Day two in Soundersville started out much the same as the first, except without the number of fans at Starfire. Warmups were done in lines and players’ preferred groups began to emerge. It will be interesting to see what happens when the missing players return.
Osvaldo Alonso did not practice outside. Aaron Kovar, who left early yesterday with a knock, started out practicing normal speed but left early again. I was both surprised and excited to see MLS Cup MVP Stefan Frei come out in full training gear and do some work with a lightly taped ankle. While he didn’t move a lot, this is a good sign after what was a bit bleaker forecast yesterday.
Today was dominated by a main group that stayed consistent in the forefront of practice. It was the closest we have seen to “S1” vs. “the rest” groupings. I was not able to see much of the far group for the duration of practice.
This S1 team were further separated by my eyes into three groups plus Steve Zakuani: The incumbents (Clint Dempsey, Roman Torres, Cristian Roldan, Joevin Jones, Alvaro Fernandez), the experienced guys expected to be on the first team (Will Bruin, Harry Shipp, Oniel Fisher, Tony Alfaro, Aaron Kovar), and then a last group of guys who coaches were looking to see perform against the big boys. This included Brian Nana-Sinkam, Gale Agbossoumonde, Seyi Adekoya, and - somewhat surprisingly - 15-year-old Azriel Gonzalez.
This S1 group started by separating into two teams for a 14 man keep away game with a few twists. First off, it was 2 touch passing, working on movement and communication. A further wrinkle was that Roldan and Shipp were positioned as flex offensive players, joining whichever team had possession, and these two really drove the drill. Both looked fantastic in the middle, and their movement and work rate were paired with clean, tight control and touches. Just as the teams were getting comfortable Coach Schmetzer changed the rules yet again, this time allowing 3 touches for Shipp/Roldan, but only 1 touch for the others. This was a lightning fast-paced game that not only showed me the improvement in Cristian’s confidence but introduced me to the very impressive control exhibited by newcomer Shipp.
There was a VERY competitive short-sided scrimmage and here’s some quick things I noted:
- Bruin has soft feet and solid control in tight spaces, which is intriguing.
- Fisher looks tremendous so far, and is a loud, assertive communicator showing quality touches.
- Zakuani schooled Nana, who was playing right back, with a silky-smooth spin move, followed up by his patented speed burst and lovely left footed cross. He plays with an intensity that is great to see from a veteran. He has no problem calling people out.
- Seyi Adekoya has a great frame, and mixed it up physically with the older players while finishing clean on several occasions. He battled and got the better of Dempsey once, and showed no fear of contact.
- Gonzalez, who may have been an injury replacement for Kovar, looked a bit overmatched, but he’s FIFTEEN.
- Agbossoumonde looked better today, showing good lateral movement and ball control from a CB. At one time, he was matched up with Torres and they were straight up BATTLING, it was by far the most physical few minutes of practice.
- This is a new Roldan. He oozes confidence and his play is very controlled.
For those wondering about Dempsey, he again practiced in full and looked great. Everything in his group went through him, and he touched the ball by far the most today. He’s already mixing well with the new guys. One highlight was a “Shipp-Dempsey-Bruin-Dempsey” goal via 4 total touches that was almost too fast to follow. Impressive stuff.
Before I left I noticed the last 2 people on the field training were Harry Shipp and Gonzalo Pineda. Love seeing that dedication from new player and coach alike.
Tomorrow will include the beep test and other physical testing. I will not be there but should be able to catch Friday’s practice, which will be the first for some guy named Lodeiro.