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Three things to watch during the Arizona portion of preseason

Here are three things I will be watching during the next two weeks as the team begins spring training with a stretch in Arizona.

MLS: Preseason-New England Revolution vs Real Salt Lake Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Watching the great Beyond a MLS Super Draft feature recently put up by the team (Massive kudos to Tyler Gibbons and his crew as well as all the staff who were willing to be mic’ed up) has me thinking about what signs of progress and growth I will be looking for during the two weeks in Arizona as the players, old and new, report in and spring training kicks off in earnest. Here are three things I will be watching and invite you to join in.

Injuries and Missed Training Sessions

While RSL has had a great off-season conditioning program in place for some time, it remains up to the players to see that the work gets put in and that they come ready for a fast start to the season. In addition, there will be a number of new faces at both RSL and the Monarchs this year that may not be as familiar with team procedures and methods.

Hopefully the departure of Dan Barlow and the arrival of Henry Ruggiero as Director of Physical Performance will herald in a new regime like that Andreas Kornmayer and Mona Nemmer brought to Liverpool this season. Let’s hear more success stories like Justen Glad’s salmon diet of last off season and less of the niggling soft tissue injuries that have seemed to plague RSL in the past. A period of relative isolation in Casa Grande is a great time to start such an effort.

RSL and Monarch Integration

A great deal has been made this off-season of the new spirit of integration between the staffs of parent RSL and the Monarchs. Freddy Juarez has moved up to an Assistant Coach position with RSL while Mike Petke and Mark Briggs have been brought in to coach the Monarchs. However, that momentum will hit the grass for the first time in Arizona. As Craig Waibel said in the video:

How the players on both squads react in the early days of preseason will go a long way to determining if the squads return to “The Team is the Star” and move beyond some of the cliques that have soured the locker room over the past few years. In the interviews to come, I will be watching to see how the players express their understanding of both teams approach to matches this season and their role in that approach. Does it appear that the players have had “the conversation” and know how and where they each fit into the squad.

Defensive Shape and Approach

Typically preseason begins with conditioning and attempts to establish a consistent defensive approach and shape. Offense tends to lag behind and be addressed later in preseason. In the games scheduled against the Red Bulls on Tuesday, Jan. 31 and the Earthquakes on Friday, February 3rd, I will be looking for a consistent approach toward the defensive side of play regardless of who is on the pitch. Understandable, abilities and speed will vary, but does the approach taken and the style of play remain consistent throughout.

While goals may get the news headlines, defensive play will be the name of the game and help to set up rotation and playing. Beyond the established veterans, who sees the pitch and where do they play?

What Are You Watching?

Free free to comment about what you are watching as we finally get back out on the grass and have something to watch...