Daily Doop: Practice makes perfect, trio in tandem and Cocktails

Thursday's installment of all things Union

Jack Mac at YSC

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

What would you do after a little over two hours of intense training, riddled with drills that focused on awareness, thought and memory retention?

If it’s go on a multi-mile run through Valley Forge Park in subfreezing temperatures, then perhaps you should try out for the Union. It’s exactly what the afternoon looked like for close to 40 players in preseason training camp based out of YSC Sports in Wayne. The run came after a break for lunch and a team meeting, but it also arrived after a grueling short sided gauntlet of drills and scrimmages manager John Hackworth had his players do this morning, with  an intrinsic focus on positioning and where their marks were at all times.

Showing traits of a perfectionist (as most coaches are), Hackworth stopped drills and stressed the importance doing them right by showing how the body should look in a defensive stance, how the positioning can thwart an attack – and that the group wasn’t completing it to his liking.

Now you may think this is a rudimentary thing for an MLS head coach to be showing a bunch of professional soccer players, but as Hackworth explained it’s a notion that players even at the highest level can forget.

“Today really just was a principles of defending session and trying to get the guys to really understand the relationship to each other, the ball and the attacking player is really important,” said Hackworth. “It’s a simple game but when the players are better and the spaces are tighter everything changes. You have to react that much quicker and make decisions so much faster…you got to practice the fundamentals to be really good at it when the time comes.”

Miniature 2v2 scrimmages, opened into 4v4 and by the end of practice in today’s 9v9 game you could see (and hear) the players putting lessons learned from the preceding hour into action. One promising image was the pairing of Brian Carroll and Amobi Okugo during the 9v9 session alongside each other roaming the midfield. Couple of other interesting things to point out:

  • Stephen Okai is playing really strong soccer. Obviously there are still a ton of kinks, but the midfielder selected in this year’s SuperDraft is really strong on the ball. He’s also settled in and you are starting to see him get more comfortable and confident in his play, evidence via a nifty backheel pass he made that split two defenders during today’s scrimmage.
  • There are now five goalkeepers in camp rotation with the inclusion of Diego Restrepo. Restrepo who was in training last week with D.C. United, knows Hackworth well from his days as a U.S. youth international. Restrepo joins Zac MacMath, Chris Konopka, Chase Harrison and trialist Tunde Obungiyi.
  • A three-man back line comprised of Sheanon Williams, Bakary Soumare and Gabriel Farfan were dominant in the short sided match. But it was less their play and more the talk between the trio that looked really in sync and was pretty impressive to watch.

The YSC Sports portion of preseason training wraps tomorrow. The next stop is a stint at the NovaCare Complex (Jan. 28-Feb. 7) in South Philly, followed by a shift to warmer climates when the club returns to the sprawling natural grass surfaces of the Dewey O. Boster Sports Complex in Deltona, Fla.

Moving on…

The Union added another game to its preseason schedule. A match against DC United waits on Feb. 20 at the Dewey Complex with game time scheduled for 6 p.m. For those making the trek to see the Union in Florida or are already down in the sun and can make this match, know that in lieu of an admission cost there will be a voluntary collection that will go to a local charity in the Orlando-Deltona area.

As we continue to revamp the philadelphiaunion.com site you may see some changes (for the better) one of which is our completely redone Spanish site, now with the latest news and more on the English site  translated to Spanish. Just click the ESPANOL tab on the site to check it out…por favor.

In the news…

MLSSoccer.com and CSNPhilly.com writer Dave Zeitlin knocked it out of the park with this commentary piece on Freddy Adu, Delco Daily Times scribe Matthew DeGeorge thinks Conor Casey will be the messiah  to fix the Union’s scoring woes in 2013 and Volusia County Beacon writer Pat Andrews wonders if soccer, specifically the Union’s annual visit will help kickstart the economy in Deltona.

Last but not least…

Invitations for our Cocktails and Cleats gala on March 13 were sent today. If you haven’t received an invite and would like to know more about the event and the efforts of the Philadelphia Union Foundation, all that information can be found here. If interested, reserve your space and RSVP by March 8.

Until tomorrow…

Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com