By Kevin Koczwara, in Boston
BOSTON – Brendan Rodgers’ first press conference as Liverpool manager on the team’s preseason trip to North America was short and small. There was limited press in the hotel room where the press conference took place — four local journalists, including myself, and the LFC TV crew. That doesn’t mean Rodgers isn’t ready to put in the work or that he’s not taking this trip seriously. The small press turnout just means he didn’t have to answer any transfer speculation questions. Instead, the Liverpool manager was able to focus on answering questions about the squad he has and the task of molding that squad over the next few weeks.
“First and foremost it’s about our fitness level. We certainly won’t be up to speed in terms of technically and tactically purely on the basis that we’ve only been back a few weeks,” Rodgers told the media. “At this stage of the preseason we have a periodisation program that takes us through the preseason and we’re still in the preparation phase. Ultimately it’s about trying to improve our fitness level.”
Rodgers’ first game in charge of Liverpool will be against Major League Soccer side Toronto FC at the Roger’s Centre. Toronto has been one of the poorer sides in MLS, but that doesn’t mean the team won’t be ready. TFC let go of its manager Aron Winter recently and is led by former Plymouth Argyle player and manager Paul Mariner. Toronto has found success under the Englishman since he took over the coaching duties from Winter, beating the Vancouver Whitecaps and New England Revolution in its last two games.
Second up on the agenda for Rodgers is Roma, also with a new manager, at Fenway Park here in Boston. Finally the Reds head down to Baltimore, Md. to take on Tottenham. All three games pose different challenges for Liverpool. Toronto will play fast and hard, which is to be expected from an MLS side. Tottenham, also transitioning to a new, young manager – Andres Villas-Boas – will bring a Premier League challenge that will test the progress being made by Liverpool under Rodgers. And Roma will bring a more European style and more defensive game than any of the other teams on the tour.
“All the games are very much different,” said Rodgers. “We are playing an MLS side, which will be fantastic. We have Roma, very much a European team and top European side. Alongside that we obviously play Tottenham, a Barclays Premier League team and one of our rivals for the coming season. We have three fantastic games and I’m looking forward to playing in the stadiums and in front of the supporters, which will be great.”
Fabio Borini will join the squad next week
Fabio Borini was included in the Italy side that lost in the European Championship final to Spain, and after signing with Liverpool he was offered the same four-week vacation time that other international players were given after they returned from Euro duties. The former Roma forward declined the offer and instead will join the team next week when the England players arrive in Boston. He would have joined the team August 1, one day before Liverpool begins play in the Europa League.
“[Borini] will come out next week with the England players,” said Rodgers. “He was obviously involved with Italy all the way through to the final, giving him time off like the others, four weeks, he was due to come back the first of August, but he made it very clear when he came over [to sign with the club] that he wanted to get back training with the group, so we made an agreement that he will come out next week.”
Stay tuned to thisisanfield.com for more exclusives throughout the North America tour.