It was a drastic change of scenery for Columbus Crew SC on Sunday afternoon. The team spent the last two weeks in Southern California training in the sunshine but took to the practice field on Sunday in snowy conditions in Columbus.
With temperatures below freezing, the team got to work just after noon. After the normal stretching, the Black & Gold players broke up into groups of 10 to play an 8 v. 2 keep away drill. If you gave up the ball, you moved into the middle to play defense.
After getting their heart rates up, strength and conditioning coach Brook Hamilton led the team through some typical cross-field jogging. From there it was back to the 8 v. 2 drill with a bit more intensity and a touch limit.
Once players were sufficiently warmed up, cones were space around the field for the team to work on passing and moving. Initially, players would simply receive a ball and pass to the next cone — spread about 25 yards apart — and then follow the pass. The idea was to play it ahead of the receiver so he could take a shot on a small goal. As the drill progressed, head coach Caleb Porter added different dynamics, such as give-and-gos with the player receiving the pass before they head toward the mini goal.
Porter was on his team about keeping things “tight” and paying attention to the details when playing these passes. “Everything has to be quality,” he told his team. “Take pride in everything you do.”
After a short break, the players were divided into three teams with two players as neutrals. Two of the teams played in a possessions game where the goal was to get six consecutive passes. When a team did that, they received a point. These were timed games and the losing team at the end of each game had to do push-ups or sit-ups. The third team during these drills worked on passing off to the side to stay warm.
Following the drills, the players were put through a series of fitness workouts, including timed runs around the field and moving the ball through close together cones. Porter encouraged the players to work hard and finish the day strong. “Those warm showers are coming,” he said.
- Porter was asked about the report out of Atlanta that midfielder Darlington Nagbe is attempting to force a trade to Columbus. As expected, Porter would not comment on players on other rosters.
- Porter did say that while the roster is not finalized, he doesn’t believe the team will make any bigger signings until at least the summer transfer window.
- This was one of the first training sessions for midfielder Wil Trapp, goalkeeper Zack Steffen and forward Gyasi Zardes with the new coaching staff after the trio took part in the January training camp with the U.S. National Team. These three players obviously added an extra dynamic, bringing their skill back to practice.
- Trapp in particular made a difference on Sunday. His voice is something you can’t miss in watching a Crew practice. As the captain, he was consistently encouraging guys. Whether it was “good pass” or “come on, we need better,” Trapp was consistently vocal with his teammates.
- Porter confirmed after practice that Trapp would indeed remain his captain and he plans on continuing to have a leadership council, as the Black & Gold have done the last two seasons.
- It is clear that there is a high level of intensity in this preseason camp. Players are going hard in the games, knowing that Porter wants everything to be a competition and winning is important.
- On interesting note was that during the final possession games, one team was made up entirely of defenders. The only rostered defender not on that team was Homegrown signing Aboubacar Keita.
- Despite not doing much finishing, rookie forward JJ Williams showed off his ability with either feet when shooting on the small goals. Having a player who can shoot either his left and his right is an asset the Crew will like about Williams.
- Injured players Josh Williams, Niko Hansen and Eduardo Sosa were all full participants in today’s drills. Waylon Francis, who was just re-acquired by Columbus last week after the injury to Milton Valenzuela, was back at training and said he was “happy to be home.”