Have you had a chance to watch the debut episode of our new series Behind The Crest? If you haven't, it's at the top of this article. Give it a watch. It's alright, I'll still be here when you're finished.
From the photography to the editing to the storytelling, BTC easily one of the best all-access series I've watched in MLS. And I'm not just tooting our digital and broadcast teams horns. Each week in this column, I do my best to give you an inside look at LAFC through the lens of training. The first episode of BTC is the literal visual lens into LAFC.
So, I think the best way to talk about this week in preseason training, and how LAFC training almost every week, is through a couple of moments from the first episode. Specifically, I want to focus on the section from 2:20 to 5:24.
In this segment, we start with Bob Bradley in the video room. The LAFC head coach has brought the team together, as they do to start almost every week, to look at some football. These aren't simply plays from LAFC matches, things the team did well or could improve, although there is some of that. The video Bradley and his staff show each week is specifically curated to that week's training and it can be anything the prior week's training sessions to a moment in a previous match to a great goal from a team like Barcelona, Liverpool, Man City, etc.
Before he gets into the day's video work, Bradley pretenses the presentation by saying everything the players will see relates to LAFC's game model.
The game model has become a term du jour as of late but it always been around. As more coaches around the world focus on a definitive style of play, we've come to hear about it more. But to put it bluntly, the game model is simply a team's football. As Bradley puts it in the clip, "The game model is everything. It's what happens when we get the ball, positioning, it's spacing, it's positional play, it's looking forward... it's all of this and it's what happens when you lose the ball."
Each week, Bradley and his staff reinforce the game model through video sessions and while setting the tone for the week's training sessions. In those moments, new ideas are brought to the forefront. And then they're trained throughout the week. After the week, the coaching staff reviews that week's training, then a match or preseason friendly if the team has one, clips more video, and prepares to show it to the squad as the cycle starts again.
This week in training was no different. A video session early in the week made way for a training session that reacclimated players to the game model. From there, the week's training stepped up a notch. New ideas were thrown at players. The new ideas are trained in smaller, controlled drills to sharpen players' movements and speed of thought before being brought into larger games more akin to a real match.
There are more stoppages in preseason training. Bradley isn't shy with his whistle. In those moments, there's usually a lesson to be learned. Sometimes it's for the entire squad. Other times it's for individuals.
It doesn't just come from Bradley. Every stoppage is a moment to learn. It's pretty common to see Bradley with his arm around a player, pointing out different areas of the pitch, while Mike Sorber is showing another player technique in receiving passes in tight spaces. Ante Razov has players looking for sharper attacking runs. Kenny Arena is working with the backline on stepping up. All the while, Zak Abdel is keeping his goalkeepers sharp by shouting for long diagonals to be sent to him at the edge of the touchline.
Without oversimplifying it, that's a preseason week of training. If you're keeping track at home, it goes Identity - Ideas - Group Learning - Practical Application - Individual Coaching. That's the foundation of what's on display on matchdays. It's the work that's done every day at LAFC.
Sure, there's new faces and transfer rumors and excitement in preseason, too. But the first episode of Behind The Crest gave us a window into the actual work being done. The stuff that doesn't always make the headlines.
So, I'm hooked. Can't wait for the next episode.
News & Notes
- Ecuador finished last in its CONMEBOL Olympic Qualifying group and won't move on to the final stage. As a result José Cifuentes is on his way to join his new team. Cifuentes is expected to arrive as early as Saturday in LA. He'll be assessed by the performance and medical staffs before joining the squad for training.
- Eddie Segura and Eduard Atuesta are moving on to the final stage of the CONMEBOL Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Colombia finished second in its group and will join Brazil, Argentina, and one more country in the final stage. The final stage consists of a four-team round-robin. The top two teams at the end of the stage qualify for Tokyo 2020.