VENTURA, California – The MLS season may still be four months away from kicking off, but Vancouver Whitecaps FC are wasting no time preparing for their first match. Teitur Thordarson’s men are currently in the midst of a two-week offseason mini-camp that will see them train in Oxnard, California, until December 9.
“More training definitely gives you better fitness,” explained Thordarson. “But it also gives you the opportunity to work on all the other aspects of the game – technique, tactics, everything.”
The Icelandic coach was keen to get a head start on the MLS season after seeing his USSF D-2 Pro League side benefit greatly from offseason training last year.
“I felt that the team was very fit at the start of last season,” said Thordason. “I felt that we maintained good form all through the season and we didn’t have so many up and downs.”
The team concluded their first week of training with a 2-1 victory in a friendly match against Ventura County Fusion of the USL PDL.
“It was a great exercise for us because we have some new guys here with the chance to have a look at, so it was a great opportunity to test them out,” said Thordarson.
Among those new players were a pair of the club’s selections from the recent MLS Expansion Draft, as Jonathan Leathers and Shea Salinas were inserted into the starting XI.
Salinas made an immediate impression by setting up Terry Dunfield for the first goal just two minutes into the match. Leathers, meanwhile, played the entire match at right back.
“They really showed us things that we were hoping they would,” said Thordarson.
The second week of training in Ventura County will be infused by the addition of U.S. international Jay DeMerit, who arrived on Friday.
“I know what Jay is good for, I have seen that on bigger arenas than training fields in California,” said Thordarson of the team’s first MLS signing. “There is nothing special that I’m looking for, I just want to get him in, get to know the players and for us to get to know him, and to get a good start.”
While DeMerit may be in camp to ease into the team, many other players are still on trial trying to earn a spot on the roster. With only nine players signed on to play for the team so far, the battle for spots should be fierce.
“All of those who are not signed yet know that they will have to perform all the way through to make it because the competition is getting very tough,” said Thordarson. “We are bringing in players from a high level, and they all know that they will have to do very well to get a place on the roster.”
The club was given a day off on Friday, but will be back to their daily training regime on Saturday, with an intrasquad match scheduled for Sunday. They’ve also scheduled a rematch with the Fusion to be played on Wednesday.