Mother Nature may have had a hand in the arrival time of the New England Revolution to the Arizona desert, but fixture lists wait for no man, and tonight, the New England Revolution begin their group play in the Desert Diamond Cup against Western Conference powerhouse, Seattle Sounders FC.
Revs fans recall fondly about the Desert Diamond Cup, as the upstart Revolution made it to the final in 2012, losing to Los Angeles on penalty kicks in the end.
This year's tournament will keep the same format (round robin first round, with the top two teams playing in the final), and will feature the Revs, Seattle Sounders, Real Salt Lake, and New York Red Bulls. Perhaps a nice added bonus to this year's tournament, is that the final will be televised nationally on NBCSports. All matches will be streamed live on MLSSoccer.com.
There's absolutely no shortage of storylines heading into this year's DDC, and there's plenty of talking points about highly-touted draft picks, international veteran signings, and MLS journeymen trying to catch on with a new club and finding past form...and that's just New England!
Most notably, the Revs will be joined by new signings Chad Barrett and Bilal Duckett (who had been training with the club earlier in the preseason, but is now a fully signed memeber of the organization). While the signing of Duckett will certainly benefit the Revolution in 2013, the story on everyone's mind it seems, is the addition of the former LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire draft pick, Barrett.
The Revolution's lack of proven depth at the striker position is well documented heading into the 2013 season, and this pre-season tournament will certainly provide a first hand look at some of the Revs' offseason acquisitions. Barrett will be joining fellow recent-signee Matt Horth, as well as returning Revs Dimitry Imbongo and Jerry Bengtson.
While the forward position will certainly need to time to sort itself out ( everyone seems to feel that Sene and Bengtson will be the preferred pairing, but injuries and international duty are going to hamper this development) perhaps the real intriguing stories are further back on the pitch.
The midfield is once again loaded with talent, which will only mean outstanding competition for playing time as well as a real hunger to prove to Jay Heaps who should be starting and where. Make one thing clear: after another disappointing, bottom of the table year, there are no incumbents or sure-things. I truly feel like every spot is there to be earned in this midfield, and the DDC is going to be a massive step in determining who takes the field in Chicago.
How will the Revs cope with the loss of Benny Feilhaber? Is it Lee Nguyen's job at CAM if he wants it? Who will emerge to play at CDM? So many questions within the Revs midfield and I, for one, am very excited to see just how it all plays out.
Defensively, New England has made a few moves to try to bring in not only more depth, but stronger competition for playing time as well. Mike Burns, Brian Bilello and Company made big waves at the draft and moved up to the number one slot to select Andrew Ferrell, and also brought in Jose Goncalves from Portugal. While New England made some similar moves last offseason that didn't quite pan out (John Lozano didn't last the season), I'm hopeful that this current crop of newcomers will push the too-comfortable veterans at the back.
Competition will only make these players stronger, and as long as the front office continues to bring in quality talent to continue pushing the members of the team, you'll see great strides in improving the club. It all begins tonight in the Desert, and Revs fans surely have to be excited!