Last year, referee Sorin Stoica was forced to miss out on the early stages of the MLS season due to suffering from hamstring tendinopathy, an injury which delayed his first appearance until week nine.
One year on, the PRO official has a clean bill of health and six MLS assignments under his belt after 10 weeks of 2017. This time around, Stoica is part of a newly-created focus group at PRO, led by nutritionist Gena Wollenberg.
Aided by Gena, the support of Director of Performance and Sport Science Matt Hawkey, and the ever-growing team within the Organization, the referee is feeling the benefits, and – along with his own hard work, of course – attributes his healthy start to their efforts behind the scenes.
“I was very happy this year because I was healthy and ready to go from the beginning,” Stoica told proreferees.com. “Gena is taking sports nutrition to another level at PRO.
“Some sessions will be in person at camps, some via phone or text, and some via web-based meetings – all centered on individual needs after special tests and measurements, covering general nutrition, hydration, performance nutrition, and restaurant nutrition.
“Travel is huge in North American sports, so you must be a professional and take care of yourself. I try to have a deep tissue massage every week, too – that’s something that has really helped me in the last year.
“We’re also very thankful to Matt, who does a very good job planning our training, and his team who collect all the data and use it to help us stay on top of our game. During the season, training obviously can’t be quite as hard as in preseason, but there is still high-intensity endurance work to help our performance.”
Another focus for Stoica this year is the Video Assistant Referee technology, which is coming into play. The Romanian-born referee was one of the first to be introduced to the new system, and he can’t wait for its regular introduction into the game.
Since then, PRO have appointed former FIFA referee Howard Webb to join the Organization as Manager of VAR Operations, with the aim of incorporating live, in-game testing at MLS regular matches during the second half of the 2017 season.
“There was a lot of training last year when we really helped The IFAB to come up with the final VAR Protocol,” Stoica continued. “It was an honor to be one of the first involved in such a big change happening in our beautiful game.
“Now we have a manager for this very complex department, and I am sure that Howard Webb, with his knowledge and experience, will guide this project to develop in the right direction.”