Thankfully, there will be no need for introductions for New England Revolution rookie defender Henry Kessler.
That all began back in January for the Revolution in their preparation for the 2020 MLS season.
Now with the squad re-assembling in New England at their training facility in Foxboro with MLS and the Players Association agreeing to meet the safety and health issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the soccer ball is again being kicked around.
“This might be a defender’s answer, but I missed competing the most, battling with the guys,” Kessler said after Monday’s initial team training session. “That’s probably what I missed most. You can kick a ball around, still try to do technical stuff, but competing against another guy — that’s something we didn’t have. I think that’s what I missed the most.”
Team workouts were a welcome addition to the daily calendar of individual workouts for the Revolution. Kessler was as giddy Monday as his first day of preseason training with New England.
“It felt really good to be back, full training, for the first time in months. I think guys are going to be a little rusty,” the New York City native said. “We’ve done a lot of running in the past weeks and I think we’re all glad to be back playing with the ball again.
“I think that assessment (comparison to preseason training) is fair,” Kessler added. “I think it is similar to a normal preseason. Obviously, unprecedented circumstances, but we’re getting there and I think we’re headed in the right direction.
“It’s safe and reassuring that everyone’s been tested and no one tested positive. That’s really good news. There was a blood test and then the other one was a bit uncomfortable. You have to stick something pretty far up your nose. Those were the tests but it’s good to have those done and make sure everyone’s healthy.”
“Full-team training will be a big step,” Revolution Coach Bruce Arena said of the resumption of training at mid-week. “The first day of training was good. You can’t expect too much on Day One, but we have approximately four weeks to get our team ready for real competition.
“We’re going to work hard and get there, but I was impressed with the effort.”
defender Brandon Bye agreed.
“ it’s nice to be back, for sure,” Bye said. “I think everybody’s fit and ready to go. Everybody’s excited to get back on the field and be back with the team.”
A number of Revolution players have been at the Foxboro training site for individual workouts.
“I think what we’re doing now is big for our fitness and our return to play,” Bye said. “When we get back on the field with everybody and really see our shape on the field, do things competitively, obviously that’s going to help.”
The immediate plans for the Revolution are to train in Foxboro for two weeks and then head to Orlando where the MLS will stage a round-robin series of matches, with the format being developed.
As Arena has often noted, match fitness is much different than preseason training fitness. With three months off from the rigors of a training regimen, the levels of individual fitness will vary.
“I think everybody did their job during the off time,” Bye said of his teammates. “It’s tough, some people being away from families and away from things. I think everybody did their jobs and I think we’re progressing well into getting to Orlando.”
New England goalkeeper Matt Turner was one of the first members of the Revolution to walk through the training facility doors last week.
“It feels really good,” Turner said of seeing familiar faces and renewing acquaintances from a socially acceptable distance. “I know it was a big challenge for a lot of the guys, myself included, physically staying in shape, mentally staying ready for things to start happening at the drop of a hat.
“I’m doing goalkeeper training, getting to catch the ball and it feels really nice to have the ball back between my hands and diving around on the ground, although I may complain about it sometimes.
“It feels really good to be back out there.”
The Revolution had one point out of its two MLS matches before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus.
“I missed it so much,” Turner said. “I know a lot of the guys really missed, like I said, that team environment and the camaraderie that comes with it.”
On Monday, Revolution team members began filtering back to Foxboro for COVID-19 testing.
“W e’re all happy to be back at work,” Arena said. “I’m happy that the league and the players union came to an agreement. We look forward to moving from group training, certainly, to full team training and getting our team ready for Orlando.
“At the end of the day, the only way to prepare a team to play games is to actually get them all on the field and playing soccer,” Arena added. “We’ve really been away from that since the beginning of March, so we’re hopeful that we can get going as soon as possible and we can make up all this lost time.”
Turner believes that the circumstances of the national crisis and the steps taken federally, statewide and by MLS will harvest a competitive situation.
“Once we can get back into that full-team training environment I know guys are going to be competing,” Turner said. “It’s like almost a reset button for guys who may not have been happy with how their preseason went and think that they can get a better look to get into that starting XI.
““I think everybody was super eager to get back out there in that team environment — it’s a big part of our lives so getting back out there, getting to pass the ball between each other a little bit, and getting that feeling of being a real team again is super nice.
“People from all different backgrounds coming together to work towards a common goal, that’s the beauty of our sport and I know we all missed it dearly.”