Intensity High as Union Kick Off Preseason

Nowak' pleased with club's competitiveness as new faces join the fold

Philadelphia Union officially kicked off preseason training
on Monday ahead of their second season in Major League Soccer. Manager Peter
Nowak’s squad went through a two-hour training session at YSC Sports in Wayne,
Pa., the first of five sessions this week, all of which are open to the public.

“I think we have been waiting for a long time,” said Nowak.
“It was a busy offseason, so it is not only the coaching staff but also the
players who are ready to come back and start practice. So far, so good. We’re
trying to find the rhythm for our camp (in Orlando) next week.”

While players are still finding their legs, it would be
difficult to tell as a casual observer. Nowak, too, was impressed with his
club’s fitness and competitiveness, especially so early on in preseason.

“The intensity was always good  I never questioned the
intensity,” he said. “The preparation for more detailed work needs to be put in
right now and we need to give the guys who are new an understanding of our
 what we are trying to accomplish as a team, the way we play, the way
we do things. The new guys are trying to impress the coaching staff and trying
to figure out how they are going to fit on the team. The intensity is not a
problem and I hope it never will be.”

Among the new faces in camp: Brian Carroll, Faryd Mondragón,
Carlos Valdés, SuperDraft selections Zac MacMath, Michael Farfan and Levi
Houapeu, Supplemental Draft selections Ryan Richter, Josh Walburn and Matt
Marcin, as well as several trialists (trialist names are not released, per club policy).

Of all the new faces, only Carroll has the perspective of
coming from another MLS club. The four-time Supporters’ Shield winner was
acquired from the Columbus Crew on November 22 in exchange for a second round
pick and allocation money.

“The competition level is very high right now,” said
Carroll, who has also won two MLS Cup titles. “Everyone is flying around and
getting used to one another, getting back in shape, just getting comfortable
with the ball again. It's really fast. As we go longer through the preseason
the play will still be fast, but as far as the amount of running to get the job
done, maybe it will slow down because guys will get used to one another, feel more comfortable and be sharper.”

Another newcomer, Mondragón, doesn't have MLS experience on
résumé, but nobody on the roster is more seasoned.
The 39-year-old ‘keeper is fresh off a stint with 
Bundesliga side FC Cologne and has played in several other top leagues, not to mention 50 caps with the Colombian National Team.

“I am very happy and very comfortable,” Mondragón said after
training. “Everyone has been making everything feel very, very easy, so I am
very happy to be here. I think we have a good squad, very balanced. I think we
have two, three players per position and that is very good.”

While Mondragón may very well carve out a leadership role in
short order, the club’s captain, Danny Califf, is taking care to ensure that
the club’s new and old faces come together quickly.

“I think we went through some changes in the offseason, some
faces left the team, some new guys came in,” he said. “But I think, overall, guys have come in and worked hard, and
you can tell that everyone did stuff in the offseason, which is always
nice so we’re not starting at ground zero.

“It was a long offseason and it’s nice to be able to have that
time, but I think everyone was itching to get back and not have to run on your
own and do all that training on your own. You get to come out here, be competitive, and do all the things you love
to do. It’s a fantastic job and to
be able to start up again and get those competitive juices flowing on a bigger
scale – it’s fun.”

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