Riviera Maya - It won't happen overnight, and it may not happen by the end of this preseason stint, but the Red Bulls are starting to find their chemistry.
It was another hot one at training today as the boys took the pitch in Mexico for the final session leading up to Monday's preseason match against FC Dallas. Keeping with the rhythm of the week, the players kicked things off with stretching and a few cardio routines before getting into some more up-tempo drills and 11v11 action to close out the day. The team also worked on set plays and tactical work for part of the session.
Coach Hans Backe experimented with forward pairings and midfielder/defender combinations, but suggested he won't have a firm idea of what he's going to work with until tomorrow's match. He did, however, confirm he's looking to get about 45 minutes out of each guy and pull out the win.
"I think everyone, always professional and competitive, would like to win even friendly games. I think also that's for us. We want to win every friendly game," said Backe. "Then of course you need to see how the basics work; how we defend, how we attack with the basics, the runs, the understanding of each other, the understanding of the game - that's always the same way you work in preseason."
The team has the remainder of the day off and will rejoin later this evening to take in a private group showing of the Super Bowl. Defender Jan Gunnar Solli and goalkeeper Ryan Meara are among those rooting for the Giants, with Meara going so far as to boldly predict a 21-17 final score. We'll see where he stands by the end of the night.
Here are a few photos from Sunday's session:
Riviera Maya - As the Red Bulls edge closer and closer to Monday's preseason match against FC Dallas, it's more than obvious that the preparation is certainly picking up.
The squad spent close to an hour playing 11v11 on the pitch in Mexico Saturday morning. The two sides, split between blue and orange, played an up-tempo scrimmage that displayed impressive ball movement and lock-down defense. Newly acquired forward Kenny Cooper and mainstay Dane Richards showed some offensive flare, while goalkeeper Jeremy Vuolo and defender Markus Holgersson displayed some solid play in the back end.
After a long day of end-to-end action on the pitch, the team followed up with an evening worth of boxing in the resort's gym. They'll follow up with another early-morning session Sunday.
The team's been given the evening off on Sunday to better prepare for Monday's match against FCD. We'll provide Twitter and Facebook updates throughout, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Here are a few photos from today's training session:
Riviera Maya - As the Red Bulls continue to train in Mexico to better prepare for the regular season, it's more than obvious that Thierry Henry is doing the same while on short-term loan with his former club, Arsenal.
The Gunners defeated Blackburn in blow-out fashion Saturday morning, as Robin Van Persie notched a hat trick and Henry added a goal in what amounted to a 7-1 victory.
Henry subbed on in the 68th minute and scored his goal in extra time "with virtually the last kick of the game," according to Yahoo!'s Mike Collett. The goal marks Henry's second and first in the EPL since his January return to North London. He's scored both while playing in front of the home crowd at Emirates Stadium.
Red Bulls forward Kenny Cooper caught the action while preparing for Saturday's training session in Mexico. Although the two have yet to play alongside one another, the visual is feeding Cooper's imagination.
"He's world class. He was fantastic today and had another great finish, so I'm really happy for him that he's gone there and is doing so well," Cooper said. "I'm sure everyone is looking forward to his return back here."
Arsenal returns to action next Saturday against Sunderland.
Riviera Maya - The squad trained for close to two hours Friday morning on the pitch in Mexico, the longest session to date since the club arrived late Monday evening. The day kicked off with the usual passing, dribbling and warm-up drills, but later included a series of 4v4 defensive drills and, by day's end, a full 11v11.
Rafa Marquez posted a strong session with a number of on-the-mark passes, while Victor Palsson registered a few gasps with a tremendous strike from outside the box.
The intensity level has certainly been raised with each passing day in an effort to better prepare the players for next week's scheduled friendlies. Coach Hans Backe has already mentioned that players likely won't go over 45 minutes each in those matches, but the emphasis on those games remains centered on tactics and team play.
Players were given the rest of the day off following Friday's session but will return to the pitch first thing Saturday morning.
Here are a few photos from Friday's training session:
Riviera Maya - One of the new faces in Red Bulls camp this year is defender Markus Holgersson, who signed with New York on Jan. 12 after a successful stint with Swedish Allsvenskan side, Helsingborg. The 26-year-old central defender, recently coming off his first Swedish National Team call-up and debut, caught up with us after Friday morning’s practice for a quick Q&A.
How did the move come about?
MH: I was contacted by Erik Soler and there was a meeting and so on. After that, it came together fast. It was nice that he talked to me and I think New York has a great team and is a great city. It was a good choice I think.
What did you know before about American soccer and MLS?
MH: Not so much before I met Erik. But he told me a lot and I asked some other guys who have been here and now I know more.
For fans who are not familiar with you, talk about what type of player you are.
MH: I’m a central defender who wants read the game and make sure that I’m in the right position so I can win the ball that way. I (also provide) a lot of talking and leadership to get the line of the defense organized.
What attracted you to coming to New York?
MH: First, it’s a good league. I think it’s a little bit better than the Swedish League. There are really good players here – you see Henry, Beckham and Rafa Marquez playing. Second, it’s the adventure. I like to travel and see a lot, so I think it’s going to personally be very good.
You were recently called up for your first Swedish National Team camp and earned your first cap (Jan. 23, 2012 in a 5-0 over Qatar). What was that experience like for you?
MH: That was really exciting, really nice to even have one game. I think it’s really nice too for the Swedish team so I really enjoyed it.
There are several Scandinavians on the team. Has that made it easier for you to adjust?
MH: It’s much easier. Hans (Backe) is from Sweden and I talk a lot with [Norwegian Jan Gunnar] Solli and the other guys, so it’s must easier to come in. But the other guys are always open and talk a lot, so I think it’s easy to come into this team.
How’s Solli as a roommate so far?
MH: (Laughs) He’s a little bit crazy but he’s fun.
Riviera Maya - The Red Bulls held a light training session Thursday morning as they opted for the pool over the pitch. Wednesday's training session pushed the players hard, and so the coaching staff motioned for a pool day. Practice will resume as normal Friday morning.
The guys conducted a number of exercises in the pool including jogging, stretching, swimming and a little pool basketball. We won't provide a total number of air balls, but let's just say a majority of them chose wisely with a career in soccer.
Here are a few photos from the training session:
Riviera Maya - We've seen a number of comments and questions on both Twitter and Facebook regarding the preseason roster list and jersey numbers. So here's a little clarity in that department (and a nice reference for the recent photo gallery):
2- Tainio, Teemu
3- Borrajo, Jonathan
4- Marquez, Rafa
5- Holgersson, Sven Markus
6- Hertzog, Corey
7- Miller, Roy
8- Solli, Jan Gunnar
11- McCarty, Dax
13- Alvarez, Leobardo
15- Kassel, Matthew
16- Lade, Connor
17- Agudelo, Juan
18- Meara, Ryan
19 - Richards, Dane
20- Lindpere, Joel
21- Nielsen, Brian
22- Keel, Stephen
23- Maduro, Ryan
24- Vuolo, Jeremy
26- Yeboah, Raymond
27- Arteaga, Jhonny
29- Chirgadze, Giorgi
31- Glazer, Matthew
32- Angulo, Jose
33- Cooper, Kenny
40- Konopka, Chris
44- Palsson, Victor
91- Hot, Sacir
Riviera Maya - Outside of regeneration and some fitness work in the ocean/gym, there's not much on the docket for the guys today. Wednesday's session fed off each guy's competitive nature and led to a more up-tempo pace. Today, in an effort to prepare for Friday's double session on the pitch, the Red Bulls will aim to tone it down a bit.
We'll look to get some pictures up from the ocean workout later today. Until then, you can check out these photos from the first two days of training camp in Mexico:
Riviera Maya - Grey clouds led to a light rain storm during the second day of training Wednesday afternoon in Mexico. The guys got their workouts in with a bit of a natural cool down during the early part of the day but eventually saw the sun poke through during the latter stages of the session.
If one thing separates the second day of training from the first, it's the pace. From the very start it was more than obvious that the intensity meter was cranked up another notch during dribbling drills, stretching routines and shooting sessions. There was also an 8v8 match between three teams wearing yellow, blue or orange.
"Rain was good. It cooled things off, made the field a little slick, which is nice, and the ball always plays better there," said coach Mike Petke. "Especially today with a fitness session for most of the time. It's always good to have clouds and rain during that."
Dax McCarty sported a yellow bib during the 8v8 and was thoroughly impressed with the outcome of Wednesday's session.
"It was another good day. We're moving along. We're getting our touches back and I think everyone's started to get back a little bit of their rhythm."
Keeping with the two-a-day theme for this training stint in Mexico, the team rounded out a full day's worth of fitness with a late-afternoon routine in the gym.
The team will look to regenerate and recoup tomorrow before returning to the two-a-day routine on Friday. Photo galleries and more to come soon.
Riviera Maya - Training commenced as usual Tuesday morning for the first time since the team landed Monday afternoon. The obvious difference from sessions at Montclair State University was the weather (especially this time of year), but the pace and tactical work really started to pick up for the first time this season.
The session began with typical stretching and light footwork, but was quickly followed up with sprints, drills and even some scrimmage action later in the day. Jeremy Vuolo and Ryan Meara were named starters in goal during the scrimmage, and each made some tremendous saves along the way.
Coach Jan Halvorsen spoke after the session about the benefits of working out in Mexico this time of year and what he expects the team to take away from the trip.
"I think it's very important [to play down here]," Halvorsen said. "In New York this time of year it's cold and there can be snow, so it's very nice for a team to come together here two weeks to train and play on grass."
After training, the team returned to the hotel for a bite to eat and to recoup. Not long after they filed into the gym for a strength and conditioning session to round out a full day of training.
The boys are back at it again Wednesday for another two-a-day session on the pitch and in the gym. We'll keep you posted on the latest notes from camp right here on the blog, on our Twitter feed and of course on our Facebook page.