There were a lot of new faces (and new hairstyles, but we’ll get into that) when the Union kicked off preseason Monday morning at YSC Sports in Wayne.
Actually, preseason started late last week with players reporting for physicals and strength training sessions, but ball work featuring short sided drills, mini 7v7 matches and more was on display.
This year’s preseason roster features 35 players, but three weren’t at today’s practice as goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi, midfielder Brian Carroll and defender Carlos Valdes were absent from today’s proceedings.
Mbolhi is the obvious one as he’s been with the Algerian national team for weeks helping that nation chase an Africa Cup of Nations title. Speaking of which, Mbolhi and the Fennecs (Foxes) sit on three points with one more group match against Senegal this Tuesday.
For Carroll, it was personal reasons but the elephant in the room was the whereabouts of Valdes given the swirling rumors of a desire to leave the club. Valdes did appear later in the day at training but in street clothes to meet with team officials, one of which was technical director Chris Albright.
Following those discussions, Albright did confirm that there is an “negotiation ongoing” for the FIFA World Cup veteran. MLSSoccer.com writer Dave Zeitlin explains the situation perfectly which you can check out here.
The other 32 players in attendance today looked sharp in ball work and what we think fans coming out to Friday’s open practice (12-2 p.m.) will see is that every player is extremely fit. No one came into camp sluggish which certainly will make things interesting as the thinning of the herd happens before Monday’s flight to warmer temperatures in Clearwater, Fla.
Union midfielder Danny Cruz said as much today in an interview with media members:
“Everyone has bought in [to what head coach Jim Curtin] wants from us,” Cruz said. “So everyone even the guys on trial came in really fit and ready. It’s going to be a big preseason for us, and things are hopefully going to go in the right direction; we know what we need to do and it’s obviously playoffs or bust for us this season.”
If you haven’t seen the complete list of players in camp, you can check that out here.
So earlier we mentioned hairstyles as we figured you may not recognize some of the players right now. So the rundown of new-do’s is as follows:
- Union goalkeeper Andre Blake is working the low fade
- Forward Antoine Hoppenot looks as though he’s taking tips from D.C. midfielder Chris Rolfe
But our personal favorite was captured by Delco Daily Times reporter Matt DeGeorge:
Austin Berry sporting the "high school basketball" look pic.twitter.com/FIaYZf8eae— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) January 26, 2015
Last but not least…
Given the impending “Snowmageddon” set to befall the Greater Philadelphia Region, Tuesday’s training session could be canceled at YSC Sports…however the snow did bring about this pretty sweet offer for fans (click the graphic to learn more):
And if there is a cancellation of training for Tuesday, Union defender Ray Gaddis has the right idea of what to do given the long months or rigorous training ahead before the March 7 opener against Colorado at PPL Park (4 p.m. ticket link?)
This weather out here today is so disrespectful. But it's okay I am going to be inside all day with bae. Which is Netflix.— ray gaddis (@raygaddis) January 26, 2015
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org