Friday marked the penultimate day the Union would train out of the NovaCare Complex and given the frigid temperatures, it meant another day inside the bubble on Pattison Ave.
Union boss John Hackworth gave the players the afternoon off, but the group will return Saturday morning for one final session in Philadelphia before boarding a plane bound for Orlando Monday morning.
The group was supposed to depart Feb. 7, but a chance to spend a couple more days in the sun to train was something Union brass felt was the right call. Chilly temperatures and inclement weather has kept the Union indoors for much of preseason thus far.
The morning session focused on combination play with drills that focused on overlapping runs, timed passes, precision crosses and more shooting.
What was interesting about the AM drill was the decision making it took for not just the offensive players but the positioning and movement of the defenders too. Especially for the defenders, who were purposely outnumbered in either 3v2 or 6v5 scenarios. For offensive players, the decision of when to send a ball across the box, when to lay it off and when to let it rip became repetitive and it was cool to watch the guys do it.
Though it wasn’t always harmonious, it was good insight into how the technical staff really wants the ball to move up and down the pitch as a unit – but more so, with purpose.
“It’s really only 2-3 seconds of action, but it always started with an overlapping run,” said Hackworth post practice. “The person on the ball had three options: they shoot, they lay the ball off to the guy making the overlap or they played the far side run. It’s a lot of work for both the attackers and the defenders, but it is excellent repetition.”
Excellent reps for all involved, except maybe the five goalkeepers in camp who all saw shots from close range during both drills.
Couple of points from Friday’s session…
Jordi Vidal is lightning fast. During the 3v2 overlapping drill there were times on the overlap when he was there before the ball. Vidal’s speed is as impressive as his resume as he hails from Real Madrid’s youth academy, but you can see he’s still a newbie trying to get the hang of it all.
Roger Torres continues to look solid in practice, there were a few times during the expanded combination drill where Torres made the wrong decision with the ball, but for the most part as the quarterback bringing the ball down the pitch he looked strong and when he decided to shoot he scored each time.
Chris Konopka split the uprights on a 50-yard field goal after practice today as the guys took advantage of playing inside the Eagles’ bubble. Granted it was with a soccer ball, but it was dead on.
Speaking of levity, practice ended with a full team crossbar challenge. If you aren’t familiar with what a crossbar challenge is check this out. In the Union version, it was a penance for the last man to hit the bar and the odd man out was trialist Charles Renken. In Renken’s defense brought it to sudden death, hitting the crossbar on his final elimination shot.
Hackworth kept mum on what Renken’s punishment for losing the contest would be put rumor has it, that it’s bound to be some “friendly freshman initiation.”
“I think you got to have fun sometimes,” Hackworth said. “I think we talk about it within the group that we are all very blessed to be in the positions we are in both as professional athletes. But preseason is a grind and every part of it is challenging…so anytime you can have a little fun, joke around and have some fun it’s always fantastic to see.”
So if you follow us on Twitter (and here's how you can if you don't) you would’ve seen a few players behind green screens. The guys got a chance to work on their acting skills for upcoming promo spots on both Comcast SportsNet and The Comcast Network. Close to 20 players smiled and mean mugged for the camera. It was all pretty funny, especially when Sebastien Le Toux was asked to say a few lines in French.
Our ticketing department has implemented “No Fee Fridays,” during the month of February. We sent out an email to the masses within our database Friday evening that read:
“What Do You Stand For - On Fridays in the month of February, the Union stands for NO FEES! The Union are waiving per ticket fees to the home games on March 2 and March 16
Click here and enter code NOFEES13 to purchase your tickets today and avoid per ticket fees – savings of up to $10 per ticket! Sons of Ben should use their 2013 promo code in order to receive the discount.”
Also, the video above is the latest in our “Is it March Yet” campaign featuring goalkeeper Zac MacMath and Union ticket account services manager Anthony Cardillo. It’s the third in a series of our promos leading up to March 2 First Kick against Sporting Kansas City and it’s quite funny.
Enjoy your weekend, catch you all Monday.
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org