Generally a trip out to a pre-season practice is a pretty nice and relaxing time. You can stand there chatting with the regular faces while quietly watching the team go about their business. Today was not one of those days. The Women's National Team is in town and held an open practice that brought crowds of the thousands inside FC Dallas Stadium while a decent number of people stuck around to watch FCD practice. There was also a much larger group of journalists than normal with ESPN, George Riba of WFAA and other unusual suspects around. Pretty brisk wind, but when the sun came out it wasn't too bad, certainly can't complain for February 10th in the great north of Frisco.
The team worked on 2v2 attacking and defending for awhile in a pretty entertaining drill. A couple highlights included Ugo Ihemelu playing a nutmeg and another over the top ball that prompted praise from Kevin Hartman in goal and you know it's good if the goalkeeper commends you. Perhaps the most interesting thing was David Ferreira participating fully in this drill.
There was some finishing practice where you get the ball to the stationary players out on the wings and they send it in. This drill was mainly dominated by Blas Perez who hit one volley off a Moises Hernandez cross that was certainly the moment of practice, smashing one in on the full volley off the underside of the bar.
Not really any scrimmaging which you always want to see when you head out to practice, but three friendlies in the next week should fill the 11v11 fix nicely.
Jump for notes, observation and quotes
Fabian Castillo #7 Colombian Fabian Castillo is now wearing #7. Why is that significant? Well it was the number occupied previously by Daniel Cruz. Does that mean Cruz is cut? The team hasn't announced anything yet, but if they're giving away his number you can't think things are looking good.
Trialists Scott Gordon was not there today and neither was Nico Gianni. Probably not a good sign for either of them, though it may not be the end of Gianni. Kleyner Bejerano is still around and he is a right sided guy which may be earning him some extra time. I didn't get a chance to watch a bunch of him, but I'm sure the friendlies this week will decide whether he makes it to Orlando.
Ferreira Training I can't say David Ferreira is fully involved in training as he's not, but he did have some contact in drills and was playing with the ball at his feet more. How close is he? Your guess is as good as mine and Schellas isn't going to say. Incidentally, Daniel Hernandez, Ugo Ihemelu and Andrew Jacobson are training fully with no problems while Ruben Luna and Victor Ulloa worked on the side today with minor issues.
Carlos Rodriguez Olympic qualifiers Panamanian Carlos Rodriguez confirmed after practice that he has been called in for Olympic qualifying with the Panama squad. I also had a reader tell me that Brek Shea is staying in Frisco for the U23 camp rather than going to Italy with the full US squad, but I can't confirm that.
Regarding the women's practice There was probably a few thousand people, they mentioned the game is sold out and that it would be the highest attended women's friendly since 1999. I'm sure you can still get standing room tickets and it should be a great/chilly atmosphere.
Today was my first look at Blas Perez, Hernan Pertuz and Carlos Rodriguez. With the way today's practice went there just wasn't much of an opportunity to check out Pertuz or Rodriguez, but Perez physically is a monster. He's a big, tall guy that makes a living hassling defenders. You're not going to see him creating goals on his own but his finishing skills are clearly the best on the team. It's also clear that he's not up to full fitness yet, but he's getting there. Have I mentioned I can't wait to for these upcoming friendlies? As I mentioned already, Ferreira is training some, he's not rehabbing at all any more which is certainly a good sign but he's not going 100%. You've got to think they'll unleash him soon.
Not a lot else of note.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to catch Schellas today as he had something going on right after practice. Poor Jason was running all over the stadium, but the gaffer used his ninja skills to escape apparently.
Talk about how your time has been so far and how you're getting acclimated
I feel really happy with the team, we have a really good squad and a lot of expectations to do well this season.
Do you feel more comfortable at right mid, right back or where do you feel most comfortable?
Naturally, I play left back and left midfield. I have more confidence in those positions but I'll play wherever coach wants me to be this season.
Talk about playing with Blas PErez and how he helps your transition here
We've played together on the national team and have a good understanding of each other. I look forward to playing on the field with him and helping FC Dallas
The Olympics are coming up, is playing with the Panama olympic squad something you're looking forward to?
I'm looking forward to being with the team in Los Angeles and the coach has asked me to be a part of that.
You've got about 3 or 4 weeks under your belt with pre-season how are you feeling?
We've put a lot of work in during the past four weeks, we've probably had at least two or three weeks of two a days and the trip down to Mexico, I think we spent at least three sessions out on the beach for 45 minutes so I'm pretty beat up but you're just trying to recover and keep your game as sharp as you can. It's like that 85th to 90th minute where you're beat up by trying to keep your technique. I feel like that's where I am and I'm just trying to make sure I take care of my body and get as much rest as possible. Certainly we've had a lot of guys in and seen a lot of faces and it's an opportunity for us to get to know each other and grow as a group.
You've got two new guys at center back, Matt Hedges and Hernan Pertuz, what have you seen from them so far?
I think they're both very good center backs. With Matt, he's been here a bit longer while I've really had two sessions with Hernan and they were both 45 minutes during games. First time I saw him was under flood lights in a monsoon down in Cancun.
It's still a work in progress, but he's certainly someone that has all the attributes of somebody that you want to play with. He works hard and demands a lot of out the guys around him, he also wants the ball at his feet which is something that we want.
What did you accomplish out of the trip down to Mexico, team building and stuff like that or is it really just more training sessions?
I think we probably went down there for games and I don't think we got as many as we would have liked. We worked on our fitness a bit on the beach and I think that hearing how nice the weather was here in Dallas while we were down there in Cancun, I think that we probably roughed it a little bit down there.
It was a constant issue of trying to find a field and make sure we got the right trainings in. One of the reasons I think we're going two today and two the coming days is because we didn't quite get as much out of it as we would've liked to.