Taylor Washington used his feet a lot during Thursday’s practice, but he used his ears even more.
The 24-year-old Nashville SC defender is battling for a starting spot on the defensive wing following successful stints in Bethlehem (28 games) and Pittsburgh (29). But he’s also listening to his competitor colleagues, including veterans such as former MLS Cup winner Kosuke Kimura.
“There are tons of veterans on this team,” said Washington. “Kosuke is helping me with my attacking side of the game as well as the defending side. A lot of the things we’re doing in training and extra is to progress further.”
Four Nashville players have spent time in the top flight — Matt Pickens, Justin Davis, Kosuke Kimura and London Woodberry. Even though the 26-year-old Woodberry earned 46 caps as a member of the New England Revolution, he’s learning from his fellow MLS veterans.
“I think of myself as a younger player,” Woodberry said. “It helps when you have an older guy who has been through the league a bit to give you pointers during practice and after a game.”
One aspect the experienced players have brought to the team: a workmanlike approach.
“It’s extremely professional, the way we enter the training facility, the way the coaches’ mindset is,” said Washington. “From day one we’ve been working on shape and structure and working toward that game against Louisville. From the head start it’s been phenomenal and focused, and I’m excited for things to come.”
“Everybody is on the same page with the focus and the direction we’re trying to push,” said Woodberry. “The first few days have been extremely vigorous, but that’s part of the job and I like it.”
Washington and Woodberry each played meaningful minutes during defensive drills at Thursday’s training session. Both are vying to be members of the team’s five-member back line, whose first test will come against the MLS’s Atlanta United on Feb. 10.
“As a footballer all you want to do is get better,” Washington said. “In order to do that you have to play the best teams and the best players in the world. [Atlanta] bring in some big names and some great talent, and I’m excited we’re gonna go up against them.”
The players may be feeling their way through the first few days of training, but they’re aware that the coaches have a clear vision of how they want the side to play.
“We’ve been doing a lot of testing the first couple days, and you can tell the athletic ability of the guys on the team is definitely there,” Woodberry said. “We have a group of good players and good guys overall, and everybody is happy to be there and ready to get to work.”
“Gary definitely has an idea of what he wants from us, but it’s only the fourth day of training, so we’re still building to get where we want to be.”