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Training camp opens in the bubble

The first team officially kicked off the preseason with their first day of full training at the University of Pennsylvania on Tuesday

Matt Ralph

Preseason training for the Philadelphia Union opened with the first full training session on Tuesday morning inside the bubble at Penn Park on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

“First days are always really exciting,” Curtin said in a news release. “There’s a lot of energy in the building and in the training facility. The guys go through some pretty rigorous physical testing to see where they’re at, and it seems everybody has come back in good shape.”

The location and the team on the field was quite different than it was this time last year when the first team opened training with a number of trialists and roster uncertainty.

Only CJ Sapong, who is away on international duty, and Fafa Picault, who had a family obligation, were missing from the group. Bethlehem Steel FC players Brandon Allen, Santi Moar, James Chambers and new signing Olivier Mbaizo were also included in the session.

The three recent MLS SuperDraft picks - Mike Catalano, Matt Danilack and Aidan Apodaca - are expected to report for Bethlehem Steel training when it opens next week. Though the roster is not complete, only three full roster spots remain; a fourth spot can be used for a player signed to the first team who is sent to Steel FC for the season.

Tuesday also marked the return of Eric Ayuk, who was on loan all of last season in Sweden and the first day for new designated player David Accam. New assistant coaches Pat Noonan and Tim Hanley also had their first training session with the full squad.

“It’s good to see everybody again,” defender Keegan Rosenberry said after training. “I was impressed, pleasantly surprised with what the level was like on day one.”

Rosenberry, a third-year player from Lancaster, recently got married and returns to the team focused on not only locking down a starting job he relinquished on a couple occasions last season but also pushing for a spot in the national team.

“It’s a bit lofty but I’d like to get back to the national team,” he said. “I think obviously there’s a lot of steps to get back into that, just playing again is the number one goal, getting back on the field but that also comes with the team getting better and training really well in preseason.”

For second-year defender Jack Elliott, Tuesday’s training session was markedly different than it was a year ago.

The Englishman was drafted 77th overall by the Union and expected to be a regular with Steel when camp opened last year. Now, he’s coming off a standout rookie season that saw him solidify a starting spot in central defense and become a Rookie of the Year finalist.

“This year it’s a little bit less stressful, I know Philadelphia a bit more, I know the area, the coaches and most of the other guys,” Elliott said. “But it’s still the same mentality. I have to keep working, learn every day and have a good preseason.”