NASHVILLE – Nashville Soccer Club took the field at its training facility on a cold Tuesday morning for the first time in 2019. It was the first of two training sessions on the day as the team will undergo two-a-day trainings throughout a majority of preseason. Below are a few notes from today’s training session with comments from head coach Gary Smith and captain Michael Reed.
Staying in Shape
The early days of training are typically heavy on drills as the technical staff works to knock off the offseason rust and get players back into form. From first touch drills to sprints, to shuttles, players went through the gamut in the club’s first session. There shouldn’t be too much rust though as all the players received offseason training programs to stay in shape. Gary Smith believes the offseason diligence has paid off.
“The things that strike me most when players come back is, ‘have they kept themselves in reasonable shape’,” said Smith. “Some of the testing will give us an idea of what they have done in the offseason. I want to be in a better spot than just using preseason to get fit. There is more work we can do with the group, less time needed to recover because their bodies are in a better place. But when I look around the group today, everyone looks to be in very good shape and that should bode well for the preseason.”
Energy and Passion
Two themes from the first practice were energy and passion as players immediately hopped in and had a spirited first practice. That energy was noted by the team’s captain, Michael Reed, and Smith who liked what they saw on day one.
“First days are always great because everyone is enthusiastic and passionate. It’s nice to see everyone fresh,” said Reed. “We are all happy, it’s all nice and it’s a lot of fun on the first day.”
Smith added, “Everyone will be feeling the same on their first day back to work. The offseason is a long period. We are all at a point where we are ready to be back out on the field and working. It’s lovely to see the new guys in town and interacting with the other players. Generally it’s just great to be back working and some of the players to get the energy out of their system. At the moment there is a lot of exuberance.”
Many of Nashville SC’s new faces had their first official practice with the club on Tuesday. Kharlton Belmar, Ken Tribbet, Darnell King, Malcolm Stewart, Connor Sparrow and Danny Vitiello all were decked out in Nashville SC blue and gold on the training field as they began to build chemistry with the players returning from last season.
Nashville MLS signings Cameron Lancaster and Daniel Ríos were both absent today’s training session to undergo MLS physicals. Both are slated to join the team for training on Wednesday.
One of the most exciting parts of every offseason is player acquisitions and movement for every club. Nashville has had a particularly exciting last two months as Smith and GM Mike Jacobs have signed a number of high level players to bolster the Nashville SC side. When asked if Nashville had any more signings this offseason, Smith addressed how he feels about the roster right now.
“I am more than comfortable with the group we have now,” said Smith. “Of course there could be an odd player added, but I don’t think many now. We are going to have a smaller group. There is more experience in this group and I certainly wanted the players that are here to be fighting if not the XI, than for the [18-man gameday roster]. I want everyone to see a way through to that.”
A big topic last offseason for Nashville SC was building chemistry within the locker room as a brand new team. This year, with 14 players coming back from the 2018 squad that made the playoffs, the foundation of chemistry and culture has been built. Both Smith and Reed commented on that change from year one to year two of the club.
“I would expect that those players that have been in and around the club for a year now, they’ll feel so much more comfortable,” said Smith. “The atmosphere feels different, not necessarily better, but players look more relaxed. There is no doubt that everyone will be more comfortable and understanding of players and staff.”
Reed added, “You build a culture in the locker room that everyone can agree on. We have that. It makes life a lot easier when you have a stable culture, stable environment and we are all on the same page so we know what to expect of each other. It’s like a smooth engine, everyone is running on the right cylinders and we are driving along just nice right now.”