Last Friday afternoon, head strength and conditioning coach Guido Bonini pulled the team together and urged them to work hard through the weekend because it would be smooth sailing after that. With a game on Monday and day off on Tuesday, it would simply be a matter of time until they were heading back to San Jose.
Let’s just say that wasn’t completely accurate.
On Thursday morning, the players were put through the latest offering of Matias Almeyda’s conditioning-drill-of-the-month club. Here’s how the exercise was setup:
- Half-field being used.
- Six individual squares set in a circle; Almeyda in the vacant center.
- Four attacking players on each side of each square; 24 attackers total.
- Four total defenders broken into teams of two.
Two defenders would start in the center of a given square, while the other two defenders would start in the center of an opposite square. The attackers would play keep away, using no more than one touch, while the defenders would attempt to disrupt. Getting a touch or simply breaking up a pass wasn’t enough; the defenders had to make sure the ball went outside the square. Balls were being cleared 30 or 40 yards away, just to make sure.
Once they had successfully ‘won’ possession, they would sprint to the next square and repeat. Sprint, defend. Sprint, defend. For one straight minute. Defenders running the gauntlet would be scored based on how many different squares they could get to in a single round.
At the end of the round, four new defenders would take over until everyone had gone three times. Assistant coach Omar Zarif said the tandem of Tommy Thompson and Luis Felipe were the winners.
The players’ reward for finishing this drill? The second half of training, culminating in more than 5,000 meters ran each.