February 6, 2007 Toronto FC ready to practice (from Canadian Press)

T.O. FC glad to practise indoors

Weather only one of many concerns for new MLS club

Feb 06, 2007 04:30 AM
Toronto FC midfielder Ronnie O'Brien was happy to be practising yesterday and even happier that there was a roof over his head.

On a day when the weather said bundle up or better yet, stay home the expansion Major League Soccer club had its first full squad workouts at the indoor Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan.

For the 28-year-old from Ireland, who spent the past five seasons playing for FC Dallas, the minus-15C temperature, wind-chill factor of minus-25C and snow flurries en route to the facility were a rude shock to the system.

"Don't even start me about the weather," O'Brien said rolling his eyes.

"I miss Dallas a lot right now. I arrived last Wednesday and have barely been out of the hotel because of the weather.

"It's a lot to take, this cold. But we'll get used to it."

The weather is just one of several concerns for the fledgling club as it begins the process of developing a cohesive unit.

Head coach Mo Johnston split his 25 healthy players (three players sat out with minor injuries) into four squads and had them scrimmage on the two artificial grass fields.

The aim was to get their heart rates going and to breed some familiarity on the roster.

"Obviously it's always tough getting to know each other in the beginning, strengths, weaknesses and tendencies," said goalkeeper Greg Sutton, a Canadian international from Hamilton. "It's going to take us a period of time but we have the pre-season to do that."

Smoothly incorporating two or three new players into a lineup can be a major challenge for some teams, let alone creating flow among 11 players who are taking the field together for the first time.

Only hours and hours of practice can help that.

"It's all about fitness, all about getting to know each other, basically covering every sort of angle that makes the team better," said Johnston. "Most of them don't know each other, it's a brand new team, everything is new."

Still, it was a happy day for the former Scottish international. He was clearly in his element barking out orders on the pitch, alternately coaxing, coddling and criticizing players as needed.

"This is the easy part, this is the part I like," Johnston said. "I don't like the parts when you're at a desk organizing things. Certainly you have to be organized but this is where the day-to-day stuff is and it's the best, the banter between guys and being party to all that."

Toronto FC opened its camp last Thursday by welcoming players and conducting physicals over the weekend. A small handful of players also had visa problems and the full club wasn't able to get together until yesterday when practice was open to the media for the first time.

The team will remain in Toronto through Friday before heading out for two training camps in Florida (Feb. 12-24 in Sunrise and March 5-17 in Bradenton) and an exhibition tournament in Charleston, S.C. (March 21-April 1).

The season opener is April 7 in Carson, Calif., against Chivas USA.

Canadian press

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