The Swope Park Rangers hit another milestone when they held their first official practice Monday morning. A combination of roster players and trialists were on hand for the first practice.
Rangers' Coach Marc Dos Santos seemed happy with the first day despite having to move inside due to cold and wind. "It was good," Dos Santos stated after practice. "It's not always ideal to train inside because for some players it is confusing a little bit, the lines, but this is a great facility. Especially if outside is like today because they could risk injury on a day like today."
"I liked what I saw," Dos Santos continued. "The mentality of the group was good. They want to learn, they are guys that want to get into understanding what we want from them ASAP. So looking at all of that, I think that the beginning is good and what we can build from here is going to be very interesting."
Preseason roster players
Most of the players under contract were in camp. Oumar Ballo D, Christian Duke D/M, Johnny Grant D, Mark Anthony Gonzalez F, Dane Kelly F, Alex Molano M, Nansel Selbol F, Kris Tyrpak F, Ualefi Rodrigues dos Reis M were all practicing.
Returning from Tucson:
Rangers' Goalie Zac Lubin and defenders Tommy Meyer and Jacob VanCompernolle were not in camp yet. They had been with Sporting Kansas City's first preseason leg in Arizona. Meyer had played in both preseason matches for Sporting KC and VanCompernolle and Meyer started the last match. These Rangers will have a couple days off after returning to Kansas City with the first team on Monday.
Kevin Oliveira, the midfielder from Benifica B is still awaiting paperwork but should join the team in the next few days.
Several Sporting KC Academy players were on the Swope Park Rangers preseason roster but they were not present for the first day. They had all played Sunday in Fort Hays versus Colorado Rush where the U-18's were victorious 1-0, the U-16's drew 1-1 and the U-14's dominated 3-1. The Academy players should be in camp after having a day off.
There are a number of trialists in camp as well. When asked if any of the trialists stood out Dos Santos quickly responded," No, No. Not yet. It's the first day."
Establishing the team identity from the start
This is the first professional camp for rookie forward Mark Anthony Gonzalez and one of the things that stood out to him was coach Dos Santos trying to establish a team identity. "We are practicing very intense and getting our identity as a team while playing at the same time," Gonzalez explained. "Even in the team meeting (on Saturday) he (coach) mentioned how right from the start we are going to be building our team identity. I think that showed today with focusing on our defense, how we are going to defend, our patience."
Coach Dos Santos laid out his belief for establishing the team identity to reporters. "I will give this example, it is a belief I have regarding coaching methodology. If you want to be good driving a Ferrari, you have to train driving the Ferrari. You don't jump over to a BMW thinking you will be a good Ferrari driver. So the concept is from day one, put the players in the mindset and the understanding that the model of play, our way of play, our style of play, what we want to do on the field is the number one thing."
Headed to Arizona for preseason
The Rangers will head to Arizona alongside the senior team Sunday for preseason and to also play in the Desert Diamond Cup with Sporting Kansas City, FC Tucson, fellow USL member Arizona United and five other MLS teams.
Dos Santos spoke about his expectations for the team when they head to Arizona. "We have four games, what we want to see in Tucson is where is the team, where is the level of the understanding of how we want to play and using those exhibition game that is going to be tough. Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew, both MLS teams, we play Arizona, we play FC Tucson but we are going to be stretched to try and show that there is already a certain level of understanding in our style of play. That was very clear with Peter Vermes on day one that it was important that our Academy, our reserve team was a mirror of what our first team is going to be."
A head start
The Rangers will get the three players back that were training with the senior team later in the week. Dos Santos expects that the training they received with Sporting KC will benefit the Rangers in multiple ways. "A lot of benefit to that (players already having trained with SKC), it gives the players that are here the belief and the certainty that one day they could get a chance also with the first team but also because our connection between the B team and the first team is so close we know that the information they are getting there is what we are trying to give here so it is a great experience for when they come back, good for them and good for us also."
"They have been in the club," Dos Santos continued. "Of course the personalities are different, we are all different people but at the end the most important thing is the club and we have to make sure the players understand the concept of what the club wants."
"We know exactly what our role is here in Kansas City," Dos Santos continued. "Our role is to support the first team and at the same time we want to be a team that the people are going to be proud of."
Did anybody stand out on the first day?
Dos Santos declined to pinpoint players that stood out. "I am such a team guy, my concept is so much regarding the team, you will never get from me names. There are a couple that were very interesting, we knew of them but we thought they were even better today but it is the first day. It is difficult to say everything right away but what I liked is the mentality of the group in the first training. I thought everybody had a good mentality, everybody was here to work hard and that is important to keep this intensity all the way."