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Preseason presented by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.

Head Coach Adrian Heath

On how his offseason went…

“I went back to England, and for the first time was with all four of my grandchildren together – all under the age of five. It was a hectic month in England, but I’m glad to be back. The snow was a bit of a shocker when we got back, but like everybody, I’m excited to be back.”

On if there are any future footballers in his young grandkids…

“I hope so.”

On his expectations during the first week of preseason…

“Fitness, hopefully no injuries – because that’s the dilemma of how much work you put into them early on because you run the risk. They’ve [the players] have had eight to nine weeks of playing but it’s not the same intensity and the same dynamism as training, so hopefully we can get a clean bill of health before we can get to Florida, get outside and get on the grass.”

On the newly-signed veteran players joining MNUFC in 2023…

“I feel that the likes of Doneil [Henry] and Clint [Irwin] and Zarek [Valentin], they’ve been there and seen it and have all been on championship-winning teams and are very experienced. We’ve got a lot of games this year – we’ve got the Leagues Cup in there, the [U.S.] Open Cup and more games in the league. But hey, it’ll be tough all year and we’re going to need these bodies and I just feel that little veteran leadership will help us through the year.”

On the 11 rostered Loons that are under 25 years old…

“We’re hoping to add to that during the offseason. We haven’t given up. This is certainly not the finished roster. We’re hopefully bringing in two or three more players of which two or three of them would be under the 22 Initiative. We’ve added some veteran leadership but we have also added some energy and some youth, which we felt was important.”

On consistency being the approach to the 2023 season…

“The first thing we speak about that’s the minimum requirement is making the playoffs. We shouldn’t take it for granted because the likes of Portland and Toronto and Seattle didn’t make the playoffs, and these are big clubs with big budgets. I think sometimes we forget that the last four years we’ve made the playoffs and are the only team in the West to have done it. We should take something from that, but we didn’t go far enough in the playoffs. I thought the Dallas game was there for us to take it further and that was a disappointment. Like everybody else, we’re looking forward to what we hope will be another important and enjoyable season.”

On how he rates the coaches’ fitness heading into the preseason…

“I needed to get on the scales, I’ve got to be honest, after the Christmas season. I overindulged a bit in one or two areas. So, the fitness regime starts for me as well in January.”

Midfielder Wil Trapp

On his offseason…

“Offseason was amazing. Any time you get to recharge the batteries, be at home, be with family, Christmas, New Years, all of the holidays were so much fun. While that was great, I think everybody and myself included, we’re just ready to get back after it and be back with the boys, be back training, and working towards something.”

On the first couple days of training…

“It’s awesome. I feel good physically. I thrive in this. I love this stuff. I think what’s really important, especially the early days of preseason is understanding as a group it’s going to be hard. These are fitness tests, these are runs, these are things that are difficult and for us to dig in and suffer together at the beginning stage really starts to set the table for where we are as a team.”

On the focus in the first weeks ahead of the trip to Florida…

“So much of it is integrating the new boys. So much of it is just reconnecting with guys that maybe you didn’t see over the offseason and getting the chemistry and the feel of that back a little bit. Then on top of it is building the fitness base because we have program over the offseason but when you’re in here and you’re playing now organized, it’s a different beast. Really just getting our feet under ourselves in that regard.”

On getting adjusted to returning for a new season…

“We had three trainings yesterday, so we’ve had three opportunities. One today and two more coming so I think for us it’s been great to see the effort. It’s been great to see the guys’ mentality which has really been good.”

On the beep fitness test…

“I don’t know if it’s my favorite, but I think the boys, again, they did an awesome job. To see everybody busting it as hard as they can, it’s a good starting point for us as a group, right? You see where we’re at and you can build upon that and that’s the main goal.”

Defender Zarek Valentin

On how his offseason break went…

“Long. I hate not making the playoffs because it makes it that much longer, but especially also because of the World Cup. So, I’m excited to get back at it. As tough as it might be, it’s fun and it’s good to meet the guys.”

On how the first few workouts have been…

“It’s fun. It’s hard work, but that’s preseason, right? Ultimately, it’s not going to be the most enjoyable time because we’re pushing ourselves. But ultimately, it’s great because I get to come out here doing something that I love with the group, meet some guys, kick some new people, get kicked by some new people judging by some of these bumps [on my legs]. But it’s really great. I’m excited to keep pushing myself and to integrate myself into the group as much as possible.”

On his mindset and focus during the first week of preseason…

“For me personally right now, it’s acclimating myself in the group and trying to show I can play. First though, I want to be a good friend and a good teammate to them as well and to hold my own and be as reliable as possible and help the team win. That’s first and foremost the most important thing for me. Whatever that might be – on the field or off the field – I just want to put a smile on the guys’ faces and help them put the ball in the back of the net and try to keep it out as well.”

On his first few days as a Loon…

“It’s been great. It’s a really diverse locker room, which is awesome. It really represents the way MLS is going and the way the country is going. It’s really fun to be a part of people from different cultures from Argentina to Paraguay to Togo to South Africa and we have people from Finland – it’s amazing. It’s fun to get to know the guys and their families and their stories, and I’m really enjoying myself. Hopefully they’re enjoying my company and that I’m not talking too much.”

On the beep fitness test that he and other players take on the first day of preseason training…

“It’s everyone’s favorite, isn’t it? It’s good and is a good barometer. As an outside back, I’m no stranger to running a lot, let’s just say that. But for me, it’s just been good to get out there and it validates some of the personal work I’ve done during the offseason. Obviously, Wil [Trapp] is a machine [at the beep test] and him and T [Tani Oluwaseyi] did incredible, I mean they are just monsters when it comes to fitness tests like that. So, trying to keep up with them as much as possible and Bongi [Bongokuhle Hlongwane] did really well, too. But, it’s good and just validated a lot of the work I did in the offseason – as much as it [the test] sucked and it stunk and it’s not fun to go running by yourself. I soaked up the last bit of Houston heat as I could, but getting out there and showing the guys that I can still do this a little bit.”