On to week two of preseason training, and a new practice venue for the team: the NovaCare Complex.
The squad will train this week at the Philadelphia Eagles' facility, with sessions in the morning and afternoon separated by lunch and regeneration.
Monday morning's practice was moved to the indoor bubble, as inclement weather kept the team from practicing outside on the full-field grass pitch.
Drills started with passing and possession, including one-touch layoffs with emphasis on movement and repetition. Those drills evolved into circular 8v4 possession exercises for field players, while goalkeepers focused on catching crosses that were both driven and lofted into the box.
But the big jump forward came with 11v11 scrimmages. It's the first time the team has played with full sides this preseason.
A few notes from that portion of practice:
- The squad was divided into three teams – veterans, experienced guys, and younger guys. Each team rotated in a round-robin format.
- This was the first time that Conor Casey, Sebastien Le Toux, and Jack McInerney have played full field soccer together. There was some promising link up play on the blue team, with Casey holding the ball nicely and scoring a goal as well.
- Keon Daniel and Roger Torres looked good centrally on the orange team. In one sequence, Torres found space, carried the ball 15 yards, and unleashed a corkscrew-type drive that Zac MacMath was able to just tip over the bar.
- Despite being comprised mostly of new signings and younger guys, the yellow team did not look outmatched. Supplemental draft pick Leo Fernandes scored the first goal of the scrimmage, and the team constantly looked to attack and go for the goal.
- Goalkeepers were asked to distribute the ball to their center halves, instead of booting the ball up the field. There was also a focus on high pressure and closing down space.
Here's what manager John Hackworth said about Monday's activities:
"We've got two sessions, more evenly spaced out. We'll get a good regeneration lunch then come back out at 3:30 p.m. This is our first time this preseason for us to go 11v11. We just wanted to get a couple of basic concepts started. This space inside the bubble is tight. It's like playing on a postage stamp. It's tough, because guys are ready to go and you have to kind of hold them back, and try to get a lot of tactics done. But we got done what we needed to do and we'll try to build on it in the (afternoon) sessions."
Hackworth would like to get the team outside and onto the grass field when possible.
"Our plan was to be outside here. Obviously the weather dictates that, and we can't get out and that changes a lot of what we're trying to do just because of space alone. But we'll deal with it. We'll adapt and change our plans accordingly and try to go from there."
While the Union were representing on the pitch, film actor Hugh Jackman represented the Union while on stage for a celebration gala for the Philadelphia Academy of Music. The photo on my right, taken by Hughe Dillon, of the Philly Post shows Jackman on stage with Academy conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin showing off a Union home kit.
Union defender Jeff Parke will miss another week of training with his home club, but will undoubtedly be fully fit to handle whatever the training staff will throw his way as Parke has spent the latter part of the month training with the U.S. national team ahead of tomorrow’s friendly against Canada ( 9 p.m., ESPN2, Univision). There’s a strong possibility Parke will be sticking around with the USMNT ahead of a Feb. 6 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Honduras in San Pedro Sula.
If that is the case, there is no concern on Hackworth’s end that Parke’s inclusion with his Philadelphia teammates will be seamless.
“We have a lot of time to [develop camaraderie] and hopefully for Jeff he is making the most of this opportunity,” Hackworth said. “I don’t think we’ll have to worry about him being ready when he gets here, and we’ll just have to use his time very wisely to make sure he fits in with the rest of the players.”
Speaking of Parke check of this video of him and the rest of men’s national team having a meet and greet lunch with members of the U.S. U-15 boys’ national team today. There is only a glimpse of the Union defender, but it was still a cool look at how both teams interact.
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org