VANCOUVER — Russell Teibert can't wait to get back to training with his Vancouver Whitecaps teammates — even if the field is covered with snow.
A wintry weather system left the 'Caps turf covered in a thick blanket of white this week, but the sight is nothing new for the 26-year-old midfielder.
Teibert grew up in Niagara Falls, Ont., where warm ups at winter practices involved grabbing shovels out of a shed and clearing off the field.
"That looked all too familiar and I'm happy that I don't have to shovel now," he said before training in Vancouver this week.
The chilly blast will be a short-lived blip on the Whitecaps calendar. The team recently went to Hawaii for training camp and will head back to the sun on Friday, travelling to southern California for pre-season games against Club Tijuana and LAFC.
For coach Marc Dos Santos, part of the Hawaii trip was about evaluating the talents of eight young players from the club's development group. Only three from that group will travel to California, where Dos Santos said the focus will be on preparing the first team for the impending Major League Soccer season.
"I want to see the core players that are here right now start to gel together," he said. "We're going to focus on these games like they're league games and start to give rhythm and minutes to all of those players."
After skipping the Hawaii trip to take care of a foot injury, Teibert is looking forward to finally hitting the field in L.A.
"We've got games," he said. "Games to build chemistry, games to work on our fundamentals, the basics, and how we want to play, how we want to look."
Experiencing some high-level competition before the season officially begins will help gauge where the group is at, said goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
"It should be a great test for us, all three games against tough opponents," he said. "I think hopefully we'll just show the new players what they can expect for the season."
The Whitecaps added 13 new players and a new coaching team over the off-season. They parted ways with 20 players from the squad that finished last year with a 13-18-8 record and out of the playoffs.
"It's almost like an expansion team, myself included," said defender Scott Sutter, who signed with Vancouver after spending two seasons with Orlando FC.
Everyone from players to coaches are still getting used to each other so the dynamics are still in flux and creating cohesion will take time, he added.
"There's 25 guys or 26 guys, 26 different personalities, 26 ways that people like to do things," Sutter said.
Some of the 'Caps newest additions — including up-and-coming South Korean soccer star Hwang In-beom — have yet to physically join the squad.
With just two weeks to go before the home opener against Minnesota on March 2, getting everyone up to speed will be a challenge, but it's one Dos Santos recognizes.
"Are we going to be with all of our pieces on that day? No, but the season is long. We have to look at the long term of this club," he said.
"We want to arrive March 2 ready to go, have a good product on the field, having our fans excited. The time that's going to take, it's going to take. But we hope it comes together fast."
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press