Well, it all starts today-the opening of pre-season training camp. It's a time of optimism and excitement. A time to look at what we've got and what we still need, who will be playing where and what is still up in the air. It's really the best part of the whole MLS season, if you ask me.
For the Revolution, they will be starting training camp with 9 new faces, 5 of them contracted at the time of this writing. Andy Dorman, Kalifa Cisse, Scott Caldwell, Jose Goncalves, and newly added first-round draft pick Andrew Farrell are already on the New England roster and will be getting to work on making their place in the squad. For the Revolution's other drafted players, their future with the club is still not set in stone.
Attackers Luke Spencer and Donnie Smith as well as goalkeeper Luis Soffner, whom the Revolution selected 36th overall in yesterday's SuperDraft, will all be competing for spots on the Revs' roster as soon as they get into training. Soffner may have the easiest road out of all of them as the Revolution are in need of a 3rd string keeper and the Indiana University product (who helped lead his team to a NCAA championship title) certainly fits the bill.
Luke Spencer may not have such a hard time either, seeing as how New England is currently very thin at striker, especially when one considers Saer Sene's torn ACL surgery recovery time which is expected to stretch through the spring and Jerry Bengtson's impending national team call-ups for World Cup Qualifiers.
For Donnie Smith, a left-sided attacking midfielder whom the Revolution drafted with their first pick in the second round, the task might just be that much greater. Lee Nguyen and Juan Toja are the Revs' resident left-sided attacking midfielders and Chris Tierney can also fill that role as well. Some experts believe that Donnie Smith can potentially be transitioned to left-back at the next level in MLS, while I've heard others say that he could be an effective left-winger in a 4-3-3 formation (which we've never really seen Jay Heaps' Revolution line up in). Smith certainly has his work cut out for him, but all three draftees will have something to prove once they get into camp.
Another left-sided attacking midfielder who will be joining the Revolution in pre-season camp is Antigua and Barbuda national teamer Quinton Griffith. According to the Antigua Observer, Griffith has been invited to join the Revolution camp from January 21st through January 30th. Griffith will presumably face the same challenge as Donnie Smith described above. What's important to keep in mind, however, is that the Revolution only have one international spot left open. This may limit the number of international players that we see them bring in for trials during this pre-season.
The additions to camp will likely not end there. The 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft is still slated to take place on Tuesday January 22nd. The Supplemental draft allows teams to draft those players who were not selected in the first two rounds of the SuperDraft. Last year the Revs used this draft to acquire Mike Roach and Alec Purdie who spent the 2012 season on the Revolution's roster. There are some quality talents still available this year with forwards like Ashton Bennett, Will Bates, and Chris Thomas going undrafted as well as defenders Joe Franco and Eric Schoenle. The Revolution have the 4th pick in each of the Supplemental Draft's four rounds, so there is a high likelihood that there will be even more talent joining the Revs and competing for spots.
As far as their pre-season schedule is concerned, the Revs will spend today (Friday January 18th) in Foxboro before they head out to Casa Grande, Arizona where they will train in warmer and generally more comfortable conditions than the bitter New England winter that's currently in full-swing. In Casa Grande the Revs will play two friendlies against Sporting Kansas City and the Vancouver Whitecaps on January 25th and 29th respectively.
The Revs will then return home to Foxboro for a week before heading back to Arizona for the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup tournament. This year will mark the second consecutive year that the Revs participate in the tournament, last year going unbeaten but ultimately losing in the final to the LA Galaxy on penalty kicks. Other teams participating this year will be the New York Red Bulls, the Seattle Sounders, and Real Salt Lake. The dates of those games are as follows:
Wednesday, Feb. 13: vs. Seattle Sounders FC
Saturday, Feb. 16: vs. New York Red Bulls
Wednesday, Feb. 20: vs. Real Salt Lake
Saturday, Feb. 23: Championship and Consolation matches
These matches will hopefully be streamed live on the Revolution's website as they were last year, allowing fans to get a first glimpse of their 2013 Revolution team.
Yes, pre-season is here, folks, and the hopefulness that comes with it is as palpable as ever. Jay Heaps has a re-vamped roster (while having maintained an important core group of players) and a fresh, clean slate to work with. After a difficult 2012, the Revs should know just what they need to work on to get better and hopefully make a run at the playoffs. Get excited.