Picture this; the final whistle blows in front of a packed Banc of California Stadium, the home of LAFC. The date is October 6, and it’s the end of the road during a long, emotional regular season in Major League Soccer. You’ve come heartbreakingly close to a spot in the playoffs thanks to an incredible late-season run. As a member of the Rapids first team, you’ve pushed your mind and your body to their limits and committed countless hours to your craft, your teammates, coaches and fans. The offseason, and some much-needed time to recover is within touching distance. But you’re also well aware that before you set off on vacation, a vital three-week stretch of uninterrupted postseason training sessions is about to take place and will serve as the foundation for securing a playoff spot in just 12 short months.
“I feel really excited that we were able to move forward as a team in this three-week period,” head coach Robin Fraser said on Friday following the end of his first postseason camp. “These sessions gave us the opportunity to continue to work at some of the principles that we tried to put in place toward the end of the season and the idea is to get guys on the same page heading into next season.”
In a given MLS campaign that lasts nine and half months, players will suit up for roughly 150 training sessions. Each of those days typically also include meetings, film study, a full warmup, and weight session in addition to 60-90 minutes of work on the field. That figure doesn’t even include double-day sessions that are common in preseason. So how did this group of players react when asked to add three weeks of training to the end of a grueling season?
“Overall, they’ve been really great. There was one day when we scrimmaged the U-19s in the middle of the second week when the energy dipped a little,” Fraser said. “But in general, I’m really, really impressed with how focused this team is and how much they enjoy the work.”
There are hurdles to overcome for postseason sessions including weather, international call-ups and buy-in from senior players. For Fraser’s side, the first two weeks of training were held outdoors and included two scrimmages against Development Academy teams while weather forced the team indoors to the Rapids’ Youth Soccer facility ‘The Eddy’ in Aurora for the final week. Sebastian Anderson (U-17 FIFA World Cup), Diego Rubio (Chile), Sam Vines and Jonathan Lewis (US U-23 camp) all spent some time representing their respective countries, but veteran players Kellyn Acosta, Kei Kamara, Clint Irwin, and newly-minted MLS Rookie of the Year Andre Shinyashiki among many others were present and accounted for in both mind and body.
“I do think that we will be in a better place come January then we would have been had we not held these sessions,” Fraser said. “It was really great that we were able to hammer away at some of our attacking principles specifically. I just feel like we’re going to be in a better place because of it.”