'Exciting time': Gutiérrez, Raposo react to small group training news

VANCOUVER, BC – In their separate quadrants of the field, several Vancouver Whitecaps FC players hit the pitch again on Thursday. Here are some news and notes from the day.

SMALL GROUPS GET GO SIGNAL

Off the pitch, Major League Soccer announced on Thursday that clubs may begin to use outdoor team training fields for small group training sessions in compliance with detailed health and safety protocols. 

Whitecaps FC sporting director Axel Schuster says the club will continue to work with the Office of the Provincial Health to prepare safe and secure protocols for subsequent steps. Schuster added that the club will submit their plan to MLS immediately with a goal of seeing a return to small group training sessions early next week. 

“We are encouraged by this next step from the league and are well prepared for it,” Schuster said. “Safety will always be our top priority.”

Whitecaps FC midfielder Ryan Raposo and defender Cristián Gutiérrez spoke following their isolated sessions on Thursday. 

Learning of the day's MLS announcement, Raposo was ready for a change of pace and looked forward to interacting with his teammates.

“It’s obviously tempting because soccer is a team sport,” Raposo said. “It's tough when you're just dribbling and doing things by yourself... now hopefully in the next stage, we can start passing to each other and move on to small group trainings and then back to full training. It’s an exciting time for sure.”

Echoing a similar sentiment, Gutiérrez mentioned how crucial the impending shift from individual to small group training will be.

“Distance changes everything,” Gutiérrez said Spanish, his native language. “Hopefully this is solved as soon as possible and we can all train as a group and as a team.”

LIFE ON THE TRAINING GROUND

While it’s easy to look ahead to the coming weeks and hope for more, players certainly aren’t taking their ability to work on the training pitch for granted.

“For me personally, I think things are going well, Raposo said. “In the training sessions, everyone's in good spirits. We're getting our fitness levels up and that's what's important. We’re still obviously talking but from a safe distance.”

For some players, the ability to be out on the field with a ball in front of their feet is enough to cure their quarantine blues.

“The truth is it’s more comfortable training with the ball. It’s not the same thing training on the field, being able to turn with the ball,” Gutiérrez said, adding that there are often limited options for players to properly train at home.

Although players are isolated in their separate areas of the field, the coaching staff as well as head of physical preparation Jon Poli make sure that players are fit and effective in their individual training.

“We do a lot of fitness stuff, passing off the boards, dribbling through cones and aerobic capacity stuff,” Raposo said. “Poli does a good job with us. We feel good at the end of the day, we go home and do our lift and stretch and we’re ready for the next one.”

As their training routine will begin to change, Whitecaps FC players will continue to work and are thrilled for what’s to come. 

“It's definitely difficult but we all understand it's a tough time and it's a tough time for everyone in the world,” Raposo said. “We're just getting through it and super excited to move on to the next phase.”