No ‘off’ in off-season for DePaul men’s soccer

Although the start of the 2014 DePaul men’s soccer season is not for another five months, offseason training is in full swing as the Blue Demons prepare for the upcoming season.

The offseason actually started in the winter, following the conclusion of the fall soccer season. According to head coach Craig Blazer, the team tries to take advantage of DePaul’s quarter system.

“We try to take advantage of the quarter system as best we can. We have the eleven weeks in the winter and then we have ten weeks in the spring where we try to maximize our hours and develop our new team identity, our new group of leaders and our new group of starters,” Blazer said. “We do it slowly but we see the guys five days a week during the winter and then six days a week during the spring.”

These winter workouts include working on strength in the weight room and practicing in the gym due to the winter weather. According to junior forward Art Garza, these gym practices help translate to the outdoor practices that start during the spring quarter.

“We get to work on things that are hard to work on in the fall season,” Garza said. “(Practicing inside) really helps us sharpen mentally and technically with the different surface.”

Blazer likes the offseason because it allows the coaching staff to teach the players more.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to spend so much time with this group because in the fall, it’s so intense with the two games a week and you don’t get as much time as you want because of the pressure and the demands of games,” Blazer said. “Here we get a more controlled environment and we get to teach more.”

“(In the fall) we have games twice a week so we have to adjust accordingly. In the spring, it’s pivotal we improve our fitness,” Garza said. “We have to work on our technical abilities and things like our weaker foot or just the way you see the game just because the fall is so hectic.”

Outside of practices, DePaul also plays in exhibition matches during the spring. They already played against Lindsey Wilson University and Indiana in March, later playing Valparaiso and Western Michigan at the Notre Dame campus. They then competed in the Chicago Cup this past weekend, facing other Chicago schools such as Illinois-Chicago and then a match-up with either Northwestern or Loyola-Chicago.

The exhibition matches help give the team a look at their identity for the upcoming season.

“After losing some seniors it helps us get an idea of what we’re looking at for the fall,” Garza said. “Even though our season is in the fall, we treat our winter and spring like it is our fall because once that season comes around we’ll be ready and we’ll be focused.”

Part of the challenge of offseason workouts is not having the incoming freshmen on campus. Instead, the incoming freshmen are in contact with the coaches so that they’re ready to step onto the field when they arrive on campus.

“They’re going through training and they also understand the physical demands that are going to be expected of them. They communicate with us and our strength and conditioning coach,” Blazer said. “The ones that are in town see our games, we’re still watching them play and we communicate with them regularly.”

Garza is having a different offseason than most because he has to adjust this offseason as he moves from a defender to a center forward. He started to make the transition in 2013 and will be on the front line full time in 2014.

“If the ball comes into me, I have to be strong, and so a lot of the things that I do are trying to keep my strength up so I can hold off those defenders,” Garza noted. “A lot of it is also looking at our old game film, trying to see positioning on the field so that can beat our opponents not only with our physicality but with our mental awareness as well.”