FOXBORO Pat Phelan used it as motivation. Because, quite frankly, it couldnt be ignored.
Every day that he trained in the offseason, the Revolution midfielder thought about his teams sixth-place finish in the Eastern Conference in 2010. It was a season that ended with a disappointing 9-16-5 record, which kept the Revs out of the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Entering last season, Phelan had figured they were in good standing, defensively. All they needed was someone to step up and give them some offense.
That offense never really showed up, at least when it mattered, and the Revolution finished with only 32 goals, which was the third-lowest total in the MLS.
But defensively, it wasnt any better. The Revs allowed 50 goals in 2010, which labeled them the worst defense in the league, something that, throughout this offseason and preseason, theyre trying to fix.
Anytime you give up the most goals in the league, you obviously have to make some changes, which we have, said Phelan after Tuesdays training session at Gillette Stadium. And I think our focus throughout preseason is going to start with defense, and end with defense. Its a collective thing. It starts from the top, all the way back. So I think everyones mentality just kind of changes a little bit.
Thinking back to last preseason, Phelan remembers the Revs mindset, and the end result was a whole lot different than he could have ever imagined.
I think we thought the opposite, said Phelan. We were wondering where the goals were going to come from, which still was a problem last year, but I thought we were always comfortable in how we were going to defend. Even throughout the year, we had some games where we got blown out, but had some other games where we felt pretty good, like things were going the right way. But its just got to be more consistent day to day.
You cant just ignore that it happened, but you cant dwell on it either, he said. So its kind of finding that fine line of taking your lessons and learning from your mistakes from last year. But thats in the past. You work to not let those things happen again, but you cant dwell on it.
Phelan recently re-signed with the team, after appearing in 60 games since being drafted by New England 10th overall in 2008.
He admits, this year is a rebuilding year. But the 26-year-old out of Wake Forest wants to be a part of the organizations bright future.
This is where I want to be, said Phelan. I think the clubs in a transition period here, from the last couple years. And I think its only going to get better. I think the coaching staff has done a good job of getting the guys in the right mentality. Kind of shaking the tree and mixing up the team and the players a little bit. So I think its going to be a rebuilding year, but I think weve got some bright days down the road.
The Revolution opened preseason training camp on Jan. 31, and will begin the 2011 regular season March.
Phelan described training camp thus far as being relaxed and acknowledged that while their main goal is to patch up their defense before the season-opener, some of the teams biggest issues still remain.
That issue would be the Revolutions maturity level, which was criticized on several occasions last year by veteran Shalrie Joseph.
With so many new, young faces on this years roster, Phelan says that right now, maturity is still an issue. But having dealt with it last year, the returning players have a better feel for how to handle it.
Theres a lot of timid guys, just because there are so many new faces, and not a lot of veterans, I think with the exception of Shalrie Joseph and Matt Reis. I think Kenny Mansally and Sainey Nyassi are the next tenured players. So there are a lot of young players. Its kind of quiet, but I think everyones kind of just finding their niche and their place.
I lot of guys have grown up from last year. And I think because we had so many young guys last year, it helps the new guys coming in this year, knowing what to expect, know their place. Everyones got a personality. Its just a matter of finding out where it fits, and bringing it out.
Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.