Atlanta United got to work on Tuesday, holding the team's first training session at the Mexican National Team headquarters.
Players got in a good breakfast then took the 20-minute ride over to the training pitch. The conditions were pretty great -- sunny with a high in the 70s. Although one thing that's a factor for the players is the elevation. Mexico City has an elevation of about 7,200 feet, which is about a mile-and-half up in the air. That's a higher elevation than Denver.
Check out this absolutely EPIC drone shot our video team captured:
Given the elevation, it was important for players to acclimate their bodies to the thinner air. After a brief activation in the gym, fitness coach Jack Kimber ran the players through a thorough warm-up on the pitch. The group shuffled, high kicked, stretched their hip flexors and quads, and got in some short-distance sprints. There were some heavy breaths, but players worked to get used to the higher elevation.
After the warm-up, the players went through passing drills and rondos. Assistant coach Diego de la Torre got into the mix, chasing down the ball and adding a little of his competitive energy.
Then, the team broke up into small-sided games. During a competitive 8v8 portion, players worked together on a small field to score fast. Defender Aiden McFadden just nearly converted a header off a cross. Forward Machop Chol took on a defender 1v1 then made a nice cross to Juanjo Purata. The center pack put a good shot on frame, but newly acquired goalkeeper Clément Diop made a twitchy save.
Training wrapped and some players stayed behind a few extra minutes to get some extra work in. Purata worked with assistant coach Rob Valentino on some long-distance accuracy. Fullbacks Andrew Gutman and Brooks Lennon did some extra laps together while Amar Sejdić cheered them on.
After dinner, the team held a little bonding activity in the meal room facilitated by Ben Freakley, the team's mental health and skills coach. They were split up into four teams and asked to act out certain words like 'bicycle' and 'pirate ship.' The team with the best performance received the highest number of points. The results of the activity were pretty entertaining, and all the groups showed a lot of enthusiasm (and competitiveness) working together, even if it was just a silly game.
Watch our Instagram stories to see some of the action.
The first of Atlanta United's two preseason friendlies in México is on Saturday, Feb. 4. In what should be a fun matchup for the social media and marketing teams, Atlanta faces Atlante F.C.