Hungarian National Team midfielder Zoltán Stieber impressed MLS after he joined D.C. United during the 2017 summer transfer window. His ability to create scoring chances through clinical passing and clever footwork made him an immediate threat going forward. The chemistry Stieber built with Luciano Acosta, Paul Arriola, and Patrick Mullins gave fans optimism about the future prospects of the Black-and-Red offense. Now, with eight MLS appearances to his name, Stieber is focused on using preseason to reach optimal fitness levels and continue building chemistry with his midfield counterparts.
The midfielder worked closely with the Black-and-Red’s new Head of Sports Science and Fitness, Jonny Northeast, in the offseason to develop a training regime to prepare for 2018. Stieber ensured that he made the most of the long offseason and trained hard in order to hit the ground running at United’s season opener against Orlando on March 3.
“Jonny [Northeast] gave me a good offseason fitness program," Stieber said. "I followed that and was also working with my fitness coach in Hungary who trained me at the national team level. We focused on the basics to get a good foundation for the upcoming season. It was a long break that I haven’t had in over a year, which was important for me. I think I did a good job in the offseason, which is a great start. There’s plenty of work in front of us in preseason and I want to be as fit as possible for the start of the season.”
Athleticism has been a defining quality of MLS players in the past and the transition to a more physical league has proven to be difficult at times for players from abroad. However, Stieber is optimistic that his time playing in Germany and at the national team level has prepared him for the physicality and speed in his first full MLS season.
“I got used to a high level of play in Germany and with the national team so the fitness levels in MLS aren’t a problem for me," Stieber said. "Obviously, I wasn’t 100 percent fit when I joined D.C. United in the summer because we were in the middle of the German offseason so I had to adjust to coming into a team midway through their season. Now, it’s very important for me to have a preseason with the team, get to know the guys better and build chemistry.”
With five new signings on the Black-and-Red roster, incorporating new faces into the team will be a vital part of preseason. Stieber was immediately welcomed into the D.C. United locker room and he believes that his teammates’ hospitality will go a long way in making the new signings feel like a part of the club.
“The guys in the locker room made it easy for me on the first day. I don’t think they will have any issues fitting in. Preseason is a good time for everybody to get to know each other on and off the field.”
As Stieber continues to connect with his teammates and focuses on being a consistent impact player for the Black-and-Red, he will hope his attention to preparation this offseason gives him a good launching board into 2018. After boosting the level of play on United's wing last season, Stieber will now focus on consistently contributing through goals and chance creation in 2018.