In the words of Breaking Bad's Walter White, "chemistry is the study of matter...but I prefer to see it as the study of change."
The fact of the matter for Columbus Crew SC is four weeks of post-season training is designed to, yes, work on aspects of the game with the obvious goal of improving ahead of the 2020 season.
As important, however, is the inherent opportunity to build chemistry with a core group that hasn't fully played together since pre-season with certain key guys returning to full-health, in addition to loanees & Crew SC Academy players coming into the fold.
"In just kind of bridging the gap between the end of the season and the preseason, we felt it was important to do four weeks of training," said Head Coach Caleb Porter.
"Probably one of the best things we are doing in these four weeks is being able to integrate guys back in before the offseason hits and it kind of bridges the offseason," Porter said.
Players who missed a significant amount of time due to injury, such as Milton Valenzuela, who missed the entire 2019 season, and Waylon Francis, who last played on July 20, are back in the mix while other core pieces such as Hector Jimenez, who last played on August 3, have returned as well.
As Porter noted, being able to tackle the technical drills in training is a rare opportunity during a 34-match regular season.
"We are using these as building blocks and really coming together. I think it's going to help us next year," he said. "We don't really have the luxury during the season to spend that much time on just technical, functional [drills]. All the little stuff...is going to show up next year."
Congruent with the team chemistry aspect is the psychological component.
As defender Josh Williams alluded to, a big bonus both on the pitch and in the locker room is what comes from the lack of pressure on the training ground and how that reverberates through the group.
"Like Caleb said, you can work on some things, you can build a style of play, you can do a bunch of different technical and tactical things on the field, but I think just the ability to be around the guys and not having pressure is a huge thing," Williams said.
"And to me, it’s all about creating that synergy, creating that camaraderie between the team so when you go out on the field, you have a positive vibe with everyone – it’s a fun vibe – and I think that’s so important and it’s lost in a lot of teams."
These four weeks of post-season training also represent an aspect of trust in the core group and an expected level of responsibility in return.
"So while other teams have already left and are going their own separate ways for a couple of months, I think it’s important for us to build for next year," Williams said.
"The front office has put trust in us, and this is the team - the core of the team - that they want to carry forward and carry on into next year. To me, this is an important time and I think everybody has done a great job in bringing the right mentality to it and getting something positive out of it."
The team will officially put a bow on the 2019 season as the Crew heads to Indianapolis on Thursday, No. 7 for a closed-door scrimmage against the Chicago Fire.