CASA GRANDE, ARIZONA - After arriving in Casa Grande, Arizona late Monday, Vancouver Whitecaps FC hit the pitch for a spirited two-hour training session today at Grande Sports World.
The focus on day one was twofold, according to assistant coach Gordon Forrest. It was about continuing to get players prepared from a fitness and physical perspective -- they also had a gym/pool session in the afternoon -- as well as starting to establish a way of playing without the ball.
"There were a few different things we were trying to achieve," Forrest told whitecapsfc.com. "A big one was the out-of-posession outcomes, how we want to press, and so on. We're working with the players on and off to field to put our playing model together for the season ahead."
As is usually the case, the morning session started off with some posession games and light work with strength and conditioning coach Jon Poli. Then intensity ramped up as players broke into separate groups to play mini-games, starting with one-on-ones and building up towards larger squads.
"It was a great morning sesion," Forrest said. "The players put in a real great shift, they were working really hard. We really couldn't have asked any more of the players this morning."
This is the fifth straight year the 'Caps have spent part of their preseason at Grande Sports World. And despite the lack of attractions around the 40-acre athletic complex, it's a trip the players welcome with open arms.
"It's important," midfielder Matt Watson told whitecapsfc.com. "Obviously, there's not much around here. It's more profesionally just zoning in on the soccer side and leaving everything else behind. Obviously, a lot of the guys have families and outside things that can influence them but here, it's just soccer. It's very important for the season and also team bonding, just to get away and get to know the new guys and integrate them into the system."
There were some new faces on the field on Tuesday, as recent draft pick Michael Calderon and trialists Solomon Kwambe and Patrick McLain joined the team for the first time.
Kwambe is a Nigerian right back who most recently played for Sunshine Stars F.C. of the Nigerian Premier League. The 20-year-old helped the Nigerian senior men's national team win the bronze medal at the recent 2014 African Nations Championship, which just concluded last week. McLain, meanwhile, is 25-year-old goalkeeper who appeared in two matches for Chivas USA last season.
The 'Caps will play their first match of 2014 on Wednesday at 3 p.m. PT against North American Soccer League side Indy Eleven. Stay tuned to whitecapsfc.com for complete coverage.
Whitecaps FC begin their 2014 MLS season on March 8 versus New York Red Bulls at BC Place. Season tickets start at just $349, subject to applicable fees. The 'Caps also offer a flexible range of ticket products, including half-season tickets ($244), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets ($199), and a youth soccer half-season ticket ($100). For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.