DAVENPORT, Fla. – After their first scrimmage of their second stint in Orlando, the Red Bulls returned to the training pitch on Thursday morning.
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Despite the defeat, spirits were high following a video breakdown of the Orlando City match as the squad took to the field with a renewed focus and energy.
Injured Bulls Make Their Return
A number have players have been limited throughout preseason after picking up various knocks over the course of the camp, but Thursday morning’s training session brought with it some encouraging news. After featuring in Wednesday’s friendly, homegrown singing Alex Muyl participated fully on the training pitch. The Georgetown product looked lively on the day and showed off his deadly precision in front of goal.
Anatole Abang also made his return to training after missing out in the team’s 3-2 defeat on Wednesday. The forward showed few sings of rust throughout the day and was a welcome sight on the pitch. The Cameroonian contributed six goals in his rookie campaign, including the lone goal of New York’s playoff series against Columbus Crew SC.
Midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips trained both separately and with the first team at various points throughout training, while defender Ronald Zubar participated fully after sustaining an injury in New York’s 5-2 win over the Jacksonville Armada on January 31.
“Alex has trained three days now and has looked pretty sharp; he had a good day today,” assistant coach Denis Hamlett said after training. “For Ronald and Abang, it was their first day of training. Shaun is still working with Tony, so hopefully we can get him up to speed next week in training.
“Overall, it was probably one of our better training sessions since we’ve been down here. Guys looked fresh. You try to keep a good balance between getting games and some good training session, but I thought today was a good day.”
Ouimette in Orlando
International duty prevented him from joining the team during New York’s first trip to Orlando, but Canadian defender Karl Ouimette has rejoined his club teammates the second time around.
The warmer climate isn’t the only change Ouimette will have to adjust to, as the 23-year-old looks primed to have an increased role within the squad in 2016. While in his native Quebec with the Montreal Impact, then-head coach Jesse Marsch signed Ouimette in July of 2012, making him the first Academy player to sign with the senior squad.
Previously, Marsch expressed his desire to see more from Ouimette in the upcoming season.
“I think it’s a big year for Karl,” he said in Hanover. “After being around here last year and working to establish himself within the group, I think now’s the year for him to prove that he understands what it takes and that he can be a big contributor. We’re expecting that from him. It’s good to have him back from Canada camp and he’s looked sharp in the days that we’ve had him here. Expectations for Karl have grown and I think he’ll be ready to meet that.”
The central defender has already experienced a small taste of what that increased role may look like, starting alongside Gideon Baah in the first half of Wednesday’s friendly in what looked to be a largely first choice starting XI. Now in year two, Ouimette is ready to meet those expectations and has enjoyed the opportunity to rejoin his teammates in Florida.
“It’s been good, it’s been intense,” Ouimette admitted. “Jesse told me to keep things going like I did last year. I just need to keep continuing to prove myself and keep getting those minutes in. It’s going to be important for me to stay focused and help the team.”
To be at their best, the players need to do more than just work on their first touch or improve their set piece defending. And for as many hours they put in on the training ground, taking care of the body is that much more important.
That’s where Strength and Conditioning Coach Tony Jouaux comes in. The Auxerre, France native joined the team last summer and has brought with him a plethora of experience in the field, including four previous years in MLS with the Chicago Fire.
Throughout the preseason, Jouaux and the rest of the training staff have lead the squad in strength and agility exercise, with yoga sessions frequently a part of that regimen.
“The objective is to keep the players available for training, so there’s a big emphasis on injury prevention,” he explained. “We use yoga-related movements to work on hip mobility and flexibility, especially hamstring flexibility for our players.”
The process is aimed at not only keeping his players on the field for matchdays, but also having them at them ready to go for the rigors of daily training sessions throughout the year. It’s a season-long process that starts here in preseason camp, and so far, the results have been encouraging.
“It’s clear when I look at the physical data from training; their output is a lot more now than it used to be on the first week,” Jouaux added. “It’s coming together quite nicely. Right now, it’s about getting minutes through the games in the last phase of camp. The training is a little bit reduced right now so they can recover in between games. We’re trying to get them 75-90 minutes in games so they can be fit and ready to go for the regular season.”