When Columbus Crew SC first reconvened following a rather short offseason, head coach Gregg Berhalter broke the preseason into three parts.
"The first period is a training period where we focus on our style of play and educating the player on our style of play," he said. "For the most part, refreshing guys on what we've been doing and what we want to improve on for next season."
That stage of preseason is over after the Black & Gold returned from Florida this week.
"I thought it was great," Berhalter said of the time down south. "I thought it was one of the better training camps we've had in terms of the focus by the guys, the effort, and getting to work with everyone. I think it was really getting to work with the young guys up close and I thought they did a good job."
Now Crew SC are back at home this week and training at local indoor facility SuperKick.
"This is a great week," Berhalter said. "I think it gives us a chance to be with our families and still focus in a controlled environment. We don't have to think about the weather being as issue. The focus of the week is on defensive pressure and defensive sliding and it's a perfect setting to do so."
Each preseason while the Black & Gold are at home, SuperKick opens its doors to the club, allowing them to basically take over the facility during the day and get training sessions in when it wouldn't normally be possible due to February weather conditions.
While the team does not get a regulation size field or grass to work on, Berhalter and the coaching staff find specific areas to focus that are conducive to smaller spaces like the defensive tactics mentioned above.
"It's a nice size to do that," he said. "We want to start it in small sizes and then increase and we'll never get past the size that we have here. It's a perfect opportunity to do that."
But being back in Columbus is more than just a week in between warm weather climates. It also allows for players and coaches to take a break from the travel and hotel rooms and enjoy a little time at home.
"You get time with your family," Berhalter said of the week. "You get time back in market and I think that's important. I think what we want is extreme focus when we're on the road and I think you lose that if you draw it out too long. We were for 12 days in Florida, we go for 13 or 14 days in Tucson. It gives the guys time to refocus."
Friday is the last day Crew SC will train in Columbus during the preseason. After that, the team heads to Arizona to take part in the Desert Diamond Cup, hosted by FC Tucson, which runs from Feb. 17 to Feb. 27.
In the Cup, the Black & Gold will take on Sporting Kansas City, followed by a game with Real Salt Lake (Feb. 20), and USL side Swope Park Rangers who are owned by SKC. There will be a final matchup against Arizona United (USL), the New England Revolution, or the Colorado Rapids.
After weeks of training and no real game action, the players and coaches are looking forward to getting out on the field and competing against other opposition before beginning the regular season on March 6.
"They're ready. I mean I'm ready to play right now," Berhalter said with a laugh. "It's been a while. We had an intrasquad in Florida but you want real competition and I think the guys are itching for that. So we'll be ready."