It was eye opening.
The amount of supporters that crammed YSC Sports in Wayne on Monday to get a glimpse of the Union’s first public training session of the season. Looking from the behind shatterproof glass of the artificial turf pitch or from behind the net on the catwalk, over 200 fans were in attendance in what amounted to the first glimpse of what to expect in just 40 days.
That’s when the Union will open the 2013 MLS campaign against Sporting Kansas City.
What fans got a chance to see were 31 players, many familiar faces, some that weren't. but all dive into the swing of things and give an early look at who will be on the hunt for playing time with the first team.
Kicking everything off was the return of Sebastien Le Toux in a Union training top. It was a pleasant sight, but even more was his comfort when paired with forwards Jack McInerney and Conor Casey that made up a three-headed formation during a series of short sided scrimmages. What was noticeable almost immediately was the sizable presence Casey brought, getting his head on crosses into the box and playing exceptionally well with his back to goal.
“It’s the way I’ve played for most of my career,” Casey said on his positioning in front of the net. “We have a lot of great options going forward. Jack with a lot of pace and skill and Seba has had a lot of success here and you can tell, so I think that gives us a lot of different options and a lot of different looks. I spend a lot of my time with my back to the goal and battling so I think it’ll open up space for those guys to go forward and succeed.”
Baky back in the swing of things
One of the things that was noticeable about defender Bakary Soumare on Monday is how just calm he is on the ball. It’s very reminiscent of defender Carlos Valdes in the sense that while all of the other defenders utilize their speed to elude and distribute, in a very calm, calculated way Soumare directs the back using his sizable frame and the angles to move the ball out of the back.
It’s not flashy, but on repeated occasions it got the job done.
Of course, it’s a job many wondered if he could even perform given the 27-year-old spent most of last season rehabbing from surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee. On Monday, Soumare corralled the back line and said it felt great to do so for the first time without pain since joining the club last June .
“It feels good starting preseason from day one and being healthy and not having to think about the injury,” said Soumare. “This was my first injury since I’ve been a pro, so it was very tough not just physically, but mentally. Sometimes as a pro you have to deal with ups and downs and this [injury] was definitely a down. But I was able to recover, I’m feeling good and I am just happy to be back and healthy.”
Odds and endlines
Brian Carroll was announced as the newest Union captain during manager John Hackworth's first weekly meeting with media. Carroll was the obvious choice as voted by the rest of the club...Draft picks Don Anding and Stephen Okai debuted in front of the fans for the first time and for both it was an eye opening experience, especially for Anding who looked solid in his minutes, but noted the pace of play was something that took him by surprise. When asked his thoughts on the session, Anding said: “The ball moves really fast. Faster than what I ever saw in college. It’s only going to make me a better player, but the game is so much faster as pro.”…Defender Raymon Gaddis is well aware of the pace of play used the offseason to work on not just his fitness, but his feet too. Gaddis told philadelphiaunion.com that he spent the bulk of the offseason working on both using his left and right foot and made sure he added some weight as well. Gaddis joked it depends on the day and what he scarfed down, but he added an extra 5-10 pounds in the offseason. “Physically, I toned up and added some weight and worked on my left and right foot,” Gaddis said. “I feel I am a versatile player and working on all that just gives coach Hackworth more options to put me in a lot of different places. I also watched every game I played in last season about two or three times to see what I needed to do to get better for this season. As a player you are always a student of the game and that’s just a look at what I did to make myself better.”…The Union will continue to train at YSC Sports in Wayne for the rest of the week, before moving to the Eagles’ NovaCare practice facility beginning Jan. 28. That precedes the two-week stint in Orlando-Deltona beginning Feb. 8.
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com