Week 4 of the NPSL season is this weekend, and FC Wichita is preparing for what could be one of the most important weeks of the season. On Saturday, FC Wichita travels to Tulsa, Okla. to take on conference rivals Tulsa Athletic (June 3, 2017 at 7:00 PM, LaFortune Stadium).
FC Wichita tries to mimic the workout routine of a professional club in regards to how the week’s practices are set up. If the game is on Saturday, Monday will usually be focused almost completely on fitness with the ball. Tuesday’s workout will usually include high work-rate small sided games that work on a specific idea that the coach (Steve Ralos) would like to start to implement. Wednesday will start to focus more on the tactical side of things but will usually include a tactically directed 11v11 scrimmage that uses a second team to mimic the opponent that the first team will be facing over the weekend. This helps the team start to realize what their defensive shape and pressure should look like going in to the weekend, as well as what parts of the park they should be looking to attack when game day arrives. Thursday’s training usually includes a less-intense scrimmage/walk-through hybrid that focuses more on the tactical game plan the team will be implementing over the weekend, and Friday is a light practice that includes stretching, a tactical walk-through, and a team briefing about the weekend.
The team is really starting to come together, and it is shown at practice every day. Teammates push each other to the absolute limit, demanding the best out of everyone.
“The chemistry is really similar to last year,” said Goalkeeper Mark Weir (Last Year’s NPSL Goal of the Year Winner). “Having three houses on the same street helps bring us all together and get to know each other, as well as having a diverse group of people from many different cultures and nationalities,” continued Weir. The club provides housing to most of its players, which allows the team to constantly gain chemistry and deeper understanding of one another.
FC Wichita currently sits in second place with seven points, one point fewer than first place with a game in hand over the team above (Little Rock Rangers, Ark.). Tulsa is also a game behind Little Rock, but sits in third with only six points. The close standings make this Heartland Conference rivalry even more important, as both teams could move into first place with a win.
“Personally I’m really excited for [this] game,” said Weir, “When the schedule comes out this is the game that stands out most.”
“It’s just a matter of time before we start firing on all cylinders,” said forward Luca Anelli, now in his third year at the club.
He continued, “Hopefully this comes in the game this weekend against Tulsa.”
There is one factor that may act as a test other than their opponent this weekend—turf. FC Wichita plays on a grass surface that is long and slows the ball quite a bit (as shown above). On turf, the ball skips across the surface and the game speed picks up. Personally, I have always believed it is much easier to make the transition from grass to turf rather than the other way around. This is because there is no longer a guessing game of where the ball is going to travel due to bumps, the grass is no longer there to slow your running speed or the ball’s speed, and everything can be played with more certainty and precision. With that said natural grass is always the best surface to play on if it is kept to professional standards and allows the game to be played at a fluid and quick pace. Unfortunately, FC Wichita’s facilities are far from being professional level, although there are plans to upgrade the fields and facilities soon.
Whatever the circumstances, FC Wichita will have to show up ready to play as they face an early season away test against their rival.
For more information on the NPSL, visit www.npsl.com.
For more information on FC Wichita, visit www.fcwichita.com.
To learn about live streams for the games, follow FC Wichita on Facebook or @FCWichita on Twitter.
For more information on Tulsa Athletic, visit www.tulsaathletic.com.