For anyone who’s been through an intense preseason before — at any level — you know how it can wear on you.
It always starts with excitement. It’s fun to get back into the swing of things, playing regularly and getting together with your teammates. But that excitement is steadily worn down from the grueling nature of preseason training. Two a days are draining, especially when packed full of the requisite fitness work. Too, it can be tough to go toe to toe with teammates on a day to day basis and maintain that cutting edge. You can see the progress being made, but it can be a grind.
And predictably, it’s been no different with FC Cincinnati’s first ever preseason.
A full squad of 25 players now assembled, Coach John Harkes has spent the last two weeks putting the boys through paces here in what has been a mostly frosty Cincinnati. Luckily, the team has had Wall2Wall’s spacious indoor facility in Mason and the University of Cincinnati to help avoid the colder temperatures. Harkes and his staff have been nothing but pleased with how the team is progressing, too. But after more time spent running around indoors than not, and squaring off against the same teammates drill after drill — a change in scenery would be a welcomed by just about everyone.
So on Tuesday morning, the team boarded a plane for 12 days of fresh air, sunlight and warmer weather training at the renowned IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
But just as important as it was for the guys to get into new surroundings — not to mention getting some additional Vitamin D exposure — migrating preseason south also provides a much needed opportunity to test things out against a different set of players. Afterall, in the 15 days or so they’ve been together so far, they’ve really only played against themselves.
That’s exactly why the team has worked so hard to take part in the second annualIMG Suncoast Pro Classic. The week-long tournament will provide three games against very different competition: Iceland’s KR Reykjavik, Denmark’s HB Køge, and Major League Soccer’s New York City FC. Plus, with so many other elite teams training at IMG this time of year, it also allowed for the easy quick arranging of a closed door scrimmage on Thursday against the US Under-17 Men’s National Team.
So how is it all going?
“The guys have been progressing along nicely,” Harkes told me in a phone conversation on Wednesday night. “We’re still looking to get everyone to match fitness. Really everything we’re doing right now is to help prepare the guys for the tournament this weekend.”
A scrimmage against the talented youngsters in the U-17 camp would certainly be able to aid in that department. But I was also curious to see what else Harkes would be looking for out of that and any remaining matches in Florida.
“We’ve been looking forward to giving the guys run outs in game situations. It’s nice to go against different opposition for a change, too. And not only has it allowed us to see guys getting in minutes, but it’s also given us a chance to look at different combinations.”
So the change in scenery seems to be fulfilling a lot of wishes for FC Cincinnati, the players and the coaching staff. But when would the rest of us get to partake in such pleasures?
Luckily, the wait won’t be long.
Starting with tomorrow’s 5pm friendly match against KR Reykjavik, IMG will stream all of FC Cincinnati’s matches during the Suncoast Pro Classic on their website for a cost of $5.99 for a 24 hour pass or $14.99 for a month-long pass that will cover all three games.
But for those who want to watch in the company of fellow supporters, seven of ourPub Partners will be livestreaming the matches on their TV’s:
Stay tuned for further information on each of the opponents FCC will face in the IMG Suncoast Classic, including exclusive video content.