When San Diego Loyal SC started their first training camp in 2020, they'd only been a franchise for about eight months. That means they not only had to assemble a roster ... they had to build an entire organization.
We're talking designing uniforms, putting together a coaching staff and an entire front office and sales force, finding places to play and practice, just for starters.
Fast forward to 2021. On Monday, Loyal SC opened its second training camp and with the foundation established they are light years ahead of where they were a year ago.
"A majority of our guys that are returning are already up to speed," says Loyal SC manager Landon Donovan. "They came in in almost end of preseason fitness so they are far ahead and it's going to make the transition pretty seamless."
Around practice you hear one very loud, and very British voice. Midfielder Charlie Adams returns for his 2nd season with the Loyal. He scored the first goal in franchise history and served as Captain for the last few matches of 2020.
Charlie is always talking, serving as that proverbial "coach on the field."
"It keeps me engaged when I'm loud and I try to keep my teammates engaged by always talking," says Adams. "I feel that it's beneficial for everyone because even if you're just talking and you might not be saying anything that productive but it lets your teammates know where you are on the field. Maybe it's something I've developed, I'm not really sure. I've always been kind of a chatterbox, even in school."
Donovan is not going to ask Adams to cut the chatter any time soon.
"You need that, right? If all they hear is me all day or Nate (Miller, assistant coach) all day, that's not good. They need to hear from each other," says Donovan. "So there are moments, even today, where things were a little below standard and I thought about saying something but they quickly got on each other and figured it out. You want them policing themselves so we don't have to do it all the time and Charlie does that in spades."
At the end of last year the Loyal were one of the most dangerous clubs in USL Championship (they would have been in the playoffs had they not forfeited points to stand up to social injustice). It took half a season to reach that level. They don't expect such a long learning curve this time around.
"We know the way that we want to play," says Adams. "We started that off last year, went through a little bit of a rough patch in the middle of the season trying to find who we were. We found it at the end. We have the continuity this year so we can continue that and build on what we did last year."
They won't have to wait long for their first test against another club. Loyal SC's first preseason match is Saturday, March 13 vs. Cal United Strikers FC. Their entire preseason schedule looks like this:
March 13 - Cal United Strikers FC at 10:00 am
March 20 - LA Galaxy* at 12:00 pm
March 27 - Opponent TBD
April 3 - New Mexico United at 12:00 pm
April 11 - Seattle Sounders* at 12:00 pm
April 17 - Cal State Fullerton at 3:00 pm
(*Games to be played at Dignity Health Sports park in Carson, CA. All other matches will take place at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center.)
The 2021 regular season schedule is expected to be released soon.