Manager Peter Nowak was honest when asked how his club looks during week two of preseason training in Florida.
“The team looks tired!” joked the Union boss, who spoke with the media on a conference call Wednesday. “The team looks tired. We’ve tried to play some games, which have ended up becoming more of scrimmages than just games. We’ve tried to give them a little bit more [training] on the ball, but they are working very hard.”
The Union technical staff focused on fitness during week one of preseason training, held at YSC Sports in Wayne, Pa. Now in Florida, the team is spending more time working with formations, positioning and on-the-ball exercises.
“It’s the combination of fitness plus games,” explained Nowak. “You’ve got to get them a little bit tired. The decision-making process is slowing down, but can they pick it up again? We’ve tried to mix things up again, because as we’ve said, the season is never easy. You’ve got to be mentally prepared, and if something goes wrong, you need to be ready.”
Following a 1-1 draw against Central Gulf Coast University on Saturday, the squad is prepping for Wednesday’s scrimmage with the University of Central Florida. Then, on Saturday, the Union will play a preseason rematch against local club Orlando City S.C. Orlando won last season’s exhibition 1-0 after Carlos Valdés received a 17th minute red card.
“The first two weeks, we really don’t pay attention to the results or the style of play,” said Nowak. “It’s more about getting these guys in the system, getting the playbook through, getting the mentality that we’re a team that’s going to compete through the season. It’s just the basics we’re operating [with] now.”
With Monday's announcement of veteran defender Chris Albright officially signing, the remaining unsigned players in camp include SuperDraft selections Greg Jordan and Ray Gaddis, Supplemental Draft selections Krystian Witkowski and Antoine Hoppenot, goalkeepers Chase Harrison and Chris Konopka, and academy player Christian Hernandez, who scored the game-winning goal in a friendly against Everton last year.
While 2012 first-rounder Chandler Hoffman is already signed to a Generation adidas contract, Nowak indicated that the other four draft picks could soon sign contracts of their own.
"The rookies are doing very well," Nowak said. "I believe we’re going to keep all five of them (Hoffman, Jordan, Gaddis, Witkowski and Hoppenot). We’ll see how they develop, but they’re good guys, they work hard in training and they’re good soccer players."
New signing Lionard Pajoy is expected to join the team within 48 hours. The Colombian is among a handful of new Latin American players who are transitioning to a new league and a new team.
“They’re fitting very well,” explained Nowak. "We’ve always to tried to mix it up, so it’s not going to be just one group of Spanish speaking players together. … Porfirio López speaks good English. Josué [Martínez] speaks very good English. So it’s an easy process for us to accommodate the needs that they have. Gabriel Gómez is doing very good."
"I’m really happy with the last two weeks," Nowak added. "We trained at YSC, and then in Orlando, and we’re looking forward to another week. They’re going to get faster and stronger. … It’s hard work right now but they are holding up together. You can see they are very tired but they still have a smile on their face."