflect last-minute negotiation strategy more than actual preference.
Said Heaps of the Moreno situation, “as far as I’m concerned, he’s going to be here March 1 when his loan starts.”
Another recent signing, 25 year-old French forward Saer Sene, who had been languishing on Bayern Munich’s reserve squad, made his first appearance in Foxborough, showing off a powerful 6’3” presence and a skilled left foot.
Heaps joked about Sene’s abilities. “I’m just glad he’s here.”
The Revolution may not be done tweaking their roster.
“We’re getting there inch by inch,” said Heaps. “At the same time, I still feel we’re one or two or maybe even three players short of where we want to be. Where we’re pretty stacked is up the middle of the midfield. Where we’re looking to expand is up top, wide, and back.”
Heaps hopes to bring a few free agents to Arizona for trials, with recent speculation linking the Revolution with 20-year-old Arsenal academy graduate Tom Cruise, a left back who played most recently at Carlisle in the English third-tier.
“You’re always looking for a little bit of cover defensively. We’ll be looking left, right, and center.”
The new coach has been pleased by his team’s attitude in training camp.
“They’re competitors. They want to fight for everything.”
Veteran Chris Tierney reflected on the changes he’s noted since Heaps took over from long-time head coach Steve Nicol, who departed after the disastrous 2011 season.
“Jay’s implementing a new style of play which is going to be more exciting to watch. I think we’ll score more goals, play more positive than we’ve probably played in the past. It’s a welcome change for us.”
“Jay’s also brought in a new level of professionalism that might not have been there before. Stevie (Nicol) definitely had his own style that worked for him for many years. I think Jay’s a little more up to date in terms of taking care of the physical side of things, really doing the homework and taking care of the details, like going over video, talking to guys individually, and making sure we’re in top shape physically.”
Tierney is looking forward to the competition in Arizona.
“It’s the highest level preseason tournament that we’ve played in since I’ve been a part of this team. It’s exciting to go test yourselves against top-notch MLS sides. It’ll be a good test for us going into the season.”
Mostly though, Tierney is relishing a fresh start.
“We’re sick of talking about last season.”
FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup – New England Revolution Schedule
Wednesday, Feb. 22 – vs. LA Galaxy, 8 p.m. ET
Saturday, Feb. 25 – vs. New York Red Bulls, 10 p.m. ET
Wednesday, Feb. 29 – vs. Real Salt Lake, 8 p.m. ET
Saturday, March 3 – Championship/Consolation matches, 10 p.m. / 8 p.m. ET