Revolution coach Jay Heaps has never let the bigger picture get in the way of his immediate focus. Not even during the preseason.
Heaps, a well-known proponent of slicing the schedule -- or even an individual match -- into quarters, thirds, or halves, hasn’t deviated from that approach during the club’s six weeks of preparation for the regular season.
And after the club concluded its stay in Bradenton, Fla. for two weeks’ worth of training and scrimmages, the third-year coach is already looking forward to the next task at hand.
“I think, for us, these first 12 days (was) an important first step for us fitness-wise,” Heaps said via conference call on Friday. “We’ve worked really hard, and now we are moving to phase two, which is going to be back in Boston, and that has to be elevated again.”
That will be easier said than done. With the team back in Foxborough this week, gauging fitness may prove to be tricky for the coaching staff. Wintry conditions will likely confine training to the Dana Farber Fieldhouse, which does not feature a standard-size pitch.
Nevertheless, Heaps is expected to ramp up the intensity of training. The last time the Revolution were in Foxborough, the order of the day detailed light passing drills, jogging and agility exercises.
But those days have come and gone. With three games under their belts, the objective this week -- i.e. phase two -- is to bring the club closer to regular season fitness, especially with next week’s Desert Diamond Cup on tap.
Phase two also entails getting injured players up to speed. No fewer than four players missed all three games during the Bradenton trip, most notably Chris Tierney (foot), Charlie Davies (calf) and fourth-overall pick Steve Neumann (ankle).
“It’s difficult when you come into preseason with an injury,” Heaps said. “They didn’t pick them up in preseason; they picked them up before they got here.”
As a result, the challenge presented to the coaching staff becomes even greater. While Tierney -- whom Heaps hopes to have back in time for the Desert Diamond Cup -- will likely jump right back into the fold without incident, the likes of Davies and Neumann may find it difficult to assume new roles once they return to health.
Davies, a striker by trade, is expected to see increased playing time on the wing, a transition only made more difficult by his injury setback. Meanwhile, Neumann’s ankle sprain makes his assimilation a tougher task during his first professional preseason camp.
Even so, Heaps knows he can only control so much. While injuries have limited key contributors, it’s also opened the door to others.
“We played three games that were very beneficial, in not only progressing the group, but also seeing some players,” Heaps said. “We feel that we know where a lot of our guys are.”
That may be the case, but there’s no doubt Heaps is looking for more. As phase one gives way to phase two -- then phase three (i.e. the Desert Diamond Cup) -- the expectations Heaps has for his squad are only going to rise.
“We have to make sure we push through that and get better physically,” said Heaps.