|Charlotte 49ers soccer extend preparation for spring schedule|
|Games pushed back due to COVID-19|
|Published Monday, October 12, 2020 1:00 pm|
|PHOTO | LEROY HARDEN|
|The Charlotte 49ers have gone through an extended training camp in preparation for a spring schedule as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic.|
Most of the players returned in mid-July with the expectation of a fall season and trained on their own until camp officially began on Aug. 15. Men’s and women’s soccer, as well as other fall sports, were moved to the spring in response to decisions by Conference USA and NCAA Division I Board of Directors in response to COVID-19 concerns.
“We had to switch modes pretty quickly of, ‘OK, let’s get into this heavy, heavy development phase that we want to get into, and make each day count,’” coach Kevin Langan said. “The good news is we are starting to get more and more information from the NCAA about what our spring will look like.”
Charlotte is planning for a full conference schedule. They are not limited to conference play, a route that other programs and sports have taken this fall and will continue to build out their nonconference schedule throughout the rest of the year.
“At the moment, we should be able to start up playing games Feb. 3 and that will go through April 17,” Langan said.
The 49ers pride themselves on being one of the fittest programs in the nation. Langan acknowledged the struggle to attain match-level fitness without playing games but pointed to how they have pivoted over the last two months.
“Once we got the players up to a high level of fitness, we’ve gone into this really deep development phase with them,” he said.
Much of the 49ers’ current work focuses on working through what they describe as their “perfect week for developing.” The program is allowed 20 hours to work with the players per week. They train six days a week, with one day off. An example of a given week includes technical and strength training work on Monday, Tuesday highlights more of the game model and the direction they want to go as a team, Wednesday includes a great deal of playing with limitations in each game. Thursday returns to the game model, Friday focuses on individual development and technical white, followed by a green-white game on Saturday. Off the field, there’s video analysis, virtual meetings to address psychological needs of the players and conversations with nutrition specialists.
“We are just trying to design this perfect week for the player where if we are in this mode for the next 12 weeks we can look back and say, ‘oh wow, look how far we have come. Look how much we have developed as a team, as a program, individually,’” Langan said. “We call it train the brain.”
Charlotte’s newcomers have an opportunity to adapt to the demands of the college game under unique circumstances. They have an extended period to assimilate themselves into the 49ers culture and style as well as develop chemistry with their teammates. For those coming from club soccer, the experience is different.
“It is a bit different from club, where maybe you can turn up at club, switch on, train and then leave,” Langan said. “We expect this to be a way of life for players here.”
Charlotte has produced several MLS-caliber players, as well as others who are playing in the USL Championship. In 2017, midfielder Brandt Bronico and defender Matej Dekovic were selected by the Chicago Fire. Defender Callum Montgomery was drafted by FC Dallas in 2019. Earlier this year, goalkeeper Elliot Panicco was drafted by Nashville SC, and has already established himself as the MLS expansion side’s backup. The 2021 MLS SuperDraft scheduled for January will not include an official combine like previous years. Getting drafted does not guarantee an MLS contract. Charlotte has seven seniors: goalkeeper Austin Mullins, defenders Luke Johnson, Pat Hogan and John Ranshaw and midfielders Joe Brito, Cooper Nugent and Matteo Busio. Players from across the country must decide if they want to pursue MLS or stay for their senior season.
“We have seven guys coming to the end of their college career, but every single one has a different story,” Langan said. “Every single one has different motivations and targets and goals. Rather than to say ‘[you should] all stay and play, or you should all go,’ it is very different for every individual player.”
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