The ball is rolling and preseason is underway for the 2019 USL Championship Title-Winners at Zions Bank Training Center in Herriman, Utah. After meeting on Saturday for fitness testing, Head Coach Jamison Olave led the Monarchs onto the field for their first steps in preparation to defend the title.
Heading into his first full year at the helm of the Monarchs, Olave is aiming to keep the success of last season alive by sticking to the game plan with very few changes. Aiming to keep the team strong, the club’s new Head Coach only has one key-principle to instill into the players that take to the field.
“For me, one of the principles we are going to have is passion,” Olave said after training on Monday. “We need to enjoy what we do because that’s what soccer is all about. Enjoy training and enjoy the games and have passion in everything you do.”
The players are taking the principle to heart, as evident by their time on the training fields over the first few days of preseason.
Familiar and Fresh Faces
By Monday, the majority of the Monarchs contingent had arrived, with a few of the new Monarchs having joined Real Salt Lake in preseason training a week prior. Familiar faces such as Noah Powder, James Moberg and Jack Blake were present at the camp, joined by new signees Devin Vega, Chris Bermudez, Jimmy Slayton and Joe Gallardo.
“I feel very comfortable around the guys,” Gallardo said. “Everyone is really friendly. The coaches, everyone, makes it feel right at home so I feel comfortable and ready to get to work.”
Alongside the Monarchs, many Academy faces as well as some trialists joined the training, providing numbers for drills as well as pushing the Monarchs to perform at their best.
“That’s what we are about,” Assistant Head Coach Matt Glaeser said. “We want to push guys. We want to be a holistic club that pushes the guys up through the Academy to the Monarchs and then on to the First Team. That’s all part of the process. They understand that. The Academy kids coming in to compete with the professionals and see if they can earn a spot and earn minutes and see where it goes from there.”
Boots to the Pitch
Since rolling the balls out on Sunday, the Monarchs have been hard at work in their preparation for the 2020 USL Championship season. The club has started out their days with quick warm-ups to get the players light on their feet before transitioning into quick combination possession drills. Afterwards, the Monarchs worked on defensive drills that saw the players rushing to block shots.
Monday’s training was capped off by breaking up into four teams for small-sided matches, testing their passing, shooting and defensive footwork.
Tuesday the Monarchs held two training sessions that saw more focus on combination possession before shifting to tough counter-pressing drills. The first session was capped with a 9v9 scrimmage that saw the team apply the principles initiated over the first few days.
The second session consisted of more quick passing before the team split between the defenders and attacking players. The defenders worked closely with Olave on tactical footwork and moving as a cohesive backline while Glaeser worked alongside Goalkeeper Coach Mirza Harambasic for first-touch shooting.
“What we want to do with the football club is be a possession oriented-type of team,” Glaeser said after Tuesday’s training. “Our game model dictates that we want to move the ball and retain possession but also win it back as quick as we can. That’s something that’s from Freddy on down through us, so it’s something that we want to stress straight away. It’s got to be in our DNA. The guys have taken it on. It’s hard work but they’ve done a good job.”
It wasn’t all just drills and seriousness, as games of rock-paper-scissors brought out the laughs, prompting the losers to be chased down by the winners in a game of reaction and fitness. The first-time shots turned into a friendly competition for goals that ended up being close draws throughout.
With four days of preseason training now in the books, the Monarchs take Wednesday off for recovery before jumping back into the scene on Thursday with a double-header day of practice. The aim will be to bring together everything from the first four days of preseason in 11-a-side games.
“We haven’t really done any 10v10, 11v11 stuff yet so now how can we take some of the principles we’ve worked on this week and use those themes in 11 a side,” Glaeser explained.