Fun in the sun highlights recovery days as preseason wears on 

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Preseason training for FC Cincinnati is designed to prepare players and staff to start the 2024 season in the best way possible. That can be grueling at times. Almost every minute of every day is programmed to optimize preparation – from training sessions, treatments, video reviews, meetings, team meals and external requests – getting prepared for success in 2024 is paramount.

That grind has dawned a toll, but everyone involved in executing "the plan" is aware of that and thus has planned events to ensure bodies and minds are rested and refreshed.

Saturday was an excellent example of such planning.

Having played 120 minutes of soccer the day before in a friendly 4-3 victory over Philadelphia Union, The Orange and Blue needed to regen and recover for the next week of training so they could hit the ground running Sunday when they returned to the training pitch for full action.

Typically, that sort of regen happens at the field or the training facility, but instead, FCC headed to the beach for a morning of fun and sun. After a short walk from the hotel, The Orange and Blue found a quiet space for some morning stretching and yoga before taking to the beach volleyball courts and splitting into teams to play footvolley. It’s a game that combines the structure of volleyball with the rules of soccer, so anything goes… but no hands.

Young goalkeepers Hunter Morse and Paul Walters were designated as captains and picked their sides for the best-of-three series with matches played to 15 points.

Preseason - Beach Recovery Session - Feb. 10, 2024
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Walters took the 2023 Landon Donovan MLS MVP with his first pick and rounded out his squad with Alvas Powell, Bret Halsey, Nico Benalcazar, Marco Angulo, Miles Robinson, Kipp Keller, Álvaro Barreal, Corey Baird, Stiven Jimenez and Malik Pinto.

Morse took a taller approach, selecting Alec Kann and Matt Miazga with his first selections before finalizing his squad with Yuya Kubo, Ian Murphy, Obinna Nwobodo, Aaron Boupendza, Dado Valenzuela, Roman Celentano, Pavel Bucha and Isaiah Foster.

Team Morse was ultimately victorious, taking the series two games to one. Benalcazar, training with the first team after signing a deal with FCC 2 this offseason, had the biggest highlight of the day as the young defender earned a point by bicycle-kicking a ball behind his back over the net for a point.

After the victory was earned, a quick dip in the Gulf of Mexico was ordered and utilized like a cold tub bath. Despite the chilly temperatures and some hesitant bathers, all took the plunge before Miazga unveiled a foam football and began to play a game of catch. In contrast, others continued to pass and dribble the volleyball from earlier.

It was a fun morning, full of laughter and smiles, but this group's competitive edge could not be quenched. So, while the tone of the games was lighter, the desire to win was clearly evident. For example, the amount of effort put into advocating calls for their side to Director of Sports Performance/volleyball referee Gary Walker (who was unflappable despite vocal protests on difficult decisions) was near Olympic level.

Part of the break was to keep the mind fresh; there is a long season ahead, and after a short offseason – thanks to the success of 2023 – needing a fresh mind for the entire season is vital. But it also allowed teammates to gel and get to know each other. One of the newest members of The Orange and Blue, Pavel Bucha, was an early selection to Team Morse and was celebrated for his skill in winning many points for his side.

Full training resumed Sunday at FC Cincinnati's preseason home in Clearwater, so the focus has realigned to that. But this will not be the last of these fun functions.