February 21, 2007
Greetings from sunny Florida.....
Well, we're almost finished with our training stint down in Orlando, so I thought I'd fill you in on what's happened over the last week or so. We've stayed very busy while down here and the team has been working extremely hard to get fit and sharp on the ball. We've already played six games in the last six days, and will play one more against the University of South Florida before we leave on Thursday. We've had mixed results throughout these games.
We started the week off with a sloppy 4-3 victory against the University of Central Florida. A team of mostly reserves struggled to keep a structured defensive shape against the college players flying high on adrenaline. UCF actually took a 2-1 lead in the first half before we answered with three successive goals in the second half. Later that day a team of mostly regulars were defeated 1-0 by GAIS, a Swedish first division team also in Florida for their preseason. The game was extremely tight and we actually had the better chances in the game. GAIS scored off a botched clearance on a corner kick, and we missed several point blank chances in the second half. All in all it was a well played game, though, and a step in the right direction.
Our next three games were against other MLS opposition, as we took on the Columbus Crew over in Tampa, and both the Chicago Fire and New York Red Bulls at the Disney tournament. Our first team took a 1-0 lead over the Crew last Thursday, but a fresh 11 in the second half gave up two soft goals and we lost the game 2-1. Against the fire on Friday night, the first team looked extremely lethargic and we went into halftime down 1-0. But the second half group, consisting of mostly reserved, played extremely well and leveled the game at 1-1. However, a missed assignment off a corner kick on the last play of the game enabled the Fire to escape with the win. The first team again looked sluggish against NYRB on Sunday night and surrendered a first half goal to Dave van den Berg. But the second team again played quite well and was able to level the score in the 86th minute off a Kenny Cutler goal.
We didn't achieve the results we wanted during these games, but at this point in the preseason, wins and losses may not be the most important thing. The primary objective has been getting fit and learning to play a new system with a lot of new players. Fortunately, we were able to play against a number of different formations (4-3-3, 4-4-2, 3-5-2), which is ideal during preseason. Our training sessions in between games have been intense and extremely competitive, as many players are still fighting for their jobs. We have two more training sessions and one more scrimmage before we head back to Utah, so players like me will certainly be trying to make the most of them to leave a strong last impression.
Oh, and don't be too jealous that you're not in Florida. It's been freezing! Well, not Rochester freezing, but pretty cold nonetheless. Players were bundled up in winter coats, gloves, and ski hats during our night games over at Disney, and I've only thrown on a pair of shorts once or twice since we got down here. So much for getting a nice tan....although, I guess that's not really why I'm down here.......