Photo Courtesy Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – After spending his offseason back in his native New York, Hunter Gorskie was very happy to be back in Florida with the Tampa Bay Rowdies for the beginning of preseason. With temperatures in the mid-60s the Rowdies are enjoying training in the sun, something that has seen other USL clubs make the trip to the Sunshine State, including FC Cincinnati, who the Rowdies will face on Saturday.
“It was a tougher day, we definitely got a lot of fitness in but everything was with the ball so I love that,” said Gorskie following training on Wednesday. “I was itching to come back to Florida, getting out here and playing on grass is huge. It’s amazing weather so it just makes you happy to be coming out with the sun on your back and get proper training sessions in.”
Getting back to work has seen the Rowdies do their training on their home field, giving the new players familiarity with one of the most identifiable stadiums in the USL. The Rowdies were difficult to beat at Al Lang Stadium last year, and this early-season work is a big part of that.
With just over one month to go, players are ready to get going for the season and Gorskie is no different, back home in the sun and training at his home stadium he’s ready for the fans to return.
“I’m excited for the season to get underway, it’s been a long time off and we have big things in store for the fans this year so I’m ready to go out there with the team and just dominate.”
NEW ERA FOR HOUNDS: Monday launched the beginning of the Bob Lilley era at the Pittsburgh Riverhounds as the players returned for the first training session of the 2018 season. That saw Lilley not just standing passively on the sideline but getting onto the pitch even running around to show players exactly what he wanted as he puts his mark on the club.
“They’re getting used to me and they’re getting used to each other,” Lilley said after training. “The demands and the urgency we put on them will be a little bit of an adjustment, but for the first day we’re happy.”
Part of what will help with that transition will be the number of players that Lilley has brought with him from his last club, the Rochester Rhinos. Those players will bring a familiarity with Lilley and his style and that will help the other members of the squad to find their footing in a changed style for the Riverhounds.
“You know what to expect,” said goalkeeper Dan Lynd. “You have a clear idea what [Lilley] wants and how he wants to play, so I feel like some of the Rochester guys will be able to help out the rest of the group so we’re all on the same page.”
AT THE BEEP: Reno 1868 FC got its preseason underway on Wednesday with perhaps every players’ least favorite part of the preseason training, the beep test. Players had their health checked, going through a fitness test before they went on to getting on the park to test endurance.
Staying in shape can be a challenge through the offseason, so players take pride in getting the win in the preseason beep test to show off their offseason work. Talking a strong game before the test was midfielder Lindo Mfeka who kept his fitness going in the offseason with some work back at home.
“It's obviously tough when you don't have the entire team training with you but you have to do what you have to do to stay in shape,” said Mfeka about the offseason. “There is an area back home where I knew a lot of people played soccer. So after running, I'd play in a few pick-up games. Really just anything I needed to do to stay in shape.”
In the end it was new signing midfielder Christian Thierjung who claimed the win, bringing a strong endorsement of his signing. Another newcomer, Guy Abend finished in fifth with returning players Seth Casiple, Jordan Murrell and Brent Richards rounding out the space between, in that order.