After two days of fitness evaluations, medical testing and nutrition education, the players got to do what they love the most – lace up the boots and get on the field.
“We understand after all the testing the players are a little bit anxious to get on the field, and today was a good day to get them out there,” said U.S. assistant coach Martin Vasquez. “We are continuing to build their fitness base, which will be the focus for the first two weeks.”
The players were divided into two groups, and spent the first 45 minutes doing fitness and agility work before digging the balls out of the bag and going into passing exercises. Vasquez emphasized that the work with the ball served dual purposes.
“You can do a lot of efficient training. Today we worked on the concepts of passing and receiving with lots of repetition and touches. When you work in blocks of 3-4 minutes and do continuous running at a tempo of 70-80 percent for that period of time, you get to work on fitness as well.”
For the players – and especially the neophytes in camp – it’s a chance to finally settle some nerves by doing what comes most naturally.
“The nerves were things I was thinking about on the plane ride here. Once I got surrounded by the team, everybody was very welcoming,” said New York Red Bulls defender Connor Lade. "It was good to finally put the cleats and get back on the field. You get to put your foot on the ball and get some touches and work out all the rust.”
Getting adjusted to working with the ball is only one part of the adjustment process, as veteran Houston Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis experienced along with his teammates. There’s something altogether different about fitness on the field as opposed to the gym.
“You can run on a treadmill as much as you want, but it doesn’t prepare you for game-like situations,” Davis said. “I think everybody was a little bit surprised – chests were burning out there! It’s been a little while since we’ve stepped on the field, but it will come.”