Preparing for Saturday
CARSON, Calif. (Thursday, April 28, 2011) - “We got a hard session today, guys!” strength and conditioning coach Jim Liston announced ominously as the team walked on to the training field Thursday. But with the game against New England only two days away, it soon became clear Liston was being facetious. The session was focused, but shorter, and with less concentration on fitness.
“I’d call it easy to moderate training today,” said Liston afterwards. “The object of training for the week is to prepare the team for the match on Saturday. We’re not going to lose the match on Friday; we’re not going to lose the match on Thursday. Days are more intense early in the week, but you really take the pedal off the metal as the [weekend] approaches, because you want to make sure the guys have recovered and have their legs for the game.”
The session began with a long warm-up, and just a bit of running. The team next worked through a large passing drill, emphasizing quick and sharp ball movement. The coaches continually encouraged players to pass and move faster.
After the passing drill, practice split up and players worked in small groups on different aspects of their games. On one side of the field, coach Fraser and Vanney worked players through crossing and finishing drills. Francisco Mendoza and Mariano Trujillo sent in crosses from the left, while Zarek Valentin and Ben Zemanski sent in the balls from the right flank. Heath Pearce and Andrew Boyens worked together in the box, clearing crosses and defending against all comers.
On the other end of the practice field some competitive games of soccer tennis were underway. Sort of a cross between volleyball and soccer juggling, “soccer tennis” has been a fixture at training all season. Coach Liston, who teamed with Jimmy Conrad to beat Artur Aghasyan and Jorge Flores 3 games to 1, spoke about what makes the game so useful at training.
“It’s a fun game to play. It gets pretty engaging- it’s a pride thing. It’s still competitive, but it’s also easy on the body. You end up teaming with guys that you didn’t team up with on the field. You play against each other in a scrimmage maybe, and now you’re playing together. So there’s a good camaraderie to playing soccer tennis too.”
Although everyone finished at different times, none of the players left the field early. Once everyone was done, the entire team gathered at midfield, showing unity as Saturday’s game approaches.
“On Thursdays and Fridays we try to end as a group,” said Liston. “Once players have done work that they need to do on their own, we bring the group together, to cool down and stretch as a unit. It allows Robin to close out the practice, and also put some thoughts in for the game on Saturday.”