At the ripe old age of 23, D.C. United midfielder Dax McCarty has become one of the elder statesmen of this January camp. As a member of the 2007 U.S. U-20 World Cup team and part of the USA's successful effort to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Games, he's got more international experience than most suiting up here in Carson.
As such, we've asked Dax to pen his thoughts on this most intersting of camps as the team moves training camp and ultimately faces Chile on Jan. 22 at The HDC.
Hello again everyone!
Welcome to the second installment of my blog from sunny California. It seems like the weather here just gets better and better each day, which I can tell you is a welcome sight for us players. At a camp like this, a ton of things get thrown at you, not only from playing/learning perspective, but from a fitness perspective as well. The nicer the playing conditions are, the easier it makes everything else, so thank you California for your spectacular weather.
Last Friday's (day four) morning training session was simply a continuation of what we had been working on early in the week. A long warm-up that usually includes some technical work, lots of small-sided possession drills, followed by a bigger game to goals. It has become fairly obvious to me that the main focus this first week of camp had been suited to getting lots of touches on the ball rather than overloading us with too much information too fast. Going through my first January camp last year and being one of the younger guys in camp, I know firsthand how hard it is for newer guys to the national team to over think things instead of just doing what they know best, which is playing. This first week has been tailored to doing just that, and it is great to see the newer guys here getting their feet under them quickly and playing with confidence. That being said, Friday afternoon saw us get off the training field and into the gym for the first time in camp. The workout was designed to be short with a very high tempo so there is not much rest in between exercises. It seemed like every muscle group was hit during the session, with squats, bench press, and pull-ups being just a few of the exercises we completed.
There was a nice buzz radiating around the practice field before Saturday morning’s training, mainly because everyone knew what awaited us after we finished up training... a day and a half off! In long camps like this one, days off are crucial, not only to your physical recovery after a tough week, but also to your mental state of mind. Getting away from the game for a little bit is always good for clearing your head and enjoying some much needed R & R. Oh yea, and then there is also playoff football! Can't beat that. Back to Saturday's training, it was actually the first time in camp that we got a little taste of a game-like situation, playing 11v11 for about 35 minutes. Both teams created plenty of chances, but ultimately both defenses held strong. It was definitely a good way to end a solid first week of preparation for the Chile game.
I took advantage of our afternoon off by meeting up with an old college buddy of mine. We headed to Santa Monica and enjoyed some good, quality time with friends before eating a delicious sushi dinner. Definitely a step up from hotel food! (Disclaimer: that is not a slight on our hotel's food in any way because it is actually quite enjoyable). Sunday was one of the laziest days I have had in recent memory, and I loved every minute of it. After sleeping in, my roomie Brek Shea and I headed out for a nice lunch close to the hotel before coming back for what would be a long day of watching football and putting my bed to good use. I am not exaggerating when I say that literally the only time I got out of bed was to use the bathroom and go to our team dinner. It was lovely. I would just like to add that I'm officially picking the Green Bay Packers as my Super Bowl Champs. Aaron Rodgers, while already being a top five QB in the league in my opinion, just gets better every game, and what the defense did against a red hot Eagles team was impressive. Michael Vick, great year and all, will have nightmares about that defense for at least a few weeks.
While a day off is certainly exciting and necessary, the first day back in training after that can be a little bit rough. Muscles are very sore and stiff, with your legs taking a little bit longer to warm up than usual. Being the start of week two, Monday was significantly harder physically than the previous week. That meant bringing the intensity up to another level in all facets of the session. While the training exercises that we did are similar to the ones we did in week one, the coaching staff really does a good job of ramping up the energy so were getting more out of our bodies physically than before. It was also the first day that the staff incorporated some extra fitness into our routine, something that we all knew was going to be an inevitable part of this process. After a good lunch and a nice cat nap, training in the afternoon was mainly a technical session with a little bit of team shape work thrown in. Regrettably, during the finishing exercises at the end of training, I did not quite bring my "A" game. Our equipment manager has to have a severe dislike for me right now because about half of my shots were not only not on frame, but they also somewhat impressively cleared the massive nets behind the goal. Something I no doubt need to work on as camp carries on!
This upcoming week will surely be the toughest yet, but I have no doubt it will be crucial in our continued preparations for the Chile game. One more thing - congratulations to the Auburn Tigers football team on there well-deserved National Championship. If my math serves me correctly, that is five in a row for the SEC. Can ANYONE compete with that conference??
Until next time,