MLS Regular Season

22 August 3:50 pm

The club was back in training on Friday as preparations for Sunday’s match against San Jose continued – this time with an anticipated face returning to the fray.

New Union goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi participated in the full hour long session Friday morning at PPL Park, joining Zac MacMath and rookie Andre Blake in a session of instruction with goalkeeper coach BJ Callaghan before integrating with the rest of the club for a series of drills.

When asked how it felt to be back, Mbolhi smiled and told philadelphiaunion.com:

“It’s good to be back, nice to be with my teammates and get going with my new club.”

While yet unknown, given the week he's had it seems unlikely Mbolhi will feature Sunday. On Wednesday, Union manager Jim Curtin told reporters that it was important the two-time FIFA World Cup veteran felt 100 percent both mentally and physically before heading back out on the pitch. Curtin also mentioned before that happened that he would have a “good sit down” with Mbolhi to see where he’s at.

Both Mbolhi and Blake remained to train with Callaghan for close to an hour post practice, so right off the bat it was impressive to see the Algerian eagerly putting in the work.

The team will have a short walk through Saturday to prepare for Sunday. Friday was more of getting the players back out on the pitch after a much needed day of rest Thursday. Also out on the pitch with the players this morning was the inspirational story of eight-year-old super fan Harry Kane Jr. who got a chance not only watch but participate in training exercises this morning.

Harry’s father, Harry Kane Sr. praised the generosity, in awe that Harry was able to hang and get so involved with the "big boys" for a day.

What was also special is that Harry got a chance meet and chat with his favorite player, forward Conor Casey.

“This is something he won’t forget for the rest of his life,” said Kane Sr. “I know my son and this is a memory that will stick with him. Everyone was so great with him and it really speaks to the volume of just how great of an organization this is.”

Mr. Kane, on behalf of all of us here at the Philadelphia Union, it was our pleasure…

Moving on…

If you missed it, defender Ray Gaddis had a one-hour “ask me anything” session Friday afternoon on Reddit. Ray was asked a variety of questions, all of which he graciously answered. To check out the full transcript of Gaddis’ AMA, click this link.  

And if you wondered whether or not Gaddis had fun with it, just look at that smile...

Odds and endlines…

Season ticket holders, you have until Sunday to order your tickets to the Sept. 16 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final if you would like to sit in your seats. If you have additional questions, contact our Fan Services department at 877-21-UNION, press (1) for tickets followed by (3) for Fan Services. You can do the same if you have any questions pertaining to the revised parking setup for Lots B and C, with the ongoing construction of what will be a multi-field practice facility for the club...Be sure to check out the Match Preview and Match Preview video ahead of Sunday’s match with San Jose...Still have yet to reserve your seat to see FIFA World Cup (2014) veteran Chris Wondolowski get after FIFA World Cup (2010) veteran Maurice Edu? One click right here will solve that problem.  

And finally…

The #ALSIceBucketChallenge has been going on for a while now to the tune of over $41 million dollars in charitable donations raised to the cause. Last week, the Union front office did it and on Friday, Union technical director Chris Albright was next up to get dunked on...with the help of players Andrew Wenger and Carlos Valdes, who were eager to have the chance to dump mostly crushed ice on the former MLS and U.S. national team stalwart.

A birdie tells us that Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz is up next...Check Monday's Daily #DOOP for that one including reactions and much more from Sunday’s match.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

21 August 11:31 am

“I don’t have a gym membership...”

“My gym doesn’t have kettlebells...”

“I can’t do a pull-up, I am so weak...”

“I do 200 crunches a night but I don’t have any abs...” (FYI, stop wasting your time with crunches)

“I don’t want to lock into a six month membership so I am not going to lift weights...”

Over the years, I have heard so many excuses from people when it comes to training. I understand exactly how hard it can be to find both the TIME and the MONEY to train. I have good news for those of you who want to maybe learn some new exercises without having to join a gym.

My solution to those of you who are on a budget and who are unable to afford a gym membership is to train outside at a park.

Here are five (5) reasons I love to train outside.

1. It’s free.

2. Most people don’t get enough sun so training outside is a great way to increase your Vitamin D levels.  Believe it or not, most people are deficient in Vitamin D.

3. It’s fun. It makes you feel like a kid again.

4. Fresh air. How many times have you gone into a gym and the first thing you smell is something nasty coming off of the person on the elliptical? It looks like they have been on it for 2 hours cranking away with sweat pouring down their face. Don’t get me wrong I love to train hard and work up a sweat but if you have ever belonged to a gym you know exactly what I am talking about.

5. I sleep better at night. If I get fresh air and sunlight early in the day it helps with my sleep cycle.

Now, I still love to train at a gym 1-2 days a week but I think training outside is a great way to mix up your routine. The good news is what I am about to show you involves a small investment on your part. I have included five videos for you to watch. In each video I show a short clip of four exercises that you can include in your routine. The good news is that all you need is the following:

Kettlebells

I would recommend that you go to a fitness equipment store or go online and purchase a kettlebell. Your best bet is to find a local store so you can save on shipping. However, the equipment from Perform Better (performbetter.com) is high quality. I would recommend that you start with two kettlebells. One light one (15-20 lbs.)  and one heavier one (40-60 lbs.). Over time if you can afford it add higher weights to your “at home gym”.

Resistance bands

Here is a link to buy bands. Bands should be a part of everyone’s training program.  I have been using these bands for years. Link: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/

Abdominal wheel

I made my own for $15-$20 from Home Depot material. You can purchase a good one on line or at a local sporting goods store. Cost is approximately $15-$20.

Click the video below to watch a demonstration as well as some cues for doing each exercise. As always, start slow and if you have any pain than you need to stop. For the Turkish Get Up I would recommend that you start with body weight and keep the reps low. Finally, when it comes to kettlebells it’s worth it for you to work with a person who is certified in how to use kettlebells properly.

Here is a sample circuit that you can implement into your workouts.

Warm up (Always warm up properly before training)

A1) Kettlebell deadlift: four (4) sets of six (6) reps

A2) Band pull-ups: four (4) sets of AMGRAP (as many good reps as possible)

A3) Ab wheel rollout: 4 sets of 8 reps

Note: In the video I go very close to the ground. Beginners only need to go half way down. If you have ANY back pain or hip pain in this movement stop right away.

A4) Turkish get up: 4 sets of 3 reps per side.

Cool down

I hope you enjoyed the videos and make it a priority to get outside and do some training.

Follow Union fitness coach Kevin Miller on Twitter: @kmillertraining and on Instagram: kevinmillertraining. Also, Miller is a featured panelist on Philly.com's Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc). For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

21 August 10:12 am

For the second day in a row, major Union news was made public.

On Tuesday, it was the confirmation that a minor car accident in France had less of an impact of goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi returning to the States and rejoining his Philadelphia Union teammates more over the current State Department glitch that is affecting the thousands that are trying to obtain passports and work visas.

However, Union manager Jim Curtin shed light that Mbolhi’s flight was schedule to arrive Wednesday and that he is slated to return to training on Friday. The club is off Thursday, but will train Friday and Saturday before Sunday night’s match against San Jose at PPL Park (8 p.m., purchase tickets).

“As soon as we get him, we’ll be happy,” Curtin said during his weekly press conference Wednesday. “He has passport in hand, he’s is on flight and officially ready to go. He’ll do something on his own (Thursday) we have something set up for him to work with our goalkeeping coach B.J. Callaghan, but with the quick turnaround he’s a guy that said he needs to be 100 percent before he debuts and debuts are special…he wants to be 100 percent sharp and I totally get that.”

But the big news of Wednesday was the announcement of a multi-year contract renewal with baking giant Bimbo Bakeries USA. News of the deal was first reported by Philadelphia Business Journal writer John George Wednesday morning with the Union confirming the report later in that day on philadelphiaunion.com.

“Bimbo Bakeries USA has had a tremendous four year relationship with the Philadelphia Union,” said Vince Melchiorre, senior vice president of marketing at Bimbo Bakeries USA.  “Everyone at the Union – from Nick Sakiewicz, to the front office, to the coaches and players--support our efforts and value our partnership.  That high level of support and trust made it an easy decision for us to continue our jersey sponsorship with the Union. During the coming years, the Union will work with us to strengthen the connection for consumers between Bimbo and several of our great brands.” 

The beauty of this revamped deal with Bimbo is that the proceeds of this longer term deal directly benefits the Union as best explained via this interview from Philly.com soccer writer Jonathan Tannenwald that featured both comments from Union and Bimbo officials.

Back to the team side…

If he is feeling any effects of a hamstring injury you wouldn’t know it as Union midfielder Cristian Maidana had a really strong training session Wednesday morning. The crafty playmaker even ended practice on the final drill. In a short-sided, short field drill, Maidana took a pass, used a great move to elude his defender and hit a ball as he was falling down that curled around the goalkeeper and into the far post.

It was world class…in practice.

“He looked great today,” said Curtin. “He looked like the Chaco Maidana we all know. We need to get him back if this team wants to make the playoffs, not just the playoffs but to go far in the playoffs. He is a guy that is a big piece, whether it is centrally or wide left. He sees the game differently and guys like that are few and far between in our league and in the world right now.”

Odds and endlines…

Join Union defender Ray Gaddis for a one hour chat this Friday at noon as he does an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit. For our fans on Reddit, you can click here to chat with Gaddis or follow along on http://www.reddit.com/r/mls

If you haven’t seen it yet, our video team sat down for this feature with Union midfielder Danny Cruz, who coaches a youth club in his spare time.

Again, the team is off Thursday, so all is quiet, but be sure to visit philadelphiaunion.com Friday as we get you ready for Sunday’s showdown with San Jose with match previews, scouting reports and of course another edition of the Daily #DOOP.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

19 August 3:58 pm

Rest assured…all is well with new Union net minder Rais Mbolhi.

Following practice Tuesday, Union interim manager Jim Curtin confirmed rumors that Mbolhi, 28, the club’s latest signing was involved in a minor car accident during a return trip to France to button up personal affairs.

The accident, was minor in nature and found Mbolhi suffering no injuries.

The two-time FIFA World Cup veteran is scheduled to board a flight to return to Philadelphia, where he will train for the first time alongside his Union teammates later this week. According the Curtin, there are no issues remaining with any of Mbolhi’s paperwork that includes a work visa and international transfer certificate (ITC).

“Seems like everything is okay with him and he’ll be in, we expect, by tomorrow (Wednesday),” said Union interim manager Jim Curtin.  He’s on a flight now; [his initial flight] got rescheduled and missed because of a car accident.  It's the kind of the news we got at 4:30 in the morning [from our team coordinator]. Unfortunate for [Rais], obviously safety is first and we’ll get him back as soon as he gets in. But he’s okay and there was no injury or anything like that.”

It’s unknown whether Mbolhi will get his Major League Soccer debut this Sunday when the Union return to PPL Park to take on the San Jose Earthquakes (8 p.m., purchase tickets) as Curtin mentioned that they want to be both cautious and methodically calculated with his first MLS start.

“We’ll see where Rais is at and we’ll talk with him – have a good honest talk,” said Curtin. “ If I had to guess from the last time when he came back and trained for four days, he was coming off of a pretty long layoff and he still kind of has been, He wants to be 100 percent before he goes out there and I as a coach can appreciate that. I will not speculate, but I’ll tell you that we’re preparing now as if Zac [MacMath] is going to start.”

Right now, both Union goalkeepers in camp are riding high with MacMath helping the Union capture its first trip ever to the U.S. Open Cup final while rookie goalkeeper Andre Blake is an MLS Save of the Week candidate following this acrobatic save to deny Houston's Will Bruin during the club’s primetime matchup last Friday.

Cristian Maidana: Feeling better

It’s a “wait and see” on midfielder Cristian Maidana, who again aggravated a hamstring injury and was forced to fly home following the team’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal victory. But after a minor procedure, Maidana has returned to training with his teammates and participated in full training Tuesday.

“The medical staff determined that he was not up to where they wanted him to be physically [following the Open Cup semifinal], so they sent him home,” said Curtin.  He had a [platelet rich plasma] injection in the hamstring and that’s settled down now.  He feels very good today. We have to be cautious with him because we know what it took to get him fully going and acclimated and fit and we don’t want to have any more setbacks.”

Curtin his hopeful that he’ll have Maidana back soon, which is a plus considering he is currently among the League leaders in assists with eight.

PPL “Park-ing” updates and practice stuff

Located on the Union website is a detailed rundown of the rearranged parking lot structure  given construction for the club’s brand new practice facility is currently underway. Keep an eye on philadelphiaunion.com in the coming days ahead for a detailed feature on the practice facility complete with images and renderings of the finished product. If you have yet to read it, a good informational piece regarding the facility was featured on Philly Soccer Page last week.

Each week, we’ll send out a video of how construction is moving along as this project is scheduled to be completed in October. Here's the first:

The possibilities of the finished product are endless.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com    

25 March 2:55 pm

All of us are pressed for time. Between work, family, social obligations and finding time for ourselves it’s hard to find the time to fit in a good workout. I get asked this question a lot. “How long do I need to train in order to see some benefits”. That is a tough question to answer without knowing the person and having a good understating of their goals as well as their current level of fitness. With that being said, I want to share with you three of my “go to workouts” when I am pressed for time.

Workout No. 1: Hill Repeats

When I think of hill repeats I think of Walter Payton wearing a “Roos” headband crushing hills while other guys are lagging behind sucking wind. Athletes have been running hills for years but it’s that image in my head that motivates me to get out and run up and down a hill.  Hill running is a great way to get ready for speed training and harder workouts that will happen down the road. It’s a great way to “strength train” your legs without the weights. Here is one workout you can try. Ideally you would run on a soft surface but if you are unable to find a gradual soft hill you can run these on the street.

Week 1: 5 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 60 seconds)

Week 2: 6 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 50 seconds)

Week 3: 7 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 45 seconds)

Week 4: 8 repeats x 15 seconds (Rest 35 seconds)

Week 5: Omit. No hill running this week.

Note: Start with a gradual hill with a slight incline. If you are a beginner do not go and find the steepest hill in the neighborhood. Find a gradual climb and start with five (5) runs and progress to eight (8) over a four (4) week period. As you get stronger increase the work time until you reach 45-60 seconds.

Workout No. 2: Kettlebell circuit

Just for the record I am "not a kettlebell guy." I am not certified by any organization however, I really enjoy using kettlebells with the athletes and clients that I work with. It’s simply one of the many “tools” that I have in my toolbox to help people obtain the results that they are looking for. I think with the proper coaching they can add tremendous value to your training program. Please note that I would recommend that you work with a qualified coach who can assess/screen you and can teach you the basics of how to use kettlebells. Like all strength training exercises start light and perfect your form before progressing to heavier weight.

Set the timer for 10 minutes and perform the following circuit. Rest as much as you need to in order to maintain good form.

1. Kettlebell swings: five (5) reps

In order to do a proper swing you must learn how to hinge at your hips. The mistake most people make is that they squat instead of hinge. Let your legs do the work and guide the “bell” with your arms.

2. Kettlebell goblet squat: five (5) reps

Hold the kettlebell close to your body and squat as deep as you comfortable can. Push the knees out, keep your chin tucked and stand tall at the finish of the movement. Don’t allow the weight to drift to far from your body.

3. Push ups: ten (10) reps

Maintain a flat back, elbows in and push away at the finish. If you are unable to do a full push up than drop to your knees and perform a modified version.

Rest for 15-30 seconds depending on your fitness level. Repeat for 10 minutes. At the end of ten minutes  record the amount of the completed rounds and the weight lifted.

Workout No. 3: Head to the park

If you don’t belong to a gym however you want to challenge yourself head to your local park and give this circuit a try.

  • Monkey bar pull ups: 5 reps
  • Body Weight squats: 10 reps
  • Resistance band 2 hand presses: 5 reps
  • Single leg squats to a park bench: 5 reps/side
  • Bear crawl for distance (30 yds)
  • Rest and repeat for time (10-20 minutes)

If you do this workout people will look at you funny and some people will ask you what you are doing. My response is normally “I am training”. The next question is normally “How are you exercising without any equipment” to which I respond “ I have all the equipment I need at a park. It’s one of the best places to train”.

It goes without saying. Before you do any workouts you need to warm up properly. For some people that may be 5-10 minutes. For others like me I need 10-15 minutes to get moving. The key point to remember is when you are pressed for time there are several  ways that  you can train. You just need to make health a priority and stop making excuses!

Train hard and train smart!

Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog (link: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc) on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

 

 

10 March 4:41 pm

In preparation for a Major League Soccer season, a lot of time and consideration goes into what the players need to play at such a high level each and every week.  As fans you see the finished product but as coaches we have to assemble a plan that gives our players the best chance for success.  During the preseason we have several things we want to work, some of the key areas that we focus on are the following:

  • Building a strong aerobic base and alactic energy system
  • Improving movement quality off the ball
  • Building a strong base of strength
  • Implementing a solid nutrition program
  • Focusing on acceleration and deceleration (both with and without the ball)
  • Implementing a recovery plan
  • Stress and fatigue management
  • Assessment and movement screening for each player

It’s naïve to think that every player is going to arrive in camp in great shape. One of the great things about preseason training is that you get to spend quality time (5-6 weeks) on the road with the players and find out what they excel at and what areas they may need to improve upon. Every athlete I have ever come in contact can improve in at least 1-2 areas.  As the fitness coach it’s my responsibility to work with the coaching and medical staff to try to identify what areas may be lacking and develop a   plan to ensure that every player is progressing towards the end goal which is the chance to play at a high level each and every week.

Below are five (5) key fitness/training related areas that we focus on during the preseason:

1. Individual screening, assessments and testing for each player

One of the first things we do is look at each player individually and screen them.  It is my job along with the medical staff to screen each player so we can assemble an individual plan for the guys. To accomplish this we came up with the following plan:

Functional Movement Screen

This is a seven point screen that was created by Gray Cook and Lee Burton. This has been around since 1998 and is currently being utilized by thousands of coaches across the world. The goal is to look at fundamental movement patterns to identify what areas players may be deficient in and to identify any major asymmetries that may exist. It’s simply a screen to try and identify any limitations in movement that may cause an injury down the road.

Additional Screening/Assessments

  • Breathing patterns
  • Pelvic alignment
  • Omega wave testing: This provides detailed information on players cardiac, metabolic and central nervous system readiness.

Speed

  • 10 meter and 30 meter sprint times

Power

  • Vertical Jump testing
  • Transition speed: Change of direction drill (30 yd. test to assess transition/change of direction speed)

Aerobic system

  • Beep Test

Upper Body Test

  • Pull-ups
  • Lower body assessment: single leg squat test

2. Developing the aerobic and alactic system

During the course of the game certain players can run as much as 6-7 miles. In order to be able to sustain this kind of effort a strong aerobic base needs to be in place to play at this level.  In order to progress the players each week we attempted to develop their aerobic system by incorporating as much movement with the ball as possible. We did not go out and run at a steady state for 60-75 minutes but rather the technical staff did an excellent job of incorporating as much work with the ball as possible.  Players really like this because they are working on their skill with the ball while at the same time we are building their aerobic base. We have to remember we are training soccer players not cross country runners.

An efficient aerobic system is critical for the success of our players.  To accomplish this we monitored the players by watching their heart rate as well as their recovery between movements and drills. An addition to making sure that the players have a strong aerobic base it’s critical that we make speed (alactic system) a priority in the training. A strong aerobic system will help the alactic (speed) system work efficiently.  In order to do this, players need to be alert and fatigue needs to be low to improve speed.  All of our speed work is done in the beginning of the training session after our movement prep and before fatigue may set in. Intensity is high (runs of 10-30 yards) and recovery is long (1-2 minutes) when we try and improve a players speed. As the season progresses we will increase the distance of the run (30-60 yards) and manipulate the recovery times to get the adaptations that we are looking for.  

When it comes to speed players will run faster without the ball than with the ball so implement speed training early in the session without the ball to ensure that players are running at top speeds.

3. Build a solid base of strength

As a strength coach I am always looking to make our players stronger.  I believe it’s one area that is often overlooked with soccer players.  During preseason there is so much to accomplish in a short time that strength training can sometimes be pushed to the side. I am very fortunate to have a coaching staff that understands the role that strength training plays in the development of our players. With that being said we try to focus on BASIC movement patterns that would allow our players to build a solid foundation for the season that we can build upon.  Below are some of the basic movement patterns that we try to focus on during preseason.

Single leg strength

  • Body weight squats to a bench
  • Hip hinge pattern (deadlifts, reaches)
  • Rear foot squats
  • Hip extension patterns

Squatting patterns

  • Goblet squats
  • Front squats
  • Pulling patterns

Pull-ups

  • DB rows
  • Band rows
  • Pushing
  • Several variations of push ups
  • DB bench press variations
  • Overhead pressing

Lunges

  • Reverse
  • Lateral
  • Core

Anterior core training: Roll outs

  • Turkish Get Ups (Starting with the lowest progression and advancing)
  • Rolling/Crawling
  • Supine (lying on your back) to prone (stomach) to quadruped (all fours)

Note: We do not perform any crunches with the players.

Deceleration

  • Jumping
  • Linear/lateral

4. Nutrition and Hydration

At the end of the day nutrition and the quality of food that our athletes consume plays a critical role in how they will recover and perform on the field. I truly believe that if you have two athletes with the same skill and aerobic system the one with the better nutrition will outperform the other athlete on the field.

I try and keep it very simple for the players when it comes to nutrition. Everyone is different and my goal is to provide simple yet effective recommendations based off of what I have been able to learn from experts in the field of nutrition. Experts worth reading, in my opinion, include Robb Wolf, John Berardi, Brian St. Pierre and Catherine Shanahan to name a few.

  • Eat real unprocessed food as much as possible
  • Learn to cook simple nutritious meals
  • Consume quality meats, fats and carbohydrates on a daily basis
  • Buy local food whenever possible
  • Make hydration a priority by limiting the amount of sport drinks and energy drinks
  • On a daily basis consume 5-6 servings of vegetables and fruits.

Always have good healthy snack options with you for when you get hungry. This can be as easy as having a bag of homemade trail mix with you in case you get hungry.

5. Recovery

At the end of the day training is easy. I don’t mean it is easy to train for 2-3 hours each day but rather when we train we cause a disruption on our body that signals a response. It’s that response that helps us grow and adapt. If we want to reap the benefits of a particular training session we MUST develop a good recovery plan for our players.  As I have stated above everyone is different and some players respond to one recovery method while another player may not respond to that particular stimulus. To keep things simple we try and provide a few options to the players.  Here is a short list of some of the strategies that we implement with the players:

  • Massage
  • Post workout nutrition
  • Chiropractor treatments
  • Breathing techniques
  • Quality sleep every night
  • Contrasts in water
  • Foam rolling/stretching

The MLS season is very long and demanding. Injuries can‘t be prevented but we can reduce a player’s chance of getting hurt.  As the fitness coach my number one goal is to do everything possible to keep the players healthy and provide to them the necessary tools that can keep them on the field. I truly believe what the players do off of the field is just as important as what they do on the field.  If you are a coach at the high school or club level don’t try and implement all of the strategies above right away. Educate yourself on a few of the tips listed above and read as much as possible from experts in their field. The more we can educate our players the better off they will be when it comes time to play the game.

 Good luck with your training!

Union strength and conditioning coach Kevin Miller is also a featured panelist in the Sports Doc blog http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc on Philly.com. For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

11 November 2:41 pm

After our last regular season game against Sporting Kansas City, we unfortunately didn’t make the playoffs this year.

We were so close but we missed the final sprint to get over the hump. This difficult ending will really motivate us more to redeem ourselves and be in the playoffs next season.

So, enough about talking of the past, now I am focusing in the present and this offseason. What are my plans during this offseason?

We are now at the beginning of November and our preseason should probably start around mid-January so I have two months to prepare myself for the next season.

The most important thing right now for me is to get healthy. At the end of the season, I got an injury in my right foot. I need to recover from this injury before I start any running. So to begin my offseason I am going to rest my body. It’s important to stop playing for a little bit, but with my injury I didn’t even think about it. I am going to start working out probably at the beginning of December. I usually do a gym workout 3-4 times a week with some running. When we get closer to the preseason I will try to go out on the field and have some fun with the ball, probably go out there with some of my teammates who are already in town.

For most of the time during this offseason I will be staying in the Philadelphia area. My fiancé is from Philadelphia, so I am going to spend both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays here. I already planned to go to France for just few days in November. I will have just a quick visit to see my family and friends.

Our offseason is always during the winter, so I like to find a sunny destination for a week of vacation. I don’t know yet where I will go this year but I am planning on it.

I wish you a wonderful time during the Holidays, a happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas!

Thank you for all your support during this season.

Talk you to you soon.

Merci Beaucoup

Sebastien Le Toux  No. 11

04 October 4:36 pm

In this edition of my blog, I am going to look back on the regular season and the best highlights of my team -- and some of my own.

I am going to talk also of the playoffs push for our last for games of the regular season.

It has been a long season and we are now in the last two months of it and it is all very close in the standings.

But let’s start from the beginning. First home opener at PPL Park and my comeback in this beautiful stadium playing in my favorite jersey. I could not have dreamed of a better scenario than scoring the opening goal in my first game. This moment will be always in my memory because it was a beautiful feeling that I missed the previous year.

We started the season with a loss at home but got back on track right away with our first win in Colorado. Nobody was betting on us to have a great season and make the playoffs this year after losing our home opener against Sporting Kansas City but I think after winning this away game, lots of people were probably surprised and it gave us lots of positve energy to continue playing this way. In my experience, the way your team kicks off the new season always points to how well you do during the course of it, and after three games we had two wins and just one loss.

During the whole season , we always stayed in the top five of MLS' Eastern Conference standings, which as you know are the spots for the playoffs. And what helped us doing this was to be consistent. We had our best result of the year in the month of June. We were undefeated; in four matches we amassed two wins and two ties. One of those wins was against our big rival the New York Red Bulls.

It was a long time since the Union had beaten New York. It was a great game and we beat them, 3-0. I was very happy after this game, of course because of the win but also because I provided the assist on the last goal by Antoine Hoppenot. Antoine sits next to me in the locker room and is a personal friend of mine.  

To see him score his first home goal and be able to give him the assist was fantastic.

This season did not always go the way we wanted, and between the middle of August to the middle of September our results were not the best and we didn't get lots of points. For the first time we lost two games in a row, first in San Jose and the following weekend at home against Houston. Those unfortunate results put us in a bad position and out of the playoffs position.

After the Houston game, the team had a weekend off to recharge our batteries and start the push to finish strong in these last games of the regular season.

And the first of those five games was away in Kansas City. Since our last two bad performances, nobody pictured us winning this game. But all of us in the team knew that we were capable of beating Kansas City on their home field. If we wanted to be a part of the playoffs we needed a positive result here. And that's what we did. We won 1-0. This result put us in the playoff but it is not over yet. There is still a long way to go.

This next home game against Toronto is huge. And after that we are going to D.C. United and Montreal and then the rubber match as it's called at PPL Park on Oct. 26 against Kansas City -- again.

We are going all your support for this final sprint to the playoffs. I know I want to make it and say I helped the Philadelphia Union qualify for the second time.

Talk to you all soon...hopefully at playoff time.

Merci Beaucoup

Sebastien Le Toux, No. 11

24 September 9:19 am

Coming off a home win against D.C. United, we traveled to New York. It is our last meeting with the Red Bulls in the regular season and we needed a great performance against a direct opponent for the playoffs. I thought we had one of our best collective performances on defense against one of the best teams in the league. The final score was 0-0. I had a good opportunity in the second half. I received a loose ball in the air, took a good first touch on top of the box and shot from distance. The ball smashed the crossbar but didn't go in. It was our best chance but unfortunately we share the points at the end.

The next weekend we were again on the road. This time we played in New England. We played a very poor first half and New England was in leading, 1-0. We attacked much stronger the second half and quickly tied the game with a goal from Danny Cruz. This goal gave us more energy to continue to attack and after a shot from Sheanon Williams who hit the post, the ball came back right at my shin and I scored. Unfortunately, I was called offside by a foot. After my goal was called back, Conor Casey scored another one. He got to a loose ball in the box after the goalkeeper and their defender collided and found the net. Surprisingly the referee whistled for a foul on the goalkeeper and didn't allow the goal, which in my opinion was totally a good goal.

This wrong call was the turning point of this game and New England took advantage of our team frustration to score few goals. Final score 5-1, this was our worst result of the season.

Back home against Montreal. It's our second meeting versus the Impact. We lost the first 5-3 earlier in the season so everybody was hoping for lots of goals. But the opposite happened, and the game ended 0-0. We had some good combinations offensively but didn't find the net. The highlight of this game for me, was when the Montreal defender, Hassoun Camara, elbowed me in the face 10 minutes into the game. It is the first time that this happen to me, and I was close to getting a concussion, but luckily for me just my jaw and teeth were touched. I remained in the game but felt sore for few days.

Next game was our last long road trip to the west coast in San Jose. It's never easy to play far away from home with three hours difference but we needed to get points here. We didn't get off to the best start and the Earthquakes took the lead early, courtesy of former Union player Shea Salinas. We didn't have much opportunity in the first half but came back more offensive in the second half. Shortly after the half, San Jose midfielder Baca received a red card for a hard tackle. This call helped us to get more opportunities to score but the woodwork was not our friend this game. Twice we hit the post, first with an effort by Keon Daniel and after a header from Sheanon Williams. San Jose stayed strong defensively and we could not score and lost this game.

This was a disappointing result and we needed a big response at home against Houston Dynamo.

We played a very good first half, answering the physical plays form Houston who decided to make this game ugly. But in the first half we should have been up, 1-0. Keon Daniel took a fantastic free kick which went straight into the net, but the referee deemed there to have been a foul on the Houston goalkeeper. It's not the first time this season that we had a goal called back and it changed this game again. Houston scored a header in the second half, off of a free kick. We were unable to respond and lost this very important game.

We are not in the best position right now, tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference. Everything is still possible, but we need a big reaction in the final five games of the regular season to make the playoffs.

I hope I will give you some great news in my next blog.

Thanks for following me and supporting the team.

Merci beaucoup !!

Sebastien Le Toux No. 11

16 September 3:22 pm

Have you ever suffered a serious knee injury? If so, what steps are you currently taking to ensure that you reduce your chances of hurting that same knee again? The unfortunate part of training and competing in sports is that injuries are a part of the game. Even athletes with the best training program suffer season ending injuries..  A hot topic over the past few years has been knee injuries and in particular ACL injuries. This year alone it’s estimated that 100,000 people will suffer an ACL tear with 30,000 of these people being high school athletes. We often hear how females are six to eight times more likely to suffer an ACL injury when compared to male athletes. Having worked with several high school female athletes,  I definitely agree that they are at a higher risk due to their lack of stability as well as their overall strength when compared to male athletes. However, I think everyone should make it a point to implement their own program to ensure that they REDUCE their chances of suffering a knee injury.

I stress the word reduce because often time’s coaches and trainers tell players that they need to implement an ACL prevention program. Personally I don’t like to use that phrase because unfortunately there is no way that you can prevent an injury but you can greatly reduce the chances of suffering a season ending ACL injury with a solid training program. I believe Coach Mike Boyle said it best when he said that ACL reduction is simply “good training”. By this what I believe he meant was that a solid year round program is the best medicine for reducing your chances of injury.

When it comes to reducing your chances of suffering an ACL injury here are a few key points that I believe need to be addressed in a solid training program.  The tips and videos below do not cover everything when it comes to ACL reduction but if you follow some of these tips you will see good results in your training and more importantly your performance on the field, court or track.

1. Get an assessment from a qualified coach

I would recommend before you start a training program that you get an assessment to see if there are any exercises that you should not be doing. There are many assessments to choose from. Here are a couple that I recommend that you check out:

FMS (Functional Movement Screen)

PRI (Postural Restoration Institute)

If you live near Sewell, New Jersey I would check out endeavorfit.com for your assessment.  Kevin Neeld and his staff are excellent when it comes to doing assessments.

2. Start every training program with a good warm-up

A solid warm up should include the following:

Do your best to train in a neutral (pelvis) state. I learned these exercises from PRI (posturalrestorationinstitute.com). 

Foam Rolling and movement

Mobility work for your ankles, hips and shoulder

Linear and lateral movements that progressively get faster as you progress the warm-up.

Anterior core training

A good warm-up could be accomplished in as little as eight to ten minutes if done properly. What I tell the athletes and weekend warriors that I work with is that this part of the program sets the stage for the training session. If you have been sitting at a desk all day long and then drive to the gym and jump into a “metabolic class/workout” without a proper warm-up you’re asking for trouble. Spend ten minutes warming up to reduce your chances of suffering a knee injury.

3.  Learn to land and decelerate properly.

Most non-contact knee injuries happen when we stop rather than when we “take off” (Here is a video of a high school girl jumping at her assessment. Watch as she lands and notice her lack of stability as well as her shin angle when landing (Poor landing mechanics-knee).  Before you start any advanced plyometric drills (i.e. repeat box jumps, single leg hurdle hips) I would recommend that you learn to land and stop properly.  Here are three exercises that I teach early on in a training program.

It is very important that you learn to absorb force when jumping and landing. The coaching cues that I use for line hops and box jumps are “land soft” and “stick the landing”.

4.  Improve your overall strength

Most people would see tremendous benefits in their performance by simply implementing weights/bands into their program. I hear it all the time from athletes as well as weekend warriors the reasons why they can’t implement strength training into their program. Excuses like “it makes me sore” or “I don’t have the time because I am playing five travel games this weekend (that’s a problem in of itself and I will talk about in a future blog). I’m sorry I am not buying any of these excuses. Strength training for the average person who is looking to get strong and reduce their chances of knee injuries does not need to be complicated. A solid strength program will include single leg training as well as bilateral lower body movements and upper body movements. For someone looking to start a strength training program here are a few exercises that would lay the foundation for a balanced and strong body.

Knee injuries can change your career in an instant. Even if you have no intentions of ever playing a sport again I would highly recommend that you implement some of the strategies mentioned above. If you are a high school coach or athlete I want to challenge you to take a look at your current training program and see if there are any “holes” in your system.  A key point to remember is that you have to go through the proper exercise progressions when training. Personally, I am always looking for ways to make my programs better for the athlete’s that I work with. I know I can improve and most good coaches are always looking to get better results for their clients.  I challenge you to take your training to the next level and give yourself the best chance to stay injury free.

Good luck!