Charlotte (N.C) - As the 2017 preseason rolls around for the Charlotte Independence, a mix of veterans, rookies, and somewhere-in-betweens lend unique perspectives on how to cope with the six-week evaluation period.
For returning Team-MVP and League-MVP Finalist Enzo Martinez, replicating his 2016 success does start in the first days, but acknowledges the evolution of the season.
“The past two year's I've been here, the first days are always kind of tough,” said Martinez. “It's more about getting back into the rhythm, getting back into shape. [We] take each day-by-day and improve our fitness and gameplay.”
Martinez also realizes what’s at stake for the trial players.
“It's very different for [rookies],” said Martinez. “Rookies are here and they have to do everything that they can to show they can win themselves a contract or playing time.”
Balancing the ‘play like there’s no tomorrow’ nature of trialist and the gradual response of the veterans is a careful proposition. One that does not escape Independence Head Coach Mike Jeffries.
“We try to get enough play in so we can evaluate the guys who are on trial,” said Jeffries. “The veteran guys know it's a six-week preseason, and we have some guys who are slightly older and we know they're going to pace themselves through that.”
Returning, second-year midfielder Lewis Hilton says he’s using last year’s seasoning to guide him past a sophomoric slump.
“My motivation is high as ever and I'm more excited for this season than last season,” said Hilton. “That little bit of experience is going to give me more knowledge to allow me to kick-on and use last year as a base.”
So what is the solution to dealing with the variety of manners players address training camp?
“We'll have days which we won't have everyone doing the exact same thing,” said Jeffries. “The important thing is to come out of the preseason with everyone healthy and then the second most important thing is to make sure we're looking at the guys trying out and we're making good decisions. Those are our two focuses.
“Everyone is motivated and everyone comes into the season with the slate clean,” said Jeffries. “We have to build it up and nothing is guaranteed.”