Greg Janicki at Grande Sports World

First training session at Grande Sports World

A light breeze and blue sky greeted Vancouver Whitecaps FC players and coaching staff, as the first-year MLS club took to the pitch on Saturday for the first time at Grande Sports World in Casa Grande, Arizona.
For head coach Teitur Thordarson, it was a welcome break from the cloudy, damp conditions the team trained in at the start of the week in Vancouver. "The weather is great. The sun and warmth is a nice change," Thordarson told about the ideal conditions.

Although it is still early days, the Icelandic coach will use the 11-day camp to build team chemistry and focus on tactical play. "One of the main reasons for coming here is we have an opportunity to learn about each other and be together," added Thordarson.

The morning training session began like any other, with strength and conditioning specialist Steve Ramsbottom taking the majority of the 25 outfield players through their paces, while goalkeeping coach Mike Salmon worked with keepers Joe Cannon, Jay Nolly, and Brian Sylvestre.

Assistant coach Colin Miller then focused on light touches with the group, while Thordarson and assistant Denis Hamlett prepared the field for a possession game.

Thordarson used the rest of the session to work on attacking play, and although the final execution still needs work, Thordarson was pleased with the progress. "There was a lot of energy," explained Thordarson. "When we are working on tactical stuff, there are a lot of things that have to be corrected. We have to get better, but this is normal for the time of year. I would never have expected it to be perfect now, but the guys showed great attitude and I like that. That is good."

The team concluded the two-hour session with a conditioning exercise, which saw the players - and sometimes Hamlett - run from six-yard box to six-yard box within 15 seconds for two sets of 10. After 17-plus preseason campaigns, Miller takes great pride in operating the stopwatch and giving the lads a little extra encouragement.

Whitecaps FC finished the day with an afternoon gym session and will be back on the pitch on Sunday and Monday morning.
On Tuesday, Whitecaps FC will have their first real test of 2011 when they play the 2009 MLS Cup champions Real Salt Lake. In addition to the upcoming MLS regular season, RSL are also preparing for the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series versus MLS rivals Columbus Crew.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC - Arizona Preseason Roster

GOALKEEPERS (3) - Joe Cannon, Jay Nolly, Brian Sylvestre

DEFENDERS (9) - Santiago Bedoya, Michael Boxall, Jay DeMerit, Bilal Duckett, Greg Janicki, Wes Knight, Jonathan Leathers, Ryan O'Leary, Alain Rochat

MIDFIELDERS (10) - Jeb Brovsky, Davide Chiumiento, Philippe Davies, Terry Dunfield, Gershon Koffie, Shea Salinas, Cornelius Stewart, Russell Teibert, John Thorrington, Blake Wagner

STRIKERS (6) - Joe Anderson, Atiba Harris, Nizar Khalfan, Kyle Porter, Omar Salgado, Long Tan

HEAD COACH - Teitur Thordarson

NOT IN ARIZONA - Mouloud Akloul (D), Bedri Gashi (M), Ridge Mobulu (F), Alexandre Morfaw (M), Michael Nanchoff (M)

Whitecaps FC Preseason Schedule at Grande Sports World
Jan 29 - 31   Training at 9 a.m. PT - Field 6
                     Grande Sports World - Casa Grande, AZ

Feb 1           Training match v. Real Salt Lake at 10 a.m. PT
                    Grande Sports World - Casa Grande, AZ

Feb 2 - 3      Training at 9 a.m. PT - Field 6
                    Grande Sports World - Casa Grande, AZ

Feb 4           Intrasquad training match at 10 a.m. PT - Field 6
                    Grande Sports World - Casa Grande, AZ

Feb 6 - 7      Training at 9 a.m. PT - Field 6
                    Grande Sports World - Casa Grande, AZ

Feb 8           Training match v. Columbus Crew at 11 a.m. PT
                    Reach 11 - Phoenix, AZ

Whitecaps FC make their Major League Soccer debut on Saturday, March 19, against Canadian rivals Toronto FC at Empire Field. Whitecaps FC Major League Soccer 2011 season tickets start at a base price of $319, plus applicable tax and a $10 processing fee per order, and more than 60 per cent of seats are available for less than $31 per game. To secure a seat and for additional information about Whitecaps FC MLS season tickets, suites, and loge boxes, call 604.669.9283 or CLICK HERE.