NEWPORT, WALES – Carl Robinson has spent “many a times” at Dragon Park, the Welsh National Football Development Centre located in Newport, South Wales. That’s where Robinson, and many others like Thierry Henry and Peter Crouch, worked on their official coaching licenses.
And on Wednesday afternoon, Robinson returned to the scene of the crime.
After a late night session at the Welsh Rugby Union Centre of Excellence on Tuesday, following a 16-hour travel day, the ‘Caps trained at Dragon Park for the first time today.
“You can see what it’s about here,” Robinson told whitecapsfc.com. “It makes you feel special right when you walk into the door. We’re going to have the ability to feel that ourselves with our new training facility opening in Vancouver. But you’ve got to make the most of it.”
That’s exactly what the ‘Caps intend to do over the next 10 days, as they train in Wales to kick off the 2017 preseason. Robinson, admittedly, was feeling a tad bit “sentimental” on Wednesday.
But make no mistake: this is a trip for business – not pleasure.
“I’m a very proud and patriotic Welsh boy,” said Robinson, who grew up about 90 minutes away from Dragon Park. “When you come back to where you grew up, there’s always a special feeling. But I’ve come back to work … we get to use a fantastic Welsh facility. Very grateful to Osian Roberts and the national team of Wales to allow us to do that. But we’re here to work.”
And work, they did.
Asked how the team is feeling after a few days in Wales, goalkeeper David Ousted said: “Tired.”
“We’ve started hard,” he added. “Three sessions a day, two sessions a day, it’s been hard. The mood is good. I think people are looking forward to getting over this first very hard period, getting into shape again, and being able to play the kind of soccer we want.”
Robinson said the team has been split into two groups for these first few sessions – one that’s still getting up to speed from a fitness and health perspective and a larger group that’s “getting into the football element.” Two players that have yet to train fully are centre back Kendall Waston and midfielder Russell Teibert, who are both carrying minor injuries, but Robinson said he’s hopeful they’ll be ready to be integrated into the main group in the next few days.
“They’re both itching to get going, but they need to be right,” Robinson said. “When we train, we train properly. We can’t have any 40 or 50 per cent trainers in the group. We won’t have that.”
For his part, Waston said he feels about 95 per cent fit at this point.
“I need to get fitter,” he said. “I need to be at the same level as my other teammates. That’s why we’re here in the preseason. To run and work hard.”
Asked if he’ll be ready for leg one of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal vs. New York Red Bulls on February 22, Waston didn’t have to think twice.
“Definitely,” he said. “Even with one foot.”
Whitecaps FC will play their first of three friendlies in the United Kingdom on Friday against English Championship side Cardiff City FC (3:30 a.m. PT – follow Whitecaps FC on Twitter for live updates and stay tuned to whitecapsfc.com for post-match coverage).