CARSON, Calif. — From the lineup, players' positions or even where the team holds training, head coach Robin Fraser has shown in his first year leading Chivas USA that he is not afraid to mix things up.
On Wednesday, the Goats traded in the manicured training fields of The Home Depot Center for the sandy beaches of Hermosa Beach as they continued their preparations for Saturday’s match against FC Dallas. The brief respite for the Rojiblancos was focused not so much on the physical or the technical side of training, but rather providing the team a chance to bond.
At the beach, the team underwent brief running drills, but the centerpiece was a four-on-four mini-game tournament between the players and coaches. The beach soccer tournament concluded in true California fashion with the team jumping into the ocean at the end of the day.
The switch was a welcome change of pace for rookie defender Zarek Valentin, who has spent much of his life in Lancaster, Pa., several hundred miles from the nearest ocean.
“It was more relaxing, for sure, just to kind of change environments a little bit but still involve teammates,” Valentin told MLSsoccer.com. “We definitely got a bit closer with the team and i could feel a little bit more cohesion mounting for sure between players and staff.”
Chivas USA’s day at the beach comes amid an up and down run of form for the Rojiblancos, who have struggled to find consistency over the last month-and-a-half, earning just a single victory in the last five matches.
Fraser and strength and conditioning coach Jim Liston came up with the beach trip; both have preached balance when it comes to the severity of the team’s training methods. The two men are responsible for mixing in grueling two-and-a-half hour sessions with games of soccer tennis between teammates in order to provide a range of experiences. In this particular training stint, Valentin admitted that training by the ocean provided a new host of challenges for the club.
“It was a little different because the beach adds a different element to running,” said Valentin. “It's a lot harder and works a bunch of different muscles — but no complaints.”
The training session interestingly enough took place on the same date that CD Guadalajara, Chivas USA's sister club, trained at a local beach in Mexico during their own preseason preparations for the Apertura 2011 season. Chivas USA will be back to their normal training regimen on Thursday as they prepare for their date with FC Dallas (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), but in true Los Angeles fashion, Valentin couldn’t hold back a little bit of joy at taking a bit of “break” from the everyday grind at the beach.
“It was amazing, such a nice day out after a while,” said the rookie defender. “It was great to get 'away' from the game a little bit.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @adamserrano