It seemed fitting that our seventh and final training session in North Carolina was conducted under absolutely ideal conditions this morning at WakeMed Soccer Park. The temperature hovered right around 70 degrees and there was not a cloud in the sky as the Revs ran through final preparations for tomorrow night’s preseason finale against the Carolina RailHawks.
The Revolution’s regular-season schedule begins one week from tomorrow when the club visits the LA Galaxy at The Home Depot Center. One week from tomorrow. The Revs have just one more preseason match and three training sessions before taking the field in a match that actually counts.
With that said, here are a few random observations from today’s session …
1. Joseph Niouky continues to look more and more comfortable each day. It might take some time for Niouky to fully acclimate to the MLS style of play even after the regular season kicks off next week, but the young Senegalese midfielder seems a bit more at ease both on and off the field. He was understandably reserved in his first week with the team, keeping to himself for the most part and playing conservatively on the field. But his teammates and the coaching staff have created a comfortable atmosphere and he seems to be adjusting to life in the U.S. Not only is he interacting more with his teammates at team meals and around the hotel, but he seems to have loosened up a bit on the field. Needless to say, it was important that the Revs got him into preseason training camp so he didn’t have to make so many adjustments on the fly. It will be fun to watch his continued development as the season kicks off.
2. With games on Wednesday (Duke) and Saturday (Carolina), both the Thursday and Friday sessions were light. With a game against the RailHawks on tap for tomorrow night, the typical day-before-a-game training session would’ve seen the Revs play a full-field 11 vs. 11 scrimmage today. But with just two days in between games against Duke and Carolina, Head Coach Steve Nicol kept both yesterday’s and today’s sessions shorter than usual. Preseason is critical for replicating conditions in the regular season, but there’s no point in burning players out before the season has even started. There will be plenty of times during the regular season when the players will be thankful that they didn’t run out of gas in the preseason.
3. The finishing during today’s session was clinical. While the Revs didn’t play a full-field scrimmage today, they did go through some extensive finishing drills, and the ball rippled the back of the net more often than not. Granted, the drill typically set up the guys for open shots from approximately 15-18 yards out, so they should be finishing those chances, but the good news is that they were. The highlight goal of the session was scored by the increasingly-offensive Emmanuel Osei, who chipped Preston Burpo with a delicate finish. I’ll stop short of saying it resembled Clint Dempsey’s goal for Fulham yesterday, but Osei lofted the ball over Burpo, and it then glanced off both the underside of the crossbar and the post before crossing the line.
4. The weather today was absolutely fantastic. I know I already talked about this in my intro, but it deserves to be mentioned a second time. Our 12-day stay in North Carolina has been marked by overcast skies and the occasional thunder storm (think back to the 30-minute lightning delay in the Charlotte Eagles match), but we could not have asked for a better close to our stay. The best news is that similar conditions are expected tomorrow night, so hopefully a strong crowd will show up at WakeMed Soccer Park to provide a raucous atmosphere as the Revs prep for the regular season.
5. As the North Carolina trip comes to a close, it would have to be considered a success. Tomorrow night’s match against the RailHawks will be the biggest indicator of where the Revs stand entering the 2010 season, but regardless of what happens in that match, this 12-day stay in Cary has been a good one. The Revs will have played three matches and trained seven times while in N.C., and they also got the chance to take a look at three players (Marko Perovic, Gareth Williams, Andres Raad) as they continue to search for reinforcements in the attacking third of the field. Perhaps most promising has been the development of the partnership between Zack Schilawski (three goals, one assist this preseason) and Kheli Dube (one goal, two assists), which could possibly be the Revolution’s starting forward pairing against the LA Galaxy next weekend.
For a full preview of tomorrow night’s match against the RailHawks, click here.
We’ll have complete coverage of tomorrow night’s preseason finale right here on revolutionsoccer.net. Kickoff from WakeMed Soccer Park is set for 7 p.m.