Without question, there is no team in Major League Soccer Crew fans despise quite like the Chicago Fire. When the Black & Gold makes a trade with the Fire like they did on Monday when Dilly Duka was swapped for Dominic Oduro, it adds more fuel to MLS's midwestern rivalry.
Crew Technical Director Brian Bliss isn't worried about the deal coming back to bite the Black & Gold. Rather, he welcomes trades within the Eastern Conference.
"You try not to do deals within your own conference, but I think also that's a misunderstood concept," Bliss explained Monday. "If you're not going to do deals within your own conference, you're eliminating potentially nine other teams to make a trade with. Why would you do that?
"Yeah, it's one thing if you're dealing guys on the DP level. You don't want guys like that going to a rival, but at the end of the day, you can't worry about that."
As for Oduro, who is playing for his fifth team since 2006, he's learned to treat games against former opponents as he would any other match. The Crew will play the Fire three times in 2013.
"One thing I've to come to learn in my experience in this League and with your old team's history is to not trash talk your former team or let them get in your head," the new Crew forward said. "You just have to stay calm and try to play the game as any other MLS game. I think it will be something to play against [Chicago].
"I think I'll just go out there and play my game and hopefully we'll come away with the W."
Pleased with the Crew's 2-1 win against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, Robert Warzycha rewarded his team with a day of regeneration and relaxation at nearby Siesta Key Beach. The entire squad joined Strength and Conditioning Coach Brook Hamilton for a 15-minute run and stretch before enjoying America's best beach.
Some players soaked-up the sun while others played soccer tennis on volleyball nets, threw the football around or played frisbee.
"Everybody was really looking forward to getting out to the beach," Supplemental Draft pick Daniel Withrow said. "I know some guys were just striving to go this past week. Being so close and not getting a chance to go, it's been driving them crazy. To get all the guys together and go to the beach, but still get some work in and get a good jog in was good. A little fun in the sun never hurts.
"Anytime you can get out of the hotel and still keep it constructive is good"
The Crew will finish play in Bradenton Friday morning against the New York Red Bulls at 9:30 a.m. ET at IMG Academy. The match was previously scheduled to kick off at 11:00 a.m. ET.
The Black & Gold returned to training at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Tuesday morning with a light session ahead of Wednesday's friendly against the Chicago Fire. Head Coach Robert Warzycha will look for more stamina out of his squad against the Fire on Wednesday as it prepares for the MLS season to begin on March 2.
Brook Hamilton (above), the Crew's Strength and Conditioning Coach, is the man in charge of making sure each player's fitness in on par.
"While we're here, we're trying to get established a good base that we started in Columbus," Hamilton explained Tuesday. "With the multiple games we have here, it's enabled us to establish some good game fitness."
"In between those games, we're looking at threshold training and pushing the players' threshold up, which is obviously increasing their overall fitness level," Hamilton added. "We're also focusing on a lot of things like corrective nature and strengthening nature in our off-time when we're in the gym and off the field."
With fitness and condition being a crucial part of preseason training, Warzycha is relying on Hamilton to get his players match ready.
"The players know that physiologically, [Hamilton] puts all the programs together and makes sure the guys do enough work and get the rest they need," Warzycha said. "We as the coaches, we push the players but Brook is the one sometimes that puts the foot on the gas pedal. He monitors everything and makes sure we're doing the right things [in training]."
Hamilton is in his second season with the Crew after serving as a strength coach for IMG Academy, where he worked with athletes in a variety of sports, including current and aspiring MLS, NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL players; the Guangdong Winnerway Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association and the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers of NASL.
Hamilton brings an expertise of soccer-specific strength training to the Crew.
"You always have to address the sport by its individual needs and necessities," Hamilton said. "With soccer and the amount of ball striking the players do, everything has to do with increasing the odds of what we're trying to get switched over and correct."
The Black & Gold took Tuesday afternoon off to prepare for Wednesday morning's match against Chicago. The Crew kicks off against the Fire at 11:00 a.m. ET at IMG Academy. You can stream all of the action right here on TheCrew.com.
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.