Stefani Miglioranzi has been through his fair share of preseason training camps.
One of Philadelphia Union's most experienced veterans, the 33-year-old played a major role in 2010, appearing in 26 games and logging more than 2,000 minutes in a holding midfield role.
With the club's expansion season in the rear-view mirror, "Migs" says the squad is focused heading into year two.
"Everybody's really excited about the prospects of the season," Miglioranzi told philadelphiaunion.com. "You see the quality the coaching staff has brought in. I think we have a lot to live up to, a lot of expectations to meet. We don't feel any pressure – we're really excited about being back and getting the job done this year."
A recurring theme in this young preseason is the competitive nature of training. New faces are fighting for roster spots, while returning players are trying to retain them and, in some cases, prove themselves worthy of more minutes.
"It's going to be really tough to get that spot this year, and when you do, you have to fight to keep it," Miglioranzi explained. "I think that's what drives the better teams forward, when they have deep rosters. Even last year with (a 24-man roster), you have a roster that's deep, where players are challenging in every position.
"But players also have to be patient and bide their time, because it can cause a little bit of tension in the locker room. Fortunately, we have some very good characters on our team, people who are willing to do the work, fight, keep quiet and wait for their opportunity. I think that's just the best recipe for success."
Along with Andrew Jacobson, Jordan Harvey, Sebastien Le Toux and Nick Zimmerman, Miglioranzi is one of five remaining players selected in the 2009 MLS Expansion Draft. He's been with the Union from the very beginning and went through an unconventional preseason last year, one that placed an unusually heavy emphasis on fitness. The veteran says having a full season together, a finished stadium and improved training facilities makes a major difference.
"I think a tremendous amount, because we're able to prepare a lot better," said Miglioranzi. "You also know the majority of the players you're going to be stepping onto the field with. There's a shorter adjustment time to everything. We'll be able to get our fitness a little bit quicker and easier."
The early part of Miglioranzi's career was marred by injuries, which overshadowed what many would still consider a successful spell overseas. After three injury-filled seasons with then Premier League side Portsmouth, the Brazilian moved to League One club Swindon Town. He went on to play 126 matches for the Robins in a stint that lasted from 2002 to 2006.
Back stateside, Miglioranzi made the switch to Columbus after a short spell with Los Angeles, before eventually returning to the Galaxy in 2009.
Now with Philadelphia, the St. John's product is focused on preparing his body for the upcoming season.
"In my old age," Miglioranzi said with a laugh, "I've become wise enough to come into (preseason) and not push too hard in the beginning. It's a long preseason, almost two and a half months. So there's plenty of time to gain fitness. Right now I just enjoy playing soccer again, getting into the swing of things, being on a professional schedule, getting into good eating and sleeping habits."
Looking back on 2010, Miglioranzi admits there were a number of factors that negatively affected the club's performance. Most of them, he says, are non-issues heading into the upcoming season.
"Last year we were struggling with weather (in preseason), learning a new system with completely different players, learning the coaching staff, learning the city, getting acclimated – we had a ton of things on our plate," Miglioranzi said. "Add the fact that we were on the road every week ... it's a no brainer why we struggled so much last year on the road. It was too much, too quickly, and it's difficult for any team, nevermind a new team.
"This year we have the benefit that we're not an expansion team. Even last year, we felt like we played well enough to lose that tag. This year, it's definitely off our back."
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