ONE WEEK IN
One week down and another one to go here in Bradenton, Florida as the team wrapped-up its seventh training session on Saturday in most likely the sunniest and most ideal playing conditions of the entire week. While it’s only been one week of sessions, it’s been a significant investment of time for the players to get to know Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter and his plans for the way the team will play.
“I think they went really well,” said Justin Meram. “It’s applying a new system. Obviously that takes time."
“I think that we are going to be a team that people might overlook because we don’t have all the superstar names,” Meram continued. “I think we’re going to be a team that is really going to surprise people.”
Added the fourth-year player: “We’re going to be super fit, super clean on the ball and we’re going to play good soccer.”
But what is it that has newcomers and club veterans “buying-in” to the system with such enthusiasm?
“He’s a player’s coach and I think that’s what we all love the most,” said Meram. “He demands it to be really tough, but he knows coming with that it’s only going to benefit the team.”
The team has Sunday off and will get back at it for the second week after a little rest and relaxation. Certainly doing both of those in temperatures hovering near 80 degrees isn’t the worst thing in the world, either.
“This next day and a half is going to be great for a lot of the guys,” said Meram on Saturday afternoon. “I think it’s going to be important. Monday is going to be a tough day.”
TAKING CARE OF THEIR OWN
George Braima, a Crew Soccer Academy product had what would have to be considered a pretty cool birthday gift on Saturday in Bradenton. In resident status for the United States Under-17 program, Braima stopped by the team hotel and had lunch with the players and staff. Frankie Hejduk – following his singing debut of the trip on January 30 for Kevan George – led a “Happy Birthday” song before letting the 16-year-old get to know the team.
“It was great. It was something I always wanted to do,” said Braima. “Having lunch with the players was amazing to see what it’s like from a professional standpoint with things like preseason.”
The decision to leave his family to travel to Florida to exclusively focus on soccer wasn’t an easy one, but one he couldn’t turn down either.
“It’s great. I really like it because it’s soccer, soccer, soccer all of the time. We practice from nine in the morning until 12. It’s playing with top-level guys,” he continued. “Here with the National Team, guys that are better than you or at the same level as you: it’s guys fighting for spots every day.”
One of the players Braima specifically mentioned that he enjoyed talking with on Saturday was Wil Trapp. As the Crew Youth program has produced nine players that have signed professional contracts, including eight Homegrown Players, witnessing a player like Trapp succeed in his first season was something certainly top of mind for Braima as he works on his game.
“When I was like 14 years old, he was on the U-16. He was always a role model to me and I always tried to do what he did. Seeing him sign a Homegrown deal is something that really inspired me. Hopefully one day I can do that too.”