During the grind of preseason, a break is in order every now and then. Robert Warzycha gave his team Monday morning off to rest and prepare for Monday's late afternoon training.
Second year midfielder Kevan George was grateful to his head coach for allowing the players a little time to relax.
"This morning was the best thing since sliced bread," George joked. "We just stayed in, ate a late breakfast and played FIFA with the guys. It was really nice."
The Crew returned to IMG Academy in the afternoon where Warzycha and his staff put the team through possession and movement drills before ending the practice with some small-sided scrimmaging.
After a two month offseason, the players' bodies are still adjusting to workload.
"At this point in the preseason, it's tough on the legs because the [artificial] turf took a toll on us," George said. "Right now we're just bursting through the barriers and trying to get fit for next season."
Almost as soon as the ink dried on his newly signed contract with the Crew, Agustín Viana arrived in Bradenton to meet his new team on Monday. Viana jogged and did crunches on the side at the team's afternoon training session following is arrival from Uruguay.
Robert Warzycha believes Viana will be an important ingredient in the Crew's plan for success in 2013, bringing competition at the leftback position with fellow new signing Tyson Wahl.
"We've had him on our radar for quite a bit, to be honest," Warzycha said. "He's a good leftback, he goes up and down, he's a box-to-box player. He works hard and I think he will fit perfectly on our team."
Viana can also play in central midfield providing another option with Danny O'Rourke, Tony Tchani, Kevan George and Wil Trapp.
"[Viana] can be a good offensive central midfielder, he can play in the middle," Warzycha explained. "He can play both positions, but we'll see what he can bring. If he helps in the back, great. If he helps in the middle, that's great too. We have a good player."
ARRIETA CALLED UP
Fresh on the heels of winning the Golden Boot at the Copa Centroamericana on Sunday, Crew striker Jairo Arrieta was called upon once again for Costa Rican National Team duty as La Sele begins the Hexagonal round of 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying against Panama on February 6.
Though Robert Warzycha wishes his potent striker could be in Bradenton with the Black & Gold, the Head Coach is fully supportive of Arrieta's National Team duties.
"I am very pleased that he is playing for his National Team," Warzycha said on Monday. "That is why people play soccer, to have some recognition. It's great that his country has recognized his performance and he's with the National Team, but as a coach I would like him to be here and work on the things we have to work on and help the team get better. But I'm very, very happy for him and I support him one hundred-percent with the National Team."
The Crew skipper knows a few things about balancing priorities between club and country. As a player, Warzycha made 47 appearances for Poland.
"You play for your club to get called to the National Team because that's a great honor to represent as many millions of people that might live in your entire country," Warzycha explained. "If you think about it, there are only 11 chosen people that step on the field at once to represent a country. It's a great honor."
Arrieta will likely re-join the Crew in Orlando following Costa Rica's match against Panama.
With two goals in group play, Crew striker Jairo Arrieta claimed the Golden Boot award at the 2013 Copa Centroamericana as Costa Rica beat Honduras 1-0 in the tournament Final on Sunday. Though Arrieta only saw a minute of play against Honduras, the Costa Rican's tallies against Belize and Guatemala were enough to lead the tournament in scoring.
Costa Rica kicks off play in the Hexagonal round of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying against Panama on February 6, though its unclear at this time whether or not Arrieta will be called up for that match.
The Crew resumed its preseason training schedule Sunday morning at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. after defeating D.C. United 1-0 in the team's first exhibition on Saturday. Head Coach Robert Warzycha and his staff put the team through some light conditioning and shooting drills before a tactic-focused 11-on-11 scrimmage. Less than a week into preseason camp, Warzycha sees things starting taking shape.
"It's just the beginning," Warzycha said. "Obviously one session is not going to fix all of the things that we need to fix. I think with another few sessions, we can do much better."
While fitness is still the top priority in Bradenton, Warzycha is being cautious to not overwork his players.
"I think with doing two sessions each day, obviously we have to be careful and not over do it," the Head Coach explained. "But this is the time when we have to work hard. The guys have a good attitude and everything is going great so far."
Instead of returning to IMG Academy for a second training session Sunday afternoon, the Crew gathered at a local gym in Sarasota for a strength workout.
A NEW FACE IN CAMP
To begin Sunday morning's training session in Bradenton, Fla., Robert Warzycha asked Justin Meram to introduce a new face in the preseason camp.
"Guys, this is Konrad Warzycha. He's from Columbus and he went to Ohio State. He's here to train with us," the former Michigan Wolverine announced.
Konrad, Head Coach Robert Warzycha's oldest child, played four years for the Buckeyes and helped the Scarlet and Gray to an appearance in the 2007 NCAA College Cup Final before spending the past two seasons with Sporting Kansas City.
The 23-year-old Warzycha arrived in Bradenton Saturday night in hope of landing a contract with the club he grew up watching his father play for and later coach.
"It's a dream come true," the younger Warzycha said. "Ever since 1996, when we moved to Columbus and my dad signed with the Crew, I've been following the team and I remember going to games with my brother. We would go to practices and stuff and hoping to one day be out there. To get the opportunity to compete for that chance is a dream come true."
The midfielder isn't expecting any preferential treatment because of his bloodline. To his father, he is just another trialist in camp working to make the 2013 roster.
"He's no different than any of my other coaches," the younger Warzycha explained. "We're both professionals about it. Once we step on the field, he's the coach and I'm the player. There's nothing different."
"[Konrad] is another one of our players. I don't see any difference. I'm "Dad" at home and on the field, I am the coach," the Head Coach echoed.
Costa Rica advanced to the Final of the 2013 Cope Centroamericana on Friday night following a 1-0 win against El Salvador. Crew striker Jairo Arrieta started the match and played 65 minutes before being subbed off for Portland TImbers defender Rodney Wallace. Wallace scored the winner six minutes later to propel La Sele to the championship match.
Costa Rica will take on Honduras in the Final at the Estadio Nacional at 6:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.
The Crew wrapped up Friday with a light training session at Bradenton's IMG Academy consisting of some conditioning, possession drills and crossing and finishing work. Rookie forward Ryan Finley's far post diving header into the back of the net was one of the few highlights from the afternoon practice. Friday's second training session wrapped up with every player taking a mandatory dip in the ice baths ahead of tomorrow's match against D.C. United.
The Black & Gold began a grueling stretch of two-a-day training sessions Friday morning at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The team took part in possession and shooting drills before capping the two-hour practice off with an 11-on-11 scrimmage.
Despite an afternoon session lurking ahead, every player brought his own intensity to the morning training.
"The whole idea is to make [the players] work hard," Head Coach Robert Warzycha said. "Obviously, it's different weather than in Columbus, so they have to adjust a little bit. We need to get our work done here, but I think everybody has a good attitude and they're working very hard."
"I think we had a good tempo," added second-year midfielder Ethan Finlay. "I think the whole preseason thus far has been high level, good energy. Obviously, just starting off the touches haven't been the cleanest yet. We're getting used to playing on the grass, which is great. Everyone from the trialists to the older guys like Chad [Marshall] and Eddie [Gaven] are working hard. It's good to have everyone working hard because it makes for an easier preseason."
In the aforementioned shooting drills, 2012 MLS Newcomer of the Year Federico Higuaín impressed his teammates, coaches and Equipment Manager Rusty Wummel alike by hitting the back of the net from the top of the penalty area on nearly every attempt. After one goal, Wummel sunk to one knee to shine Higuaín's cleats as a celebration.
The Crew will take to the practice fields at IMG for its afternoon training around 4:00 p.m. ET.
Thursday began with the Black & Gold assembling at Crew Stadium to board a bus for Port Columbus International Airport in the frigid cold of the Midwest, and ended with a late afternoon training session in the dwindling sunlight of Brandenton, Fla. after few hours between flights and rest at the team hotel. The first practice of the Crew's preseason trip to IMG Academy consisted of light conditioning and a few possession drills.
"It was good to get off the plane, get your legs stretched out and get all the aches out from the turf yesterday," defender Josh Williams said after the session. "I think today was a relaxed day to get everybody out to meet everybody and have a little bit of fun with possession drills."
Thursday's training in Bradenton was a welcome change from the indoor start to the preseason in Columbus.
"It was good just to get off the turf," Williams said. "To come out and feel the grass, just the way the ball moves is a lot different than turf. The game moves a lot faster."
While a few spring invitees joined the team today and are fighting for a spot on the roster, players already under contract like Williams are working to solidify their spot in the Crew lineup during the trip to Bradenton.
"It's all about getting comfortable with your teammates and figuring out who's playing where," Williams explained. "There's still some guys who can play in different positions, like myself, but I think right now you want to come in with the attitude to win a position. For guys like myself who have only been around a couple of years, spots aren't guaranteed."
The Crew will train twice tomorrow before kicking off its first friendly of the preseason Saturday at 11 a.m. against D.C. United.
Wednesday was supposed to be a day off for Crew Homegrown midfielder Wil Trapp. After spending the past eight days in Puebla, Mexico at United States U-20 National Team where he also played all 90 minutes in two friendlies against Panama, a day of rest made sense for the 20-year-old MLS rookie upon returning to Columbus Tuesday evening.
"It's been a quick turnaround, but it's nice to get in with the team before we head down to Florida," Trapp said. "It's nice, I'm excited to get going.
"The layovers weren't the best and whenever you travel there's a little jetlag involved, but luckily the time difference wasn't too bad. I'm still young. I can handle it."
There was no pressure on Trapp from Technical Director Brian Bliss to attend Wednesday's training session in Lewis Center, who was surprised to see Trapp in the mix when he arrived.
"Anytime a National Team player returns from a camp and he's been taxed as they usually are with travel, training and games, you usually like to give them some time off," Bliss said. "Wil was eager to get after it and acclimate to his new teammates. He wanted to get right in there and mix it up with our guys and decided not to take that extra day off. With all the travel and the games he looked pretty sharp today."
Trapp will likely return to Puebla with the U-20s in February in preparation for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship in an effort to qualify for the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey this summer.
"It was good to get used to the altitude down there because it's going to be the same for Qualifying," Trapp said. "We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish [in team camp]. The results weren't the best, but it happens.
"I think we're doing well. We have a few injuries, but I think everyone will be healthy to qualify and move on to the World Cup."
Trapp and the Crew will travel to Brandenton, Fla. on Thursday for their first preseason camp.
Crew striker Jairo Arrieta and Costa Rica completed group play in the 2013 Copa Centroamericana Tuesday night with a 1-1 draw against Guatemala. Arrieta tallied his second goal of the tournament in the 12th minute to help La Sele finish at the top of Group A.
The Ticos will resume play in the semifinal of the tournament against El Salvador on Friday. Costa Rica previously claimed a spot in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup with its 2-0 win over Nicaragua on Sunday. Cities and venues for the 2013 Gold Cup will be announced on Wednesday.
In some post-training banter on Monday, Crew captain Chad Marshall jokingly asked Tony Tchani to talk in his best American accent.
"Hey mate!" Tchani exclaimed jokingly with his distinct French inflection.
While Tchani's accent sets him appart, the Cameroonian-born midfielder is now an official American citizen. Tchani moved to the U.S. with his mother as a teenager and recently passed his citizenship exam to officially attain a United States passport last week.
Tchani was given studying materials beforehand, but the test to become a U.S. citizen came easy to the 23-year-old midfielder.
"They gave me a book of like 100 practice questions and I was supposed to get six out of 10 right," Tchani said. "I got the first six right and they told me it was over. I got a sheet saying 'Congratulations.' "
It is official!! #ThankGod
— Tony Tchani (@TonyTchani23) January 15, 2013
Tchani is in his second full season with the Crew and his fourth in MLS.