DELTONA, Fla. – It’s Thursday afternoon and the players have just wrapped up the first of two practice sessions.
It was the first day this week that the sun didn’t greet the Union at the Dewey O. Boster Sports Complex, but it was still a good morning to train.
The players who played in Wednesday’s preseason match against Columbus had a light running program followed by a regeneration session in the hotel pool, while the players who sat out yesterday worked through an extended session with the technical staff.
Those players, who are projected to play close to 75 minutes in tomorrow’s match in Jacksonville, worked through four different sets of drills each, each with different intentions.
Prior to the start of yesterday’s Crew match, manager John Hackworth explained each drill to philadelphiaunion.com and their specifics. The first activity, in which the coaching staff dubbed “kite passing”, is a synchronized passing and receiving drill focusing on a lot of fundamental movements you’d see in a match.
“It’s rhythm based; it’s up, it’s back, it’s through, it’s turning away from a defender and a lot of little specifics,” Hackworth added. “Then we went to a defending game where we play to a six small goals, where you defend three goals and attack three goals, it’s in a tight space and it’s more of a zonal defending game, [featuring] organization and a lot of communication.”
What followed was a 5v5 at goal focusing on match-ups and players reactions in certain situations – both mentally and physically. Finally, it ended with a finishing drill on goal at Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath. In case you missed it we caught up with MacMath to pick his brain on preseason so far, how much stock is taken to winning preseason matches and his aspirations for the upcoming season. You can catch all that in the above video.
Back to Hackworth who added this nugget on his approach to training and the overall mindset of his staff:
“Very specifically we want to give every guy here an opportunity and in our periodization plan, we build up the number of minutes each player is getting in these games. So that you are going at this point from a guy that can play 60 minutes to a guy that can play 75 minutes to a guy that can play 90 minutes; and it’s not just playing it, it’s playing it at the right intensity and at the right level.”
And this gem during his weekly presser Thursday afternoon:
“The results don’t matter at all, it’s preseason. Look you guys are the sports writers, I haven’t done the research but I don’t know that the [Super Bowl champion] Baltimore Ravens went undefeated in preseason, I don’t know how the [NFC champion] San Francisco 49ers went in preseason…these games don’t mean anything, they are evaluation tools for the staff so that when we get to real games we’re prepared.”
His plan and the plan of the technical staff factors in over the course of the Union’s next three matches here in Florida, against Montreal tomorrow, Toronto FC on Saturday (3 p.m., philadelphiaunion.com/live) and culminating with a match at Dewey O. Boster against D.C. United on Feb. 20 at 6 p.m.
Hackworth mentioned that the recovery time for both forward Aaron Wheeler (illness) and Cristhian Hernandez (high ankle sprain) is coming along well and that those two are slated to rejoin the team next week. Additionally, Hack noted that Amobi Okugo (thigh) has sustained a knock he is recovering from as well that finds him exempt from tomorrow’s Montreal tilt.
The Deltona Chamber of Commerce was on hand at Dewey to watch for a breakfast event at the Union’s practice facility. Some members of the chamber including Deltona mayor John C. Masiarcyzk stayed and watched a good portion of training…Also, the Union are holding its first annual Job Fair on March 16 at PPL Park. This will be your chance to meet with representatives from the Union and other local sports organizations to find out more about full and part-time positions along with Internships. Tickets start at $25 and include access to the job fair from 11:30am-1:30pm and a seat for the 5:00 p.m. Union vs. New England match.
Lastly, check out the amazing artwork on right created by Sons of Ben member Mark Jenkinson, submitted to MLS as part of its #TrueColors contest. Jenkinson's piece is entitled "Blue and Gold Army" and is flat out awesome. For more on MLS' True Colors fan artwork contest, check this out.
Catch you guys tomorrow with a full report from Jacksonville…
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com