Will a full preseason lead to the best year yet for former No.1 SuperDraft pick?
Vancouver Whitecaps FC arrived in Arizona on Tuesday, where they'll work out and play friendlies over a 10-day period at the Grande Sports World complex.
It's an isolated location without much in the way of entertainment or amenities, but you won't hear any of the players grumbling too much – on the record, at least.
But even those who'll take a poke at the complex's remote locale – it takes the better part of an hour to reach from downtown Phoenix – can see the merits in going to a place where there's little in the way of distractions.
“A little bit too long there and you'll go crazy for sure,” attacker Omar Salgado said with a laugh after a training session at the University of British Columbia on Monday, before departing. “But 10 days are great there. We're there to concentrate on football, and that's it.”
When it comes to Salgado specifically, just getting a chance to take part training fully with his teammates is the main priority. He didn't play a minute last season after dealing with an initial foot fracture in June 2012 and a re-fracture in spring 2013.
The first-overall pick in the 2011 SuperDraft, the 20-year-old took part in training sessions late last season, but the club opted not to rush him back too soon.
Because of his injury woes, the Texas native's career has yet to really take off – he's played just seven times in MLS over the past two seasons – but now the once scrawny teenager has filled into his 6-foot-4 frame and looks more a man than a boy.
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Salgado was drafted as a forward and now has the build of a target man, but he still maintains the mobility that prompted then head coach Martin Rennie to experiment with the player as a left winger with some success in 2012.
New coach Carl Robinson has stated he's happy to play Salgado in either role – centrally or as a winger – and it's likely the Welsh tactician will use preseason to try him in both roles.
“I guess he'll just plug me in wherever he needs me,” Salgado said. “It depends on the game, our rivals. I'm willing to play wherever he wants me.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.