CARSON, Calif. — It would be understandable if Chivas USA players decided to lock themselves inside the StubHub Center training facilities this offseason, motivated to improve following a lackluster 2013 campaign.
That’s not the plan, though, and veteran center back Carlos Bocanegra is confident the Rojiblancos will benefit most by stepping away from soccer for a bit.
“The biggest key for the young guys is to get away from it completely,” Bocanegra told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “It’s hard nowadays with all the camps and everything else going on for these young guys. Some of them come out of the academy season or college, and it’s a big change. It’s a jump up with their bodies getting conditioned.
"Get away from it and forget about soccer for awhile, then slowly get back into it by cross training, going for runs and integrating the ball. A mental break is the biggest thing so you come back fresh.”
Last year, midfielder Carlos Alvarez took only one day off after his final season at the University of Connecticut ended and immediately began preparing for the MLS SuperDraft. The 23-year-old was selected No. 2 overall by hometown Chivas USA and the grind continued as he worked to impress new head coach José Luis “El Chelís” Sánchez Solá. In college, players typically receive three weeks off during the winter holiday break and another month off near the end of the school year.
The Goats travel out of state this week for an exhibition match against FC Tucson on Friday night. When the final whistle blows, Alvarez will finally get to catch his breath.
“I’ll take a good two weeks off and rest my body,” said Alvarez, who had two goals and three assists while playing in all but five games as a rookie. “Then I’ll work with my strength and conditioning coach, and go train in mixed martial arts to get a little muscle, do some cardio, boxing and jiu-jitsu.”
It will be Alvarez’s first experience in that setting.
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“My girlfriend’s dad owns a business [on the East Coast], so I’m going up there to train and build cardio,” he said. “I’m trying to do something different.”
Bocanegra, 34, likely won’t end up in a mixed martial arts gym this offseason, but he won’t be touching a soccer ball, either.
“I’ve played for a long time, too, so I’ll do some jogging, running, rowing, weightlifting and shoot some basketball,” Bocanegra said. “I’ll stay away from soccer for a little while and, as the season approaches, get back on the ball a bit more.”