FOXBOROUGH — Locker room settings are meant to provide sanctuary for sports teams. Sealed off from distractions and interference, they promote camaraderie, give comfort, and, in the case of soccer, a place to kill time with games of footvolley or table tennis.
But even if they be spacious, as they are in the bowels of Gillette Stadium, a locker room can get to feeling claustrophobic and confining.
But the Revolution’s new digs behind the stadium generate a different vibe. Collegial and exclusive, yes, but also expansive, as they look out onto a 68-acre training center.
Diego Fagundez noticed the difference.
“It’s our new home,” he said this week. “There are actually windows here. You can look outside and see if it looks nice outside or it’s windy outside.
“I think it will make a huge difference. Instead of being in one building all year, we will be here a lot more, and it doesn’t feel like the same environment as the stadium every day. We have a couple fields, a bigger gym to enjoy. Everyone is liking it, and hopefully it helps us become better players and win games in the season.”
The opening of the $35 million facility coincided with the hiring of sporting director/head coach Bruce Arena and an expanded staff, the launching of the Revolution II reserve team, and $12.7 million in transfer payments for foreign players.
Arena changed the Revolution’s fortunes last season, guiding them to their first playoff appearance in four years. Now, Arena has added Polish striker Adam Buksa, Dutch defender Alex Buttner, plus former Revolution starters Kelyn Rowe and Seth Sinovic.
“He’s an easy coach to get to know,” Fagundez said. “He just wants us to work hard and have fun. He’s not out there screaming at us. He just wants us to be hard workers and be professionals. He knows what we’re capable of. And I think we all know we can win any game, it’s just a matter of who’s going to put in the work. So you have to do everything you can to be a better player and make everyone around you better.”
Fagundez was 16 when he made his Revolution debut in 2011, and he played for Steve Nicol, Jay Heaps, interim coaches Tom Soehn and Mike Lapper, plus Brad Friedel, before Arena.
Arena has captured a record five MLS Cup titles since 1996, taking nine years away from the league to coach the US national team. But Arena has not won a title since 2014, when he led the Los Angeles Galaxy to victory over the Revolution, and the league has expanded to 26 teams.
“He wants to win, but the one thing he said from the beginning, ‘I don’t care about winning the first day you come in here — all I care about is to have a good team,’ ’’ Fagundez said. “And that’s not something you’ve heard before because when everybody’s in here, what’s the first thing you want to do? You want to win MLS Cup. He doesn’t care about winning MLS Cup. He wants to have a good team, and that’s what we’re going to try to do. We’re going to try to have a good team, and hopefully that team can be the one to win MLS Cup.”
MLS Cup or not, the new setup promises a bright future for the Revolution.
Drawing a crowd
Wolverhampton’s Adama Traore has emerged as possibly the most explosive winger in the Premier League. There are few statistics that accurately reflect Traore’s effectiveness, but here is one: Traore has been on the receiving end of 20 fouls that resulted in an opponent being cautioned, a Premier League high.
Traore has not been cautioned this season (he has played 52 Premier League games over the last two seasons without receiving a yellow card). Second on the list is Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, who has absorbed 19 caution-worthy fouls (Zaha has committed three yellow card offenses). Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish is third, having been fouled 17 times resulting in cautions (and committing six yellow-card offenses).
This month, Traore has earned three yellow-card fouls each from opponents in two games. Against Brighton & Hove Albion, the three fouls were committed in a 20-minute span in the second half. Tottenham Hotspur committed the three fouls in a 14-minute span late in the game.
Traore combines world-class acceleration with tiki-taka touches refined during his days with FC Barcelona. He was born just outside of Barcelona.
It’s difficult to believe that Traore, 24, has not been capped by Spain. In November, Traore refused a national team call-up because of injury. Traore, who played for Spain junior teams, is of West African heritage and could opt to play for Mali.
Wear and tear
Liverpool FC received a scare when Sadio Mané went down during a 2-1 win over Wolverhampton last week. Mané, who sustained a slight hamstring tear, is expected to return next week after missing three games.
“We were lucky with the injury that it was not that serious,” coach Jurgen Klopp said.
Klopp reiterated his observation that teams are playing too many games.
In 2019, Mané performed 64 times for Liverpool and Senegal, barely taking a break. Klopp and many other coaches demand pressing and excessive running from forwards and midfielders, so it should be no surprise if they falter.
Tottenham’s Harry Kane, Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek, and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford are among the Premier Leaguers who have sustained long-term injuries after going down with noncontact issues recently.