Matias Almeyda - Cancun - 2019
SJEarthquakes.com

FEATURE: Almeyda emphasizes defensive work rate as key pillar to success

This morning’s practice had one main principal: defensive work rate immediately after loss of possession.

The team was put through one of their most grueling sessions to date on Thursday. Utilizing only the far side of the field, which has typically been reserved for stretches and warmups, all field players were broken into small groups within narrow lanes.

The Quakes also welcomed two ‘sparring partner’ clubs to the field in order to speed up the session and reduce down time. These clubs, comprised of youth players, offer to help professional sides while being put through the paces themselves.

All players, whether a striker like Chris Wondolowski or a center back like Guram Kashia, are expected to fulfill their defensive duties and this drill was meant to instill that mentality. They would receive a pass, dribble the length of the lane, and then race back to their original starting point before their opponent could dribble across the finish line as part of a counter-attack.

This drill is meant to simulate a loss of possession and the immediate reaction desired by Almeyda to earn it back again. The New York Red Bulls – Supporters’ Shield winners in 2018 – had performed this as well as anybody last season. The attacking players did this first while the defenders focused more on one-on-one, and even two-on-one defending, but then switched.

Players were essentially asked to dribble, change direction, sprint and repeat, only resting while teammates took their turn. This lasted nearly the entire length of training after warmups and stretches.

New Argentine winger Cristian Espinoza and recent Homegrown signing Cade Cowell were standouts after being able to break up a significant amount of counters during their allotted time.

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