Most Vancouver Whitecaps FC players may not have slept much last night because awaiting them this Tuesday morning was fitness testing. Teitur Thordarson's squad participated in agility testing (foot speed) and the dreaded Cooper test.
In the Cooper test, players run around a 400-meter track for 12 minutes to complete as many laps as possible. If a player completes eight laps, it is considered a good score.
Whitecaps FC strength and conditioning specialist Steve Ramsbottom presided over testing on Tuesday morning, and in my conversation with him, he indicated that this was one of the fittest group of athletes he has worked ever with. MLS Expansion Draft pick Shea Salinas won the day by almost completing nine laps in the Cooper test, which is phenomenal, while SuperDraft selection Bilal Duckett was just 10 meters behind.
Ramsbottom also indicated that the players showed significant improvement from when they were last evaluated in Southern California six weeks ago. During their recent break, each player was given strength and conditioning programs to follow, with the players showing lots of professionalism in maintaining their fitness for the start of training camp this week.
However, these high fitness scores will come as little surprise for the players, as those that took part in the California camp last month know full well how Thordarson likes to play. The Icelandic coach's style involves a high tempo and high pressure in attack, and that requires players to do a lot of running. Today's fitness test results bode well for our Whitecaps, as we approach the start of the MLS season. If one of the goals is to be the fittest team in the league, it’s not a bad goal to have.
Another reason to be happy with the players' fitness levels so far is the prevention of injuries. Players that are not under contract cannot afford to be in the treatment room, as they need to be on the pitch to impress the coaches. As well, all players need a good uninterrupted preseason, if they are to be fully ready for the start of the campaign. So it would have been beneficial for each player to come to preseason with a good level of fitness, which seems to be the case here in Vancouver.
It also shows the professionalism and pride our players have, as they look to carry on the proud history of Whitecaps FC. It must put a smile on the coaches' faces to hear Ramsbottom say that this team is the fittest group he has ever worked with. To me, that says will be ready on March 19.