Preseason isn’t the most glamorous part of the MLS season. Far away from the roar of the crowds, this is where the important work happens: building the fitness and conditioning necessary for the year to come. But while it may not be quite as fun, goalkeeper Brad Guzan say it’s crucial for team-building.
“When you get together for an extended amount of time, especially away from home, spending time with each other 24/7, we know that we are building a foundation for a long year ahead,” he told reporters this week. “That’s what this trip is about: making sure our fitness levels are good, working on our understanding of each other, getting to know one another with the new guys. So it’s been good.”
Integrating the new players into the squad is a crucial piece of the preseason puzzle. That includes the goalkeepers, with Mitch Hildebrandt joining from USL and Paul Christensen added in the MLS SuperDraft. Guzan calls them welcome additions to the roster.
“They’ve added quality to our group,” he says. “It’s important that you’re always pushing each other and finding ways to challenge each other in training and making each other better. That’s an important part of it. So they’ve come in and slotted in quite nicely in terms of what they bring to the group, and I think we’ve been able to help them as well.”
After spending years with English side Aston Villa, Guzan then moved to Middlesbrough and then back to his native country with Atlanta United in just a few seasons. It’s a lot of moving in a short amount of time, so a little stability this offseason was a welcome change.
“Whether it’s after year one or year five or whatever it may be, you develop a certain relationship with guys on and off the pitch. Ultimately I think that can help, especially during the difficult moments that you may face throughout the season. The fact that we have year one under our belts as a group, it’s important now that we take that as an advantage and build on that and make sure that this group and what we’re trying to do as a club moves in the right direction.”
With the foundation forged in Orlando, the squad now awaits their first test on the pitch in the Music City as they face Nashville SC in their first preseason match of 2018.
“It’s always exciting when you get to play a real game in front of our fans and in front of an exciting atmosphere. So we’re looking forward to it in that aspect. But most importantly, just playing football and trying to get some of the kinks out that come with playing a real game. We know it may not look perfect at times, but that’s what these games are for.”
As the squad progresses through preseason, the kickoff of the 2018 season inches closer each day. The team will start the season on the road against the Houston Dynamo before making their home debut against D.C. United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on March 11th. Tickets are still available for that match, make sure you’ve reserved your spot here.