With his first preseason in MLS, there’s no question what DC United’s new head coach, Hernán Losada, is currently focusing on: fitness. The issue was raised several times during the press conference this week, for the first time since the club returned to the district from a training camp in North Carolina.
“I didn’t expect the team to be so unfit,” said Losada as he talked about what he’d learned about the club in his first few weeks. That blunt assessment might turn out to be harsh, but Losada immediately added, “… the players’ mindset is great. You come to the club with a lot of positivity, ready to work hard, ready to get better. “
Losada’s daunting physical demands on the team are important for two reasons. There’s the obvious style shift that has been discussed throughout the preseason, with Losada’s emphasis on pushing opponents aggressively and relying on a high-speed style that leads to a lot of transitional play. For the players, this means that they will have to sprint more often and over longer distances than in the more conservative tactical approach of last year.
Frederic Brillant admitted that the tactical side is an important factor. “We work very hard physically and the reason is that we want to push the opponent … In the last two games the pushing has been very intense, very high. We did a lot to push the opponent, especially on the (touchline). And yes, we are pretty compact as we push and when we have the ball we want to move forward as fast as possible. “
“It was a long time outside of the field, outside of training, [it] It’s been a tough time for everyone, ”added midfielder Yamil Asad, alluding to the fact that United’s official off-season lasted around four months.
However, Losada’s thought process is not just about turning a tactical blueprint into reality. There’s also an economic reality that United is showing little sign of making a name for itself in the MLS again. If the Black and Reds want to climb back on the table and argue, the solution will most likely rest on reworking opponents in at least 2021, much like some of the recent Supporters Shield winners (including the current owners, the Philadelphia Union).
“If you want to compete with teams that are better than us, teams with more budgets and better players than us, we have to be the fittest team in the league and we still need time. Established Losada.
The new boss currently believes United can run their fixture schedule to a high standard “for 60, 65, 70 minutes” and adds that the process is likely to continue once the MLS regular season kicks off. “It will take some time to get the intensity and energy that we use during games and sessions to play like this for 90 to 95 minutes.”
Despite the emphasis that the team is not where it needs to be when it comes to fitness, Losada said he was pleased with how the preseason has gone and what he’s found since arriving in the U.S. in late February. “There is still a lot to be done but I have to say I did not expect this progress after five weeks of preseason,” Losada said, later adding that his first impressions of the club as a whole are, “They” It is a very positive one , young group in and out of the field, a medical team, medical staff or people from the administration, physical trainers, a group ready to change. “
While the scorelines haven’t followed United’s path in the last two preseason games – they fell 2-0 to the Union and 2-1 to NYCFC last week – Losada claimed the team got its approach. “I had a good feeling with (the last two preseason games) what I saw on the field,” said Losada. “They are also looking forward to the first game, a home game against New York City, and we expect we can play for the points as soon as possible. Maybe not me, I would like a few more weeks to get my group fit, but the guys are really looking forward to the first game. “
Asad said he feels the team is improving at a good rate. “I think we’re getting better. We’re working on the coach’s idea and I think we feel something we’re building from the group. “Brillant agreed, noting that re-watching the second game changed his impression of how things were going for the group.
“The last two games are now an identity and we know exactly where we are going,” said Brillant. “To be honest, I had a bad feeling after the last game, but I saw the game twice and everything we were working on in the preseason, we saw … We are all on the same page, we are all [having] the same idea so I am confident. “
Even when it came to fitness, Losada said that while the amount of soil to cover was surprising, he was pleased with how far the group had come to this point in the preseason. “I don’t think we’ll be physically ready for April 17th, but we’ve improved a lot compared to where we came from. It was a long pause. “
Even so, many players were unable to participate in full training sessions. Paul Arriola, Steven Birnbaum, Bill Hamid and Felipe Martins now have known injuries, while the newcomers Jovanny Bolivar and Nigel Robertha needed time to get their US visas and clear the Covid-19 quarantines.
On the injury front, Losada said there haven’t been many new problems within the group. Kevin Paredes, who didn’t show up in the preseason has been restricted due to an injury from last year, but there is hope that he will be 100% back in the next few weeks.
Losada noted that defender Chris Odoi-Atsem was able to attend during the first preseason session but has been out since then. Local defender Jacob Greene was hit in a challenge earlier this season and has had an unrelated “overload” on his quadriceps ever since. In Spanish, Losada added that attacker Yordy Reyna is likely to be sidelined for three or four weeks after sustaining an injury in the 5-1 win over Loudoun United.
While Losada has asked for time to physically prepare the team to implement their tactical blueprint, he is keeping the roster at a very high level. “I don’t think the results will be there (quickly) … we are working for it, but our main goal is for you guys to watch DC United [is] At least you have a good feeling about the way we play and you know exactly what we want. You will see a DC United aiming for victory every weekend. And that’s the biggest part of having an identity, a style of play where players know exactly what to do in each situation in the game. “