Preseason plans: Union manager gives insight into technical's plan of attack in Florida

Hackworth explains the three phases leading up to First Kick

Hack with media

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

Think of the Philadelphia preseason as a cumulative process.

Simple exercises in passing and possession build into more complex ideas of shape and philosophy.

Basic fitness concepts alternate and increase to prepare a player for 90 minutes of full field action.

Sports scientists call it a “periodization plan," where you build to the point of game readiness, in both physical fitness and tactical understanding.

“Our plan is that in this very first week you try to get a lot of the fundamentals, a lot of the building blocks,” said Union manager John Hackworth. “Not only in the physiology of how we're going to ramp these guys up through preseason, the work load especially, that's very dialed in. We have (fitness coach) Kevin Miller who oversees that. We have a sports scientist, Garrison (Draper). We're monitoring everything with (Adidas training tool) “miCoach”. We're trying to be as scientific as we can with that. We do the same thing soccer wise. We have a technical foundation and a tactical foundation, and then I always try to implement the mentality of what we want to do. These guys need to understand from the beginning as clearly as possible, how we want to play and what our mentality is like. Then you ramp up a little bit in Florida. You talk more about the details. You talk more about the tactics. You get them ready to play. The (third phase) in Florida, you're actually trying to put it on the field, and seeing if guys can go out and execute those things, while still taking their fitness level, finishing all of the concepts, and working on all of the little details. We add in all of those layers as we go, so that by the time we leave Florida, we should in theory be on the same page and completely ready to play a 90 minute game.”

The second phase of preseason runs from Feb. 2 to Feb. 13. That's when the staff really begins to get into tactics and shape, starting with small groups and building gradually into full field, 11 versus 11 situations with specific formations.

The team will scrimmage against the University of North Florida on February 8, then take a short break from Feb. 14-17.

Phase three of preseason training resumes on Feb. 18, and includes games against Orlando City, Columbus Crew, and Toronto FC as part of the annual Disney Pro Soccer Classic. 

But don't worry too much about those results.

“The preseason games are preseason games,” Hackworth said. “I know there are people out there who take a lot of stock in them and they don't mean anything. We have a lot of different ideas that we're trying to get across in preseason. For example, we will literally try to take guys from our first preseason game, and if they play 45 minutes, the next game they'll play 60. The next game they'll play 75. You want to get them to 90. We'll try to give that opportunity to as many people as we think have a shot at making our roster. I know we played a game last preseason, where I think we had six or seven guys who didn't even make it out of Florida on our roster, but they actually played in a game.”

Hackworth continued: 

“I remember one press conference, where it was pretty tense with why I had let some guys go,” he joked. “But you look at the reality of it. I mean, (in week one) we have 35 guys that are field players. We have four goalkeepers and a couple of academy guys. We have to make some very tough decisions before we even go to Florida. It's a great problem to have when the quality is good, but you have to go through that process all the way.”

Cuts will be made after each phase of the preseason.

“We have to make cuts to guys that we've drafted or who are on trial with us. We've got to get that number down to something that's more manageable, and then we go to Florida.  Then we do the same thing through the second phase of Florida. There will be guys that go down with use for the first phase of Florida and don't make that second phase. At the end of the day, by March 1st you've got to be roster compliant, and again there comes another set of cuts.” 

What are your thoughts on the Union's preseason plan? Leave a comment below.

Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at k.kinkead@hotmail.com