Despite falling for the first time this preseason in a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on Friday morning, Head Coach Robert Warzycha is pleased with the strides the Crew has made over the last nine days in Bradenton.
Accomplishing the team's main objective in Bradenton, the Crew's fitness has improved as the starters went 60 minutes in Friday's loss.
"I think everybody got to know each other on the field," the Head Coach said Friday. "Fitness-wise [the starters] played a good 60 minutes today. We created some chances, and that is always a positive."
"I think it was a good 70 minutes for us," Warzycha continued. "The first unit played pretty well. Obviously, [New York's] second unit was a little bit sharper than our second unit."
Following two matches earlier in the week, the Black & Gold seemed to be in more of a groove on Friday.
"I think everyone is kind of getting into the flow and we're starting to gel together," rookie forward Ryan Finley said. "The first two games, there were heavy legs a little bit. Today we treated it like it was a real game and I think we had the better of the chances in the first half and the first 15 minutes of the second half as well."
The Crew will return to Columbus on Saturday for a few days of training before flying to Orlando for the Disney Pro Soccer Classic on February 6.
The Crew's starting back line in Bradenton of Josh Williams, Chad Marshall, Tyson Wahl and Agustín Viana kept a clean sheet in Bradenton during 105 minutes on the field together. Though Wahl signed with the Black & Gold in December and Viana joined the club on Monday, the two newcomers have meshed quickly with returnees Marshall and Williams.
"Obviously, we have some new guys in, but everyone has gelled pretty quickly," Marshall said of the Crew defense's success this preseason. "I think everyone has a good understanding of what people like to do in certain situations"
"[Viana and Wahl] have been great," Marshall complimented his new teammates. "Obviously, they're two experienced guys who are willing to listen to what the coaches want to do and they've adapted pretty quickly.They've been good pros."
The backline could be shuffled next week as new signing Gláuber Berti will join the team in Columbus on Monday.
FINLEY FITTING IN
The Crew's First Round SuperDraft pick Ryan Finley started all three matches in Bradenton, pairing with Federico Higuaín on Robert Warzycha's frontline. He was at his most dangerous on Friday against New York, nearly scoring on multiple efforts.
"I'm just trying to go out there and work as hard as I can. Today we were able to create some more chances," Finley said after Friday's match.
"[Finley] is working very hard and he's creating his chances," Warzycha echoed. "For him right now, he just needs to be a little bit more relaxed and finish his chances."
The young forward has benefitted from playing with Higuaín and veteran Eddie Gaven in the attack so far this preseason. Though he has yet to score for the Black & Gold, Finley feels he is starting to gel with the experienced duo.
"Those guys are really, really good players," the forward complimented his teammates. "It makes my job as a forward a lot easier playing with really good players. I know if I make the run, they'll find it. It's a joy playing with them."