In less than a week Toronto FC will play their first match of the season.
The Reds will travel to Panama to face Club Atletico Independiente de la Chorrera on Tuesday, February 19 for the opening leg of the 2019 Concacaf Champions League Round of 16.
Since mid-January, the side has been in California busy with preparations for the year ahead.
“It's gone well,” said Greg Vanney on Friday. “From a physical standpoint we're achieving what we want: to get guys fit, durable for a long grind of a season.”
The first half of camp saw Toronto play matches against LAFC, UC Irvine, and Las Vegas Lights FC – a scheduled date against Japanese side Vissel Kobe was cancel due to flash flooding.
In the second phase, TFC played out a pair of 1-1 draws on Friday and Saturday, against Orange County SC and the LA Galaxy, respectively, while Tuesday saw another pair of split-squad games: a scoreless draw against Club Tijuana in the afternoon and a 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids in the evening with Jonathan Osorio and Terrance Boyd finding the back of the net.
“The games are important for match fitness,” stressed Vanney about the busy preseason schedule. “From a tactical standpoint, we're still a little new, trying to achieve some of our objectives with everybody. A lot of important pieces just joined us in the last [week]. We've made and are making progress, but now that we have everybody in we're just trying to get on the same page.”
Osorio, who underwent surgery in the offseason, is one of those who has only gotten back into full training recently. He explained the two facets that are being emphasized in preseason: fitness and tactics.
“Getting ourselves ready to endure a long season with multiple competitions,” summarized Osorio of the first aspect of preseason. “We're taking it day-by-day, being smart are how hard we train on certain days. And getting the system down pat, an identity, the style of play that we want. Trying to nail that down. We're spreading it out and making sure that we're ready for when the games start.”
That tactical element is equally important.
“The team is working through our game plan, what we want to do,” outlined Jordan Hamilton. “Set up our foundation and work from there.”
“Preseason is about everyday you get better; the group has done that,” added Hamilton. “We're looking forward to the [match on the] 19th, but at the same time we're focused on being ready for it.”
That influx of healthy players, the return of Michael Bradley and Marky Delgado, and the addition of Terrance Boyd, as well as the proximity of kickoff, has seen the intensity rise.
“Now with myself, the guys from the US National Team, and some of the other injured guys back in full training, it's really picked up,” said Osorio. “We see ourselves going in the right direction.”
While the soccer fields of California are lush and green, the winds howl and swirl around an icy BMO Field, which will host the second leg on February 26. TFC will wrap up their preseason camp this week and return to Toronto before heading off to Panama for the first leg.
“The guys are looking forward to playing,” said Vanney. “You can tell now that we're a week away from starting, you can feel the urgency is up a little more, the intensity is up a little more. Things are ramping up towards getting this thing started. We all feel like this next week, of games and training, are very important towards that progression.”
Added Osorio: “We sense that the first game is coming. We get more and more excited each day, more motivated. It's normal. The offseason seems very long, but it creeps up quick. Everybody can sense that. We will be ready for that first game in Panama.”