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02/25/2014
 

Five of the New England Revolution’s seven preseason games may already be in the books, but coach Jay Heaps isn’t worried about the tasks ahead of him and coaching staff between now and First Kick, which is only 11 days away.


According to Heaps, the preseason – even in its final stages – is still about striking a balance, although with only two games to go, a greater focus will be placed on the fight for roster spots. After all, the regular season just so happens to kick off next week. 


“We’re still looking at the last couple of pieces that we’ll add now,” Heaps said via teleconference on Sunday. “Then, we’ll have other pieces that we’ll add maybe later.”


Some of those pieces have apparently taken the form of non-rostered participants, if you will, for Heaps isn’t keen on calling veteran guests like Shalrie Joseph “trialists.” And while others like Daigo Kobayashi and Marvin Ogunjumi have come and gone, that doesn’t necessarily mean that either is out of the picture for good.


Of course, penciling in the final five available roster spots is something that coaching staff will be devoting considerable time to during these final days of the preseason. But that doesn’t mean Heaps’ sole focus is putting together a 30-player roster.


“I want to see guys continue to fight for the starting group,” Heaps said. “I think that we have idea of where we’re going (with) players probably 1 through 15. We want to see that group get deeper, and we want to see guys push for minutes and starting jobs.”


Wednesday’s Desert Diamond Cup clash with the Chicago Fire, followed by Saturday’s placement game, should give Heaps a good idea of who’s worthy of a coveted spot on the starting XI come March 8 in Houston.


But even though Heaps has a good pulse on the fight for starting spots, he also remains focused on the players who probably won’t see much of the spotlight this season. Namely, those who’ll occupy the final five roster spots.


Last week, the Revolution announced the renewal of their partnership with USL-PRO side Rochester Rhinos. Like last year, New England will once again loan out four players to Western New York to train and play with the third-division side.


With that in mind, Heaps is keeping watch during training and gameday to find out who would benefit from regular playing time in Rochester.


“The partnership is certainly something that we’re taking very seriously,” Heaps said. “We want to have a back and forth (of player movement) as well. We don’t just want to send the four players and leave them there. I want there to be some dynamic of returns so, we’ll carry 30 and most likely 26 will be training with us all the time.”


It’s tough to tell which players could be en route to Rochester, even at this time of the preseason. Unsigned 2014 draft picks Alec Sundly and Pierre Omanga, as well as 2013 pick Jossimer Sanchez, all stand to benefit from playing time with the Rhinos - should they all receive contract offers, of course.


Regardless of who goes to Rochester, who earns a starting spot, or who gets a contract offered to him, rest assured that Heaps won’t rush into the process of filling out the roster in the days ahead.


“We have players that we have train with us, and players that we’re communicating with,” Heaps said. “Whether we start the season with 30 exactly, or with 28 or 29, we know we have players in camp that we’ll want to add. The team is shaping up, and we have a lot of (room) to make our team better.”

 

 
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