IRVINE, Calif. – Far from the cold and snow back home, preparations for Toronto FC’s 2019 season are underway as the Reds get to work in sunny California.
Since arriving on Friday afternoon, head coach Greg Vanney and his staff have worked to get the group up and running, maneuvering around some speed bumps along the way.
“We came into LA and it had rained a ton the days prior, so we’ve been chasing fields around for a couple of days,” he explained. “We’ve had to adapt, but the guys have been great; the mentality has been great.”
Some inclement pitch conditions forced a change of plans for Saturday and Sunday’s training sessions, but the Reds still made the most of their time, including a beach fitness session on Saturday evening.
TFC finally returned to the campus of UC Irvine on Monday morning, the site of their preseason camp for the past two seasons.
“The last couple of days we’ve really been getting our soccer legs under us—competing, working on our principles of play,” Vanney continued. “We’ll start building out tactically now that we’ve settled in. We have a game in a couple of days, so we’ll start preparing for that first test. Most importantly right now it’s been about work rate, mentality, fitness and getting our legs under us.”
The Reds face their first test of the year on Wednesday when they take on local USL League Two side Ventura County Fusion, and Vanney will have plenty of options to choose from in his first friendly of 2019.
Maintaining a close eye on the nearly 40 players in camp can be tricky, but the opportunity for growth is invaluable.
“It’s a challenge, but I think it’s important,” Vanney admitted. “We have a lot of young guys here with a lot of talent. When they experience this it opens their eyes, it gives them a better sense of the expectations of the first team, gets them around the first team guys and the quality of those guys.
“The early phases of preseason have more than one objective, part of it is to get those guys experience. We’ll tighten up the group as we start to move along in a couple of weeks and start to really hone in our preparations for the season which starts with the Champions League, but really it’s about preparing for the whole season. It’s a challenge for sure, but it’s a good challenge and one that, as a club, we need to be doing.”