WEEK TWO OF TWO
Monday marked the start of the second week of preseason training in Bradenton. Following the arrival of Michael Parkhurst into camp on Sunday evening, the team came refreshed mentally and physically following a Sunday player off day.
Book-ending the off-day was a bright and sunny day on Saturday followed by the hottest session of the trip on Monday with full sun exposure throughout.
Add it to the list of mental tests for the Black & Gold in Bradenton.
“The heat was definitely more prevalent today especially because it was raining all last week,” said Sloan. “I think that was tougher, but we need to learn to play in all of the conditions and I think it was a good day for us on the whole just getting after it again. All the guys were there, pushing each other in the last bouts of fitness.”
Second-year goalkeeper Daniel Withrow stressed the importance of Sunday’s off day as a critical part of leading into what Sloan described as a cohesive unit on the field during drills.
“When you come down to preseason, you’re with your teammates for a week and a half – that’s all you see,” said Withrow.
“Days off are always nice to hang out with the guys and see them off the field. These are the guys that you’re going to be with for the next 10 or 11 months. It’s nice for everybody to forget about soccer for a day and kind of be themselves together and really have some fun down here.
“Preseason’s a grind, so you have to be able to put a smile on your face whenever you can.”
Following the team’s lunch, the guys returned to the meal room as a team to watch Manchester City versus Chelsea on the NBC Sports Network.
“I thought it was good to watch the game with the team,” said Sloan. “In order to progress at the professional level, you really have to be a student of the game. The [Barclays] Premier League showcases some of the best players in the world. Watching them, how they move, how they work as a team is only going to help us.”
Although it was watching a game live against an opponent not on the Crew’s 34-match MLS schedule in 2014, the viewing session actually became a beneficial study for the players.
“When we’re all watching it together, everyone is commenting on watching player movements and how the game was progressing and people definitely learned from it,” Sloan continued.
“It kind of was a film session, but you weren’t critiquing yourself. You were figuring out what are the things the best players in the world can do that we can replicate.”
A BUSY WEEK AHEAD
The team trains Tuesday ahead of its first preseason friendly of 2014, against Swedish champions Malmo FF on Wednesday (3:30 p.m. ET / MLSsoccer.com Live Stream). The Crew’s only match while in Bradenton, the session marks the middle point of the final week of the trip as the team departs for Columbus on Friday. Now a week in, the players remain focused on building upon the first week of efforts and implementing the vision in the first test outside of Black & Gold jerseys.
“I think the part everyone is most looking forward to is probably going and kicking someone else that isn’t your teammate,” said Sloan.
“That’s always the toughest part: you play the same guys day-in and day-out, you start to know their tendencies and their little specialties. Now getting out there playing a team that’s brand new, it will be nice to be able to show ourselves what we can do.
“Any game, even if it’s preseason, we want to win. It will be nice to see where we’re at.”
After a week’s worth of sessions, Withrow admitted the coaching staff’s expectations are higher and the focus shifts.
“The first week of preseason is all about shaking-off the rust and getting back out there and just joining your teammates and gelling," the 'keeper explained "This second week of preseason is really when your season starts. Expectations are raised, the style of training is raised – it’s changing because we’re starting to focus more on tactical stuff instead of just straight off-the-ball fitness. They expect us to be fit by now, they expect us to be sharp on the ball right now, so now is the time to put the pieces together.
“What better time to play a top European team as our first scrimmage under the new era?”