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Union switch up preseason with trip to Costa Rica

Philadelphia Union players gather around during preseason training

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

With the start of the 2012 season rapidly approaching, Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak is ready to see what his guys are made of.

For the third and final leg of their preseason, the Union departed Thursday for Costa Rica, where they will scrimmage Municipal Pérez Zeledón (Feb. 26), the Costa Rican Under-20 national team (Feb. 28), and Belen (March 1) before returning to Philly on March 4.

“I think it’s good for us to go to a different place, see a different country and play different teams with different tactics,” Nowak said. “I think it’s very beneficial before the season starts.”

The Union are coming off a two-week training stint in Orlando that focused primarily on individualized training, tactics and fitness, with Nowak admitting his players were very tired near the end of the Florida camp.

Now, after a few days of rest, the Union manager is eager to see how well those lessons and grueling practices translate on the field in tough game situations.

“I think repetition is good, but at some point, the players need to make their own decision and figure out what is the best option in that situation,” Nowak said. “The game starts before the first whistle and they need to know before the game what the other team is playing, what system they’re playing and adjust to that and not only follow the playbook exact.”

For a squad integrating 11 new players – including four rookies who just signed contracts earlier this week – chemistry has also been a focal point of the preseason. And Nowak believes playing three games in Costa Rica – as well as one intrasquad scrimmage – will only help his team come together as they prepare for the season opener in Portland on March 12.

He talked about how the next 10 days in Costa Rica will be critical to “glue it all together.”

“We have to develop chemistry and an understanding on the field [of] what is needed in a certain situation,” the Union manager said. “It will be good to get out of our comfort zone and be in a place you’re not familiar with.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Philadelphia Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com