The Philadelphia Union held their annual Open Practice yesterday at YSC Sports in Wayne, PA, holding a split session open to anyone who could knock off a day from work. Practice started sometime shortly after 10, with Fitness Coach Kevin Rushing taking the players through a session of calisthenics and stretching. Next, the players worked on footwork and passing drills before breaking into 4 teams of 8 or 9 to play quick 4 on 4 short-field scrimmages. This was not a very friendly exercise for the goalkeepers, who were constantly shelled by the attacking players. After that, a quick meeting was held and players were again divided up into 4 teams, this time to play long-field scrimmages using all players on a side. Coach John Hackworth was giving instructions to the squads closest to where we were and reviewed each of the squads in 6 minute sessions. After that it was time for a cool down and stretch, thus ending the first session. The second session was much shorter than the first. After a short warm up session, the guys all broke into groups of 7 or so to work on footwork and passing before finally going into short side scrimmages.
- Pedro Ribiero is really impressive with the ball. Saw him get out of trouble rather easily more than once using his skills. He's also really tall.
- Aaron Wheeler went from looking like Thor to looking like Wolverine.
- Guys like Keon Daniel, Michael Lahoud, Cristhian Hernandez, and Fred looked really hungry and like they had something to prove. They all seemed to understand the situation in the midfield.
- Heath Pearce and Cristian Maidana were not there today. Maurice Edu was.
- This is truly the Golden Age of MLS. Not only was this event free and open to the public, but the players and staff were totally approachable. Between sessions, we ran into the players at a local eatery. All of them. Some came over and talked to us for a few seconds, others just went and ate their lunch. Nick Sakiewicz even swung by the second half of practice, stopping to say hello to the fans in attendance. Can you imagine the Eagles or Flyers having this level of accessibility for their fans?
Thanks to the Union and YSC Sports for holding this event. It's truly something that allows the fans to feel connected to the team and the players.
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