Week of the game
It’s Saturday evening and we’ve just beaten Phoenix Rising away in Phoenix 1-0 with a goal from Sebastian Velasquez. It’s a very pleasing result against a team that would be one of our toughest competitors throughout the season. The goal came exactly as we had planned and spoke about as a staff - and completely silenced the 7,000 Rising fans in attendance.
It’s 9:45pm and we have just arrived back at our hotel. We will not be flying back to Salt Lake until Sunday afternoon, so I’ve given the players the evening to themselves and warn them to be sensible as we have a big few weeks ahead of us. My mind has already switched to the next game where preparations begin as my staff and I enjoy a well-deserved cold one at the bar. We discuss how the week went, things we would do differently and things we thought went well. After our brief chat, everyone receives their instructions for the week ahead. We all head back to our rooms where my assistant staff will begin watching the last five games of our next opponent, Seattle Sounders 2, marking down the minutes where they spot something good (or bad) that can better help us in our own tactical preparation. This will then lead to them putting video clips together of the upcoming opponent, S2, which we will present to the team before Wednesday’s training session.
I go back to my room to re-watch our 1-0 win against Phoenix. Before I begin, it’s always a call to the wife and a call to my daughter to make sure they’re both doing okay. I then proceed to watch the game three times back. On the third time, I will dissect the game and find usually around 14 clips of passages of play that we did extremely well and clips of play that we still need to do better with. This process usually takes up my evening, the next morning and then the flight home.
Sunday mornings we all meet for breakfast and then the players do a recovery session in the pool/gym area with Marshall (athletic trainer) and/or Ryan (strength & conditioning coach) where the players that played 70 minutes or more will recover and the players that need to get some work into their legs will be out through their paces. This ensures that mentally and physically when they report back on Tuesday everyone is in the same spot and we can begin our week on an even keel. Myself and my staff discuss our findings from the footage we have watched over the past 48 hours and we relay this to our video analyst who then puts the clips together in time for me to present on Tuesday (recap) and Wednesday (scout of opponent).
The players are given Monday as their day off, my staff and I meet at 10am. Olave, Matt and Danny have given Preston the clips they found on our next opponent - usually around 30-40 clips. We then take the next however many hours to narrow those clips down to the 14 we like to present to the team. We then sort out the week’s training sessions based on our next opponent.
Players report for training the next morning; video of the game against Phoenix is presented before training and then the team goes out to train which is usually a medium load session. After training, the staff meet to discuss the session and then go over the Sounders’ clips that I will present before the following day’s training session. We then tweak and finalize the week’s sessions and really make sure that the sessions are going to work on exposing Seattle’s weaknesses.
Wednesday is usually the day we find out from the first team what players we will have with us for that weekend’s game. Wednesday is the big day for the players. Wednesday is when we put them through their hardest session of the week; it’s very important they are in the proper physical shape and make sure we are peaking at the correct time of the season. We also cover tactical aspects and they follow on from the video that has just been presented to them. In the afternoon, my staff and I take the individual groups and do video work with each group (defenders, midfielders, forwards).
Thursday then becomes our tactical day. Thursday is when I physically walk through the ideas and the personnel that will take the field against Seattle. The session is all about making sure the players understand how we will play and how we feel we can exploit their weaknesses. It’s an open dialogue with the players, but once they walk off the field on Thursday morning they have to understand what’s expected and what to do in all scenarios of the game. It’s very important every minute detail is covered. Thursday afternoon is followed by more individual video that is tailored to each specific player and is very detailed so the understanding of tactics and positional play in and out of possession are clearly understood.
When Friday comes around, you can feel the energy and excitement to get back on the field. We always do the same session on a Friday; passing exercise, three team possession and then three team games with bumpers - which the players love. It’s short and sharp. Then the starting team takes the field with me and the players not involved take the shape of how we expect Seattle to line up. I walk through all the scenarios I feel the players need to understand, followed by set pieces and then give the players five minutes to themselves to mentally prepare. It’s then off to the airport for the quick flight to Seattle.
Friday afternoon/evening we arrive at the hotel and have a team meal at 7:30pm. The players are given handouts of set pieces and overall tactical information for the game. They are then given the evening to relax and prepare for the game the following day.
Game day has arrived. First, it’s down for breakfast at your own speed and then with Marshall and Ryan for the activation and team walk at 11am. We meet at 3pm for our team meal and my presentation to the team. This is where they are given complete expectations and all preparation needed before the game. We meet on the bus at 5pm and travel the 15 minutes to the stadium for a 7pm kick off. At 6:05pm, I do my team talk and motivate the players to carry out all tactics worked on during the week and also give them the confidence to go and express themselves and play to the level we know we can. The players go out to warm up and then come back in at 6:45pm. They get their kits on and then at 6:55pm I talk one last time. This is the real motivational push and getting the group going and ready to battle.
As a coach, once the guys take the field, you have to hope you have successfully done your job and the players carry out your tactics. In this instance, this was the case. We won 3-1 and Richard Ledezma made his first professional appearance. Post-match, Richie keeps the game ball and everyone signs his jersey. A fantastic week of training and work. Two games, six points and a professional debut for a boy with a bright future. Remember his name.