Union head south to cut out distractions, get to work
WAYNE, Pa. – It certainly won’t be a vacation, but it will be a much-needed getaway for the Philadelphia Union.
On Sunday, after a chaotic start to their preseason, the Union left Philly behind – and, they hope, all distractions – to begin the second phase of training camp in Orlando, Fla.
Some players admitted that the first week of camp was difficult, as the squad welcomed many new players while trying to wrap their heads around the surprising exits of standouts Faryd Mondragón and Sébastien Le Toux, among others.
“With some players leaving and others coming in – plus we had an open practice – it’s been kind of a hectic week,” defender Sheanon Williams told MLSsoccer.com on Friday following the team’s last local training session before the Orlando trip. “Once we get down to Florida and it’s just the team, it will be good.”
The club will train in the Sunshine State for the next few weeks, during which they’ll scrimmage Florida Gulf Coast University (Feb. 11), the University of Central Florida (Feb. 15) and USL PRO club Orlando City SC (Feb. 18).
The results of those contests, of course, will be far less important than how the players adjust to the speed of play after being away from soccer during the offseason then ratcheting up to 100 miles per hour during the first week back.
“The first few days were typical with everyone flying around really fast and maybe the speed of thought not being quite there yet,” midfielder Brian Carroll said. “Once the speed of thought is there, I think we’ll get a lot better.”
Plus, as good as the indoor facility is at YSC Sports – where the Union spent the first week of training camp – playing on grass will further prepare the club for the start of the season on March 12. Plus, Union manager Peter Nowak noted the training sessions will be more individualized while down in Florida.
Perhaps the most important part of the two-week stretch, though, is making sure the new players – among them internationals Josué Martinez, Gabriel Gómez and Porfirio López – mesh well with the returners. This is the second straight year in which the Union have had to cope with a lot of offseason turnover.
“We have a good amount of new guys so we want to get them into our system,” Williams said. “We want to welcome them just like we welcomed everyone last year and try to grow together as a team.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Philadelphia Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.