If you’ve ever played on turf surely you’ve felt the burn.
Heavy legs give way to calf muscles that feel as if they’d been burned by a blow torch from the inside out. Eventually the burn goes away, but for the time it lasts it can be debilitating. It’s a condition Union boss John Hackworth is all too familiar of – it and the general heaviness of sore muscles competing on an unforgiving playing surface. With that thought in mind, Hackworth gathered his players around in a circle before preseason training this morning at YSC Sports in Wayne and told each of them to “be aware of their body.”
Listen to it; and recognize those little tweaks to make sure they don’t become injuries.
This probably entered Hackworth’s mind as he looked around and saw all 31 players (sans Jeff Parke) fit and ready to take part in Day 6 of intense preparation. One that saw an extended amount of detail and time given to warm-ups that involved dynamic stretches, ladder and sprint work and utilizing resistance bands.
“It was really so that the guys knew that we had built in a warm-up to prepare their bodies to handle the days,” Hackworth told philadelphiaunion.com. The reality is that at this point their legs are going to be a little heavy, but we don’t want to have any soft tissue injuries. We try to design it that through the warm-up if they need an extra time or work they can get it. Each guy is different, you have guys who are at the end of their careers and you have young guys that are just getting started.”
The Union spent just shy of two hours on the pitch focusing much of the time on possession work and short sided games. The end of the session wrapped with a close quarter finishing drill – intense sessions, but all still very much a work in progress.
“We have a plan and a purpose for everything that we are doing and you’re trying to add bits and pieces as you go,” said Hackworth. “Really it’s about getting these guys so that they understand the language the coaches are giving them and they have an idea of how collectively our team wants to play. How you get a group to understand certain situations is our focus right now and what we want them to look for.”
The new guys
There are always unsigned hopefuls, trialists if you will, at the start of every team’s training camp. Currently the Union there have three in midfielders Nicolas Medina, Charles Renken and goalkeeper Tunde Ogunbiyi. Medina, a 30-year-old Argentine midfielder joined the club after being discovered by Union director of player development Ricardo Ansaldi. Medina has a 15-year career most notably a brief stint with Sunderland of the English Premier League in 2004. In that same year, he earned his first cap with the Argentina squad that captured a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. He’s strong on the ball and boasts a very strong right peg. As for Renken, the 19-year-old probably has some of the fastest feet on the pitch for the Union highlighted by the fact that he wears bright pink Nike Mercurial boots. Renken has been groomed in the U.S. national team system with caps in multiple age groups. He spent time with Portland before joining the Union, but assuredly fell on Hackworth’s radar courtesy of a partnership with Bundesliga side TSG Hoffenheim where Renken started his pro career. As for Ogunbiyi, he is the fourth goalkeeper currently in camp and is a Boston College product, who spent time in USL Pro with Ocean City FC, and recently had a training stint with Reading FC in the English second division. Ogunbiyi is a big body that could probably double as an NFL linebacker. However, he’s also very vocal and physical as evidence in a clash today with midfielder Danny Cruz during a short sided scrimmage. One he shrugged off like a mosquito bite, but would’ve had most writhing in pain.
Beast, this kid; but how it will equate to a spot on the club remains to be seen.
“I know this year people are expecting big things out of me, but I am an athlete and athletes aren’t perfect. I know I am going to have a couple of bad games here and there and I know I am going to take some crap for it, but you have keep playing through it and hopefully by the end of the season I’ll live up to it.”
– Jack McInerney on his season outlook
“I’m just going to keep doing the best job that I can, it’s not going to change completely who I am just because I am the captain now…well, maybe a little bit more vocal…and using more of those leadership skills I have learned over the course of my career, but really I just want to be myself and help the team improve.”
– Brian Carroll on his outlook now that he is club captain
“Not being the new guy I have a little more confidence and I know what to expect now. And it’s really good not being the rookie anymore. Too be honest, that’s probably what I am most excited about.”
– Chandler Hoffman, who probably won’t have to carry the water jugs to practice anymore.
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com