Throughout the 2019 preseason, we'll be checking in from camps in Florida and Chula Vista as the Rapids prepare for their season opener on March 2. In this installment, we take a look at the first few days of the preseason camp in Bradenton, Florida.
Trading snow for sunshine as Florida camp gets underway
Once photos started floating around on social media of all the snow in Denver, I was very excited to be here in Bradenton in the warm weather. It'll be a good 11 days at the IMG Academy as the players return from the offseason and begin to get back into match form. The focus in this first camp will be centered on fitness and installing the groundwork for the system that head coach Anthony Hudson and his staff want to play.
"Everyone's starting to pick up, very quickly, the concepts of how we want to play and I think there's a clear idea of that. We're all gearing up for our first test against Cincinnati," Hudson told team media following a session last week.
The Rapids will continue to build fitness and familiarity with an eye on their first friendly here in Florida. That match will take place Saturday, February 2 against FC Cincinnati.
The facilities at IMG are nothing short of incredible, from the training grounds, to the weight room and everything else in between. The players typically have an early breakfast in their meal/meeting room (decked out in Season Ticket Member gameday flags by the way) before heading to a training session at noon. Following the first session it's time to recover before either a second training session or some time in the gym.
Newcomers getting up to speed quickly
Throughout the offseason, Executive VP/GM Pádraig Smith and the soccer operations staff have been hard at work building the roster ahead of the 2019 campaign. While signing all of these new guys has been great, the real fun truly began once we saw them in action.
You know when Tiger Woods hits a golf ball or Mike Trout hits a baseball it just sounds different? Well the same goes for Diego Rubio striking a soccer ball. His power and accuracy has been something that has immediately stood out and Rapids fans should be VERY excited to see what the new forward will bring to the side.
Nicolás Mezquida has also impressed with his quality on the ball. The club was in search of a creative attacking midfielder this offseason and there's no reason for the Uruguayan to not be that guy. His playmaking and workrate make the game look easy. It immediately catches your eye and he should provide for some fun moments this season.
Finally, Benny Feilhaber has been everything you expected him to be: Technical, crafty and a true leader on and off the pitch. Someone like the 2015 MVP Finalist can only help this young locker room and particularly 17-year-old Cole Bassett who has already taken advantage by doing everything he can to learn from the MLS vet.
"I thought he was the best player I played against last year," Bassett said from Florida. "Just learning from him, sitting with him at the dinner table and then learning from the rest of the guys. Talking to Diego, getting to know your strikers so that you have a good relationship, it helps a lot."