Preparation for 2011 First Kick is nearly complete.
Preseason training started at YSC Sports in Wayne, Pa., continued in Florida and extended all the way to Greece.
On Thursday, the club departed from their final preseason camp, heading back to Philadelphia. Manager Peter Nowak has given the players Friday through Sunday off, a much-needed break to see family and friends before heading to Houston.
Then it’s time to focus in on the regular-season opener March 19 vs. the Dynamo. The home opener at PPL Park will be one week later on March 26 against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The past two months weren't easy, but having that time away to mesh was crucial.
"Everything [in Greece] was really first-class," Nowak said. "You can see how the players came together during meals and practices. And that's important with as many new guys as we have on the team. It was good because you can see who is trying to find out things from each other and talking to each other. You can see how they are [interacting] together."
Nowak also understands the value of mental preparation for such a demanding season in Major League Soccer, one that is even four matches longer than 2010.
“At some point in the season, they’ll be really fragile and really tired,” Nowak said. “They’ll have to find a way to stay healthy and get ready week to week. ... I will try to encourage them every single day."
For the next few days, however, the idea is to put the forthcoming haul out of mind and rejuvenate.
“I think the three days off will help a lot,” Nowak said. “We’ll give them Friday, Saturday and Sunday off and come back Monday starting fresh. Then we’ll get ready for the game Saturday.”
There is much anticipation for this second season in Union history. All the experience gained last season will come into play for the returnees, and the club hopes the preseason was sufficient for integrating the rookies and other newcomers.
That’s why a preseason experience like the camp in Greece will benefit the club so much in the long run.
Or so the Union hope.