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Friday, June 27, 2014

Wichita Wings begin process of determining 18-man roster

BY JEFFREY LUTZ
The Wichita Eagle

If this were five years ago, the Wings might still be looking for players to complete their inaugural training-camp roster.

But with many ways to reach Wings coach LeBaron Hollimon, players who might not otherwise have received a chance to play in Wichita are in camp this week. The Wings began practice Monday with 24 players, which will be trimmed to 18 when the Major Indoor Soccer League season begins Nov. 3.

"Outside of the local guys, everyone else that we signed I did not know prior to signing them," Hollimon said. "The way I got to know them was through other players. Social media has been a blessing in this situation, because that's where contact initiated with two of the players I signed."

Those players, Carlos "Chile" Farias and Frederico Moojen, are two of the 13 players already under contract. The five remaining spots will be filled at the end of training camp.

While the Wings are new to the MISL, they're determined not to fall behind opponents in other ways. Without familiarity with many of the players in camp, Hollimon trusted them to report in shape.

Less time spent conditioning gives Hollimon room to implement his style on the players, and for the players to grow comfortable playing alongside one another.

"We only have about a two-week window before our first game, so we need them to come in somewhat fit," Hollimon said. "The first day we fitness-tested them to figure out how hard we needed to push them, or if we could spend more time on technical tacticals."

That time is important because not all of the players have significant experience with the indoor game. While many of their skills are likely to translate, the tempo of the game is vastly different and players need time to adapt.

Hollimon, who played with the old Wings franchise during the 1990s, seems an ideal leader to help in that acclimation.

"It's not as much an adjustment on my part to modify my coaching style as it is for them to modify their playing style," Hollimon said. "We're comparing apples to oranges when you compare the indoor and outdoor game. Yeah, they're both round and they're both a fruit, but there's still enough of a difference there that you have to adjust how you play."

Hollimon's adjustment will come in figuring out how to best use his personnel, but he said he won't waver in making the Wings a high-energy, up-tempo team that specializes in ball movement.

"I have a philosophy that will never change," Hollimon said. "How we put ourselves about within that philosophy, I will adjust based on the players we have."

Now Hollimon is getting a chance to put faces with the players he didn't know much about when he signed them. The process of organizing a roster for an expansion team can be exhilarating, but not as much as what is happening now and what is to come.

"The fun is now," Hollimon said. "The guys are here, we're involved in the actual playing of the game and getting stuff ready. I'll be happy when I get those final five spots signed. Then it's just a matter of making things work so we can collectively move forward in an ascension."

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