After three weeks of preseason training, Crew SC is prepared to take the field for the first time in 2015 when the Black & Gold take on FC Dallas in the ATX Pro Challenge in Austin, Tex on Friday. While other clubs in MLS have already played multiple preseason matches, Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter emphasized that teaching his system and conditioning would be the focus of the Black & Gold's first few weeks of preparation.
"We did the same thing last year, " Berhalter said. "We want to focus the first two weeks on conditioning and teaching. We ended last year, the first camp, with that Malmö game. This year, we played intrasquad for 45 minutes. In terms of the game-load, it was the same game-load as last year's camp. We're comfortable with that way to do it."
With several new additions in camp this preseason, Berhalter expects to get a look at every player in match action during the trip to Austin. However, Berhalter does not have his starting XI set for the regular-season opener on March 7 in Houston as he continues to evaluate the talent on his roster.
"We're competitive in a lot of spots," Berhalter explained. "I think that we've added depth, we've addressed some depth in some key positions. It's going to be tough. These guys are working hard, and the starting XI is going to be difficult to figure out."
He continued: "The first couple of games, we're going to go 45-45 (minutes), and give everyone the opportunity to play. As we move deeper into the [IMG Suncoast Pro Classic], we'll start to give guys more minutes. In the first couple of games, it's going to be more of just a split based on what mood we're in."
With a break from the typical drills and workouts that come with preseason training, Crew SC's players are looking forward to finally playing in a match on Friday.
"Of course, everyone is eager for the season, to get playing," defender Chris Klute said. "No one really likes the fitness part of it. We’ve got six or seven games. They’re coming, but you’ve got to have a baseline first."