Despite having played a match on Wednesday, the Rapids practice on Thursday morning was difficult and on the long side. However, the short-sided tournament that Colorado played kept the mood light and spirits high, as the team enjoyed the perfect weather at the Kino Sports Complex in Tucson.
The coaching staff was pleased with the level of Thursday's session, coming off a difficult few days (Sunday game in Las Vegas, flight to Denver on Monday, flight to Tucson on Tuesday, match on Wednesday). The team opened and closed the training session with a 20-minute jog, continuing to develop the endurance necessary for every player to be ready to play the full 90 minutes on March 15.
"Coming off a long travel week, and playing 45 minutes in a game yesterday, guys could take a long time to get back into the swing of things," explained Pablo Mastroeni. "And being that it's preseason, you'd like the guys to spring back.
"Today, it started with just a great attitude and great energy. This was the hardest we've pushed the guys to date, and the response was terrific with the work ethic, and grasping a few different concepts that we want incorporated. The overall feel and the attitude, spirit of the team was terrific."
After passing and possession drills, the team split into four teams for a 5-v-5 tournament. The four teams played each other in the Group Stage before the top two teams played for first place and the bottom two played for third.
The teams were:
Orange: Albert Edward, Juan Guzman, Nick LaBrocca, Drew Moor, Gabriel Torres
Blue: Marlon Hairston, Kamani Hill, Dillon Serna, Nathan Sturgis, Marvell Wynne
Gray: Deshorn Brown, Marvin Chavez, Chris Klute, Samuel Galindo, Grant Van De Casteele
Yellow: Edson Buddle, Charles Eloundou, Jose Mari, Dillon Powers, Jared Watts
The three keepers, as well as goalkeeper coach Chris Sharpe, rotated teams.
Group Stage Results: Orange 1-1 Blue; Gray 4-2 Yellow; Blue 1-0 Gray; Orange 0-1 Yellow; Gray 1-0 Orange; Blue 1-0 Yellow.
Group Stage Standings
1. Blue (2-0-1, 7 points)
2. Gray (2-1-0, 6 points)
3. Yellow (1-0-2, 3 points)
4. Orange (0-1-2, 1 point
In the third place game, Yellow and Orange tied 1-1 and went to a penalty shootout, where four players made their shots and one missed for each team, at which point the coaches declared a draw.
Meanwhile,in the "Gold Medal" match, Blue and Gray played to a 1-1 draw before going to a sudden-death shootout, where Dillon Serna made his shot (just out of the reach of Sharpe) before Clint Irwin saved Deshorn Brown's shot to give the win to Blue.
The team then ate lunch at Kino Sports Complex before returning to the hotel.
With several teams in Tucson to participate in the Desert Diamond Cup, many players and coaches are reconnecting with friends from around the league. The Chicago Fire trained on the field next to the Rapids, and players chatted with former Colorado players Jeff Larentowicz and Quincy Amarikwa, while Pablo Mastroeni spoke to former U.S. National Team players C.J. Brown and Clint Mathis, both on the Fire's coaching staff. Familiar faces were on another adjacent field as well, with Chivas USA (and their former-Rapids coaching staff) just next door.
NICKS AND KNOCKS
A few players didn't train on Thursday, as Vicente Sanchez sat out due to some soreness from the game on Wednesday and Marc Burch missed a second straight day due to tightness in his back. The staff pointed to the recent travel and the hard surface in Las Vegas as some of the reasons for the soreness. Shane O'Neill continue to make good progress on his hamstring in individual work with the Athletic Training staff.
MEETINGS IN THE AFTERNOON
While the players had only one training session on Thursday (as is usual for the team), the group will meet again in the afternoon for a pair of meetings organized by Major League Soccer. The league takes preseason as an opportunity to speak to the players on a variety of topics, including policies and rules.