MONTREAL -- After three weeks of midwinter training indoors, coach Marco Schallibaum said the Montreal Impact are ready for Florida.
The Major League Soccer club leaves Thursday for Orlando for an 18-day stay that will include five pre-season matches.
"With the cold and snow, we're very happy to be here where we have good facilities," Schallibaum said Tuesday at the indoor field at Marie Victorin college. "Now, we'll be moving outdoors onto grass fields, and I saw today that it's 28 C (in Florida) and that's good because I haven't seen much sun in Montreal.
"We'll play some games, and we'll have lots of time together to discuss things and get to know each other even better."
It will also be where Schallibaum, who replaced Jesse Marsch after the Impact's inaugural MLS campaign, can implement his system of play and make decisions on who will be in the starting 11 when the regular season begins March 2 against the Sounders in Seattle.
The 50-year-old former Swiss international defender had previously coached two Impact players, midfielder Felipe Martins and defender Dennis Iapichino, in the Swiss league. The rest were new to him.
They will play four games at the Disney Classic pre-season tournament, beginning Saturday against Sporting Kansas City. They also face the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the NASL on Feb. 13, DC United on Feb. 16 and a fourth game that will be determined by how they finish in the tournament. There is also a non-tournament game Feb. 15 in Jacksonville, Fla., against the Philadelphia Union.
Already, the pace and intensity in training has picked up.
"Every day has been competitive," said Schallibaum. "There are positions to be had in the starting 11.
"It's physical. They're a little tired after three weeks here but I think they will be refreshed when we get to Orlando."
There may be hints to how he's leaning thus far from the scrimmages.
On Tuesday, he rested older veterans Alessandro Nesta, Marco Di Vaio and Patrice Bernier from a scrimmage but put most of last year's first 11 on one side against young players and reserves, except for midfielder Justin Mapp and defender Jeb Brovsky, who were starters last season.
Their usual spots were taken by Zarek Valentin and Iapichino, while Andrew Wenger, newcomer Andrea Pisanu and Sanna Nyassi filled in for the older players.
What the final first 11 looks like will be determined from pre-season matches.
"It's definitely the most important part for us because it's where we're going to get our games," said midfielder Davy Arnaud. "As the start of the season approaches we're going to see more of the tactical side of things and exactly the way we want to do things."
Felipe, who has been in his usual spot just behind the striker, said the team has also worked on boosting offence by playing Bernier farther up and using only one defensive midfielder, usually Collen Warner.
But it has not all been grunt work through the first three weeks. Schallibaum had them play basketball one day and team handball on another. On Saturday, he had them in snowshoes at a local park for what they called the Impact Amazing Race.
"When you go five days of hard work on the field, it's good to break it up a bit," Arnaud said. "You're getting a workout doing something different, but it's also good for the team morale you build.
"I always thought that's just as important. You need good players, but without chemistry and a good team spirit you're going to have a hard time."
It has helped that the team has 20 returning players and that some who joined in mid-season, like Nesta, Di Vaio, Iapichino and goalkeeper Troy Perkins, are together from the start of camp.
The Impact finished seventh in the Eastern Conference and out of the playoffs in 2012 and hope to be contenders this season.
There will likely be some players added before the season starts or in mid-season. Team president Joey Saputo has hinted at a South American player joining the squad, without giving details.
Only two of the 29 players in camp will not go to Orlando, goalie Maxime Crepeau and midfielder Zakaria Messoudi, but only because they were called away to the Canadian under-20 team camp Feb. 11-16 in Mexico. Both are part of the Impact academy.
Three other academy players, defender Maxim Tissot, midfielder Wandrille Lefebvre and forward Mircea Ilcu, will be in Florida.