[MLS] A three-day visit by Chilean striker Reinaldo Navia and a canceled trip to Brazil have been the major talking points of the Revs’ 2010 preseason. Confined to indoor activities because of harsh winter weather, Coach Steve Nicol nevertheless set up a few opportunities for Navia, 31, to show some of the talents he’s displayed for clubs in his native country as well as Ecuador and Argentina, and for numerous Mexican teams. He trained on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and left by pre-arrangement.
According to Nicol, Navia has drawn interest from Mexican power Club America and the coach was unable to scout him in action for his last team, Santiago Morning. “I couldn’t go see him play with the team he was playing with, because he didn’t want to get injured,” said Nicol. “So we brought him in for three days.”
Striker Taylor Twellman, who played just one game last year and has yet to recover from neck and spinal injuries, probably won’t be ready for the start of the season. So far in preseason he’s been limited to running and working on the exercise bike.
“We’re looking for a goalscorer,” said Nicol. “Taylor’s our goalscorer and we need that, and it’s looking like Taylor’s not going to be starting the season, so we’re looking. All we could really do was bring [Navia] in. We were in the bubble, but we set up some things. He did fine but obviously he’s on a decent [salary] number, and we’d rather wait until we’ve seen some other guys, so we’re kind of on hold at the moment.
“Certainly we’re going to try and get some people in and we didn’t want to commit to Navia. It’s a decent number, a big number that he’s looking for. We just didn’t want to dive in after three days. So hopefully we can bring in some other people.”
Nicol did not reveal how much Navia’s salary might be.
For the first time since he took over the Revs in 2002, Nicol will start a season without midfielder Steve Ralston, who signed with AC St. Louis after his MLS option wasn’t picked up by the Revs. Also gone are veteran defender Jay Heaps (retired) and Chris Albright (traded), and midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, who along with Wells Thompson was traded to Colorado in exchange for defender Cory Gibbs and goalkeeper Preston Burpo.
Gibbs will fill one of the holes on the back line and Burpo will start in goal until Matt Reis recovers from knee and shoulder surgeries. Adding up the games played for New England by Twellman, Reis, Ralston, Heaps and Larentowicz equals a lot of experience: 897 games, or the equivalent of about 30 MLS full MLS seasons. There’s still some veteran leadership, but only Shalrie Joseph, Twellman and Reis go further back than the 2007 season with the Revs.
“You have Preston, you have Cory, you have Shalrie," says Nicol. “Matt and Taylor have been with us a long time as well. We’re going to have some experience but we’re going to have some young guys as well. Hopefully, we can get a good mix and play well.”
Nicol says uncertainty regarding the CBA negotiations and a possible strike/lockout impasse forced the team to cancel a preseason trip to Brazil.
“We couldn’t finalize things, because of the CBA and things shutting down,” he said. “I don’t think it will, but we couldn’t commit to something if there was a chance we couldn’t go, and we’d have to pay for it anyway. So we couldn’t commit. We’re just kind of waiting to see what happens with that.”
On Thursday, the league announced another extension to the CBA negotiating deadline, from Friday (Feb. 12) to Feb. 25. The Revs have scheduled a 10-day camp in North Carolina starting March 10.
Of Senegalese midfielder Nikouky Desire, 23, whom the club is trying to sign, Nicol said, “He’s a central midfielder. He has a lot of experience playing over there, so hopefully he’ll come in and do a good job for us.” He can also buttress the midfield in the absence of Larentowicz.
The extension of the CBA deadline has renewed hope there won’t be any major disruption of the preseason, and all the coaches and players can do is plug along.
“It’s not a good situation at all for anybody,” said Nicol of the uncertainty clouding this preseason. “Nobody wins.”