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Training at IMG Academy offers a breath of fresh air for MLS players

Columbus Crew and D.C. United play in a preseason exhibition under cloudless, Florida skies.

Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs have come to IMG Academy for years to train and practice in preparation for the upcoming season. The facilities, weather and resources make it the ideal place for teams to begin working off the offseason rust. This year, the New York Red Bulls, D.C. United and Columbus Crew chose IMG Academy as their offseason training home. The teams go through a variety of drills and practice sessions before playing exhibition matches against the other teams. Sometimes, IMG Academy soccer players get to join in with the team training, too. 

For veteran Columbus Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven, coming to IMG Academy is like coming home. “I was down here with the [U.S. Soccer] U17 [residency] program when I was 14-years old, and it’s nice to see some of the old faces again,” said Gaven. “The fields are awesome, very nice weather, and [we] got some really good training in. [The Columbus Crew] comes down here almost every single year for preseason. “

For others, it was their first time at IMG Academy. Ex-Everton and current New York Red Bulls forward Tim Cahill was a big mid-season pickup for the Red Bulls in 2012, and is looking forward to a big year with his new team after his first preseason with them. This year,  Cahill is expected to provide veteran leadership along with teammates Thierry Henry and Juninho. After a 2-0 win over the Columbus Crew in an exhibition match, Cahill said, “Everything’s great. We’ve really enjoyed it. The facilities are great, all the boys are happy and we’re looking forward to next week.”