Hope springs eternal in March
letting the players determine their value in game situations.
Every player feels he has a chance. If a starter is injured the team usually takes no risks in preseason and others get to play. Injuries that keep guys out in preseason are often no longer an issue once the season begins.
Every player is hopeful. Due to the schedule, playing time, and protecting injured players all the guys feel their next opportunity is around the corner. Happiness for all. Right?
Well ... not quite all the players. The ones who are seriously injured are frustrated. They know they are missing valuable preparation time. The veterans especially feel this. Every veteran doesn't mind missing a little time with minor injuries, but they have been around long enough to know when they are missing too much of preseason. Sometimes it is a fine line.
The staff surrounding the team is also full of hope and optimism. They are pushing tickets and hyping the team. Within most team offices there is a buzz with the season around the corner. All their hard work gets rewarded when they see people in the stands cheering (not to mention the commission checks for sales made).
The front office wants to see what the team looks like. The players are helping out with clinics and appearances and that makes the staff happy. The rookies are excited to make appearances and love to be asked for autographs. Some of that vigor will wane as the season moves on.
The support staff around the team is also happy. The team administrator's job is much easier once the season begins. Preseason is tough with travel, and setting up camps. Traveling overseas requires visas to some places and you have to set hotels, busses and meals at different spots. It is not easy. Add to that work permits and numerous tryout guys, relocation costs and you can see why most team administrators are underpaid.
But once they see the season around the corner their job gets a little easier, because the travel is planned well in advance. There are some teams who have coaches who love to change things constantly, so in those cases the season does not provide much relief.
The equipment guy is happy also. No more 10-14 day trips and 35 bags of gear. "Did we get all the bags?" is the most asked question at the airport. Rookies are happy when there are fewer bags, because it means less to carry. In most cases the season brings an end to double-day training sessions. So there's less wash to do and clothes to fold.
The trainer likes the start of the season because in part it means all the tryout guys go away. At least for a while. Worries about whether the trainees filled out the waiver form and signed the release go to the back burner. No more setting up makeshift training rooms for long stints in hotels. Though to be sure, the season still requires some of this as you travel away.
The media person is thrilled. They can now concentrate on the final roster and not have to ask "Who are all those guys?" When he or she travels with the team in preseason he or she is expected to keep everyone informed all over what is happening on that trip. Additionally, he or she is still expected to do everything that is normally done.
The fans are excited and happy. Many have not seen the team play. They have read about the new signings and everyone feels their team is improved over last year. New names and faces make everyone optimistic. But only time will tell if it is a real improvement. It has been a long time since they were last in the stadium and everyone wants to get their soccer fix.
The coaches are happy also. They finally get to test their work for real. The assistants are happy not to have another two-hour meeting to go over player personnel. Once the season begins a more normal routine begins. You can actually see your family.
Players train, eat and sleep. During preseason double-days they get to relax in between sessions. During single days they get to go home. They expend a lot in training. But all former players are shocked when they get into coaching and they realize there is no nap between sessions. Instead there is a meeting of some sort, or a discussion to set up the next training. After single training days coaches look at film and evaluate players and keep looking for new ones. All this seems a lot more worthwhile when the season begins.
So we are in the happy time. This usually lasts about two weeks into the season. Then you have standings -- someone's in first and someone else is last. Some players have played and others have not. The fans are happy but some might be disappointed. The honeymoon is over.
But for right now ... let us enjoy the happy time.
Sigi Schmid is one of the winningest coaches in MLS history, having led the Los Angeles Galaxy to four honors in his five-plus years at the helm, including the 2002 MLS Cup championship. Send comments to Sigi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views and opinions expressed in this column views and opinions are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or its clubs.