I love watching training sessions the day before a game.
While the build-up throughout the week is enjoyable and much information can be gleaned from the small-sided games and possession drills, there’s nothing like watching a full-field, 11 vs. 11 scrimmage from the touchline. That’s typically the main event the day before a game, as it was today as the Revs prepared for tomorrow morning’s closed-door scrimmage against Duke University.
As I watched today’s training session, I began taking some mental notes about what I was seeing on the field. Here’s a few of the things that were running through my head …
1. Expect to see many of the second-half substitutes from the Charlotte game in the starting lineup against Duke. Head Coach Steve Nicol has stated that he will rest many of the starters from last weekend’s game and instead opt to give some of the other players more significant minutes. Included in that group should be goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who is expected to back up Preston Burpo to start the regular season but could start tomorrow morning against the Blue Devils. During today’s intra-squad scrimmage, Shuttleworth and non-roster invitee Tim Murray manned the nets while Burpo worked on drills off to the side, leading me to believe that Shuttleworth just may be the man between the pipes tomorrow.
2. Speaking of Bobby Shuttleworth, his vocal presence in the net is instantly noticeable. The second-year goalkeeper is certainly not shy about making himself heard, as his voice resonates around the training field any time he opens his mouth. And his speech isn’t limited to simply yelling for the ball on corner kicks or crosses into the box. Shuttleworth is constantly organizing his defense and always has a sense of not only where his defenders are, but where they need to be.
3. Speaking of being vocal, Seth Sinovic seemed much more vocal today, just one day after officially signing with the Revs. It very well may have been the case that I simply noticed Sinovic speaking up more today, but on more than one occasion he could be heard calling out instructions or yelling for the ball. Surging down the left on an overlap or simply getting wide to support his center backs, his voice was one of the most frequently heard today. Whether it had anything to do with an increased confidence level now that he’s officially a member of the Revolution might never be known.
4. Nico Colaluca continues to impress with his performances in training. The fourth-year midfielder showed that his success in preseason training sessions can translate to actual games, as he earned a fantastic assist on Kenny Mansally’s goal in the recent 2-0 win over the Charlotte Eagles. With his confidence skyrocketing, Colaluca continued his impressive form today with another outstanding showing. Not only did he display playmaking skills and an eye for the killer pass, but he was tenacious in defense and stripped opponents of the ball in midfield more than once. He capped today’s performance with another smooth setup for Mansally to finish. Expect to see more from Colaluca tomorrow against Duke.
5. Kenny Mansally’s finishing has been much improved in recent weeks. I’ve already spoken about this once before this preseason, but it deserves to be said again following a couple more goals in today’s session. While he struggled as a forward in 2008 and early in 2009 – and subsequently moved to his more natural left midfield position – Mansally has shown a striker’s instinct recently and has found the back of the net more often than not. Beyond his two preseason goals – both of the highlight variety – he’s shown consistently in training that he is unafraid to shoot … and score. While I would still expect him to be primarily a left-sided midfielder, he may be a viable option up top in the absence of Taylor Twellman and Edgaras Jankauskas, who are both currently injured.
6. Former Duke midfielder Mike Videira was particularly active today as he prepares to face his alma mater. It was clear that there was a little something extra in Videira’s step today, which is unsurprising since he’s likely to start tomorrow morning against Duke, the school he attended from 2004-08. He controlled the midfield for his team and served as the fulcrum in the attack, distributing as needed. I wouldn’t be surprised if Videira had a little extra motivation tomorrow morning, especially considering he trained with the current Duke squad for a week in January as he prepared for the 2010 preseason. (As a side note, Videira’s fellow Duke alum Darrius Barnes will not have the chance to face his former team because he is still nursing a quad injury).
7. Tomorrow will be last opportunity for the guest players to impress. After joining the Revs for training upon their arrival in North Carolina in the middle of last week, Marko Perovic, Gareth Williams and Andres Raad will see their stints come to an end with tomorrow’s scrimmage against Duke. The trio had four training sessions and two preseason games (including the Duke scrimmage) with the Revs, and all three are scheduled to depart North Carolina after tomorrow’s match. Whether any of them will be asked to come back remains to be seen.
The blog is telling me that I’m coming up on 1,000 words here, so I should probably bring this post to a close before I reach official “novel” status. If you’re looking for some more info on tomorrow’s scrimmage against Duke, check out my full preview here.
We’ll have full coverage of tomorrow’s early-morning (9:15 a.m.) match right here on revolutionsoccer.net and the official New England Reovlution blog, so we’ll see you in the morning.