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Houston 1836 camp opens on a happy note


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Houston 1836 camp opens on a happy note / Relocated team's players just glad to be back on field



591 words

2 February 2006

Houston Chronicle

3 STAR ; 0



© 2006 Houston Chronicle. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All Rights Reserved.

Some fired missiles, others blanks, and still others missed the goal by a country mile.

But at least they were back on the soccer field as a team.

Houston 1836 players opened training camp Wednesday at the University of Houston with, by all accounts, a little rust but lots of fuel in the tank after a three-month layoff.

"Everyone was just getting the kinks out, and it was fun to back with the guys," said Houston 1836 forward Dwayne De Rosario, who was one of 24 players present for the start of camp. "I think everyone feels the same way, just coming here and kicking the ball around and laughing at each other."

The players took it easy, practicing for a little more than an hour at the Carl Lewis Track Field. Coach Dominic Kinnear will continue with one-a-day sessions today and Friday, and add a second session next week.

"The practice wasn't too taxing," Kinnear said. "It was more about getting the body moving and getting good touches on the ball, getting the layoff out of our system."

A lot has happened since a Western Conference semifinal-series loss to the eventual Major League Soccer champions, the Los Angeles Galaxy, ended last season. The team, previously the Earthquakes, moved from San Jose, Calif.

A daily grind

But it's back to business for players and, in a way, time to pay the price for the long break with what's arguably the most grueling preseason of any major U.S. professional sport.

"It's definitely for the strong," said De Rosario, 27, a native of Canada who last year led the team in scoring with nine goals.

Houston 1836's training camp, including preseason matches, will last eight weeks, which is average for MLS but long when compared with pro baseball, football, hockey and basketball - the longest of which is about six weeks.

Players seem to take it in stride, though.

"It takes time to get games and get situated," forward Alejandro Moreno said. "For us, it's going to take time to settle down and really grow in this market. So it's in our best interest to have a long preseason so people get to know us."

Kinnear said he considers the long camp necessary.

"The reason it's so long is because we get such a big break when the season's over," Kinnear said. "It gives you time to work on things, for players to get healthy, so when April 1 (the season opener versus the Colorado Rapids at Robertson Stadium) comes by you feel that everyone can play 90 minutes."

How the world does it

Many of the prime European and Latin American leagues have shorter training camps but longer seasons. The English Premier League's regular season extends for 10 months, compared with 6 1/2 months for MLS. The Mexican First Division plays two short seasons annually.

"Everyone knows soccer is a grueling sport," De Rosario, said. "You have to be physically fit. You can't do that in two weeks or in a month. It takes time to get back to running up and down the field and getting your lungs opened up and building back stamina and fitness."


Photo: EARLY START: Dwayne De Rosario handles the ball on the first day of 1836's nearly two-month-long camp.

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