Greetings from sunny Spain! FC Dallas is in beautiful Marbella until Feb. 10 for its preseason training camp at the Marbella Football Center in southern Spain. I'll be updating this blog with pictures, videos and recaps of all the happenings from the trip so make sure to check back every few days. DTID!
January 29-30: Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Finally, we made it. The team departed Toyota Stadium on Sunday afternoon and some 30ish hours later we're at our hotel in Marbella. We took a direct flight from DFW to Madrid and, after a brief run-in with Spanish customs, convened at a vibe-y restaurant for lunch (see below). Next, a three-hour train ride south through the Spanish countryside to Málaga. Then, the final leg of our journey. We bussed from the train station in Málaga to our hotel in Marbella.
The main takeaways: Spain is gorgeous, the food is amazing, and traveling is tiring. But the team is here and ready to get to work!
January 31: New Places, Familiar Faces
After a much-needed full night's sleep, FCD's Marbella training camp is officially underway. The Marbella Football Center is about a 15-minute bus ride from the hotel. The complex includes locker rooms, a full gym and fitness area, multiple fields and, of course, a spectacular view. FC Dallas ran into some familiar faces before the session began as the Seattle Sounders are also in Marbella as they prepare for their FIFA Club World Cup campaign.
The session began with about 30 minutes of gym work before breaking into some warm-up rondos. After that, the goalkeepers separated for their own drill work while the outfield players split into two teams for 45 minutes of intense small-sided games. The session ended with a few half-field jogs before the team bussed back to the hotel for lunch.
With the afternoon/evening to themselves, Paul Arriola, Edwin Cerrillo, Jimmy Maurer and Paxton Pomykal headed out for a round of golf and they were kind enough to let the media team tag along. While I can't reveal their scores, I can confirm the views were stunning.
February 1: Building Routine
The second full day in Marbella saw the team beginning to fall into a routine. It starts with 8AM breakfast, 8:45AM treatment with the team trainers, 9:35AM bus ride to the training center, 10AM gym session, 10:30AM training session and then bus back to the hotel.
Today, however, head coach Nico Estévez gives his players the afternoon to themselves before a team dinner at 7PM. With their time off, center back roomates Nkosi Tafari and Sebestien Ibeagha decided to explore the sights and sounds of Puerto Banús, a small town within walking distance of the hotel.
The excursion included some sightseeing, shopping and, of course, tapas for lunch. Surprise, surprise, Puerto Banús, like all of Spain seemingly, is beautiful.
February 2: First Match Prep
It's Day 3 in Marbella and the team is getting ready for its first preseason game of the trip. The opponent is Malmö FF of the Swedish first division. To help the players switch into a more competitive mindset after days of mainly fitness-related training, Nico Estévez devised two drills where groups would compete against each other.
The first was a passing drill where each group played a series of one-touch passes before the last player would hit a first-time shot in between two cones. The fastest group to complete the passes and score 10 times was the winner. The second drill was an attacking/finishing exercise where the team split into two groups and simulated half-field attacking moves that ended with a cross and shot on goal. The team that scored the most goals within the allotted time won. As usual, the players' competitive streaks came out and the pain of losing and glory of winning were apparent. (celebrations below)
Training ended with some free kick practice that featured a very elaborate Smart Wall. The wall is controlled by an iPad and "jumps" when the user presses a button (in this case FCD's technical director André Zanotta). The wall can even be programmed to specific heights of opposing teams' defenders. Today, it was programmed to simulate the wall of Bayern Munich. Alan Velasco, Jesús Ferreira and Brandon Servania each took turns trying to beat Bayern's wall--controlled by Zanotta.
Since it's the day before matchday, the rest of the afternoon/evening was pretty relaxed and filled with standard team meetings, meals and rest.
February 3: Matchday One
Finally, some competitive soccer! The team headed to the Marbella Football Center around 2:30PM for its first friendly here in Spain. The opponent was Malmö FF of the Swedish first division. While it was a friendly on paper, the game quickly devolved in a scrappy, physical affair. There were plenty of yellow cards and scoring opportunities for both sides but it ended 0-0 after 90 minutes. The most eye-catching moment of the afternoon came from Maarten Paes who made an excellent double save early in the first half. Full match recap here.
After the postgame dinner, a few members of the team and staff headed to Málaga (about a 45-minute drive east) for a LaLiga 2 match between Málaga CF and Real Oviedo at the Estadio Rosaleda. Málaga, who were among the top teams in La Liga a decade ago and competed in the latter stages of the Champions League, are now in danger of being relegated to the third division. And they did themselves no favors Saturday night, falling 1-0 to Oviedo after a torrid two minutes that saw them concede the opening goal and have a man sent off. It wasn't a good night for the home team but it was a great experience seeing such a competitive game in a wild atmosphere.
February 4: Recovery
Saturday was a quiet day. The team was recovered from its tussle with Malmö with a 30-minute gym session before playing a few friendly rounds of paddle ball at the training center. It was evident early on that Dutchman Maarten Paes was no stranger to a paddle ball court...you could've easily mistaken him for an up-and-coming tennis pro.
Afterwards, the team was given free time so a few players and staff members headed out for a relaxing afternoon of golf.
February 5: Back to the Routine
Sunday saw the team get back to its regular Spain routine. Breakfast, training, relaxation at the hotel. The team needed to prepare for its second preseason match in Marbella against the nine-time K-League champions, Jeonbuk Hyundai. More on that below.
Sunday also happened to be the birthday of one Paul Arriola. He was greeted in the gym session by a round of "Happy Birthday" from the whole team. Unfortunately, with a game the next day, there was a severe lack of birthday cake.
February 6: Jeonbuk Hyundai
Marbella Matchday 2. The team headed to a new training facility, the Banús Training Center, for its game against South Korean side Jeonbuk Hyundai. There was a short reunion before the game when FCD's Marco Farfan and Sebastien Ibeagha met up with their former LAFC teammate Kim Moon-Hwan, who has since returned to his native country.
Jeonbuk took the lead in the first half through Son Min-kyu before Jáder Obrian equalized for Dallas early in the second half from the penalty spot. His goal was FCD's first of 2023. The game saw Nico Estévez begin to give some players extended minutes after having a 45-minute limit on the whole roster in last week's game. You can find all those details in the full match recap here.
After the match ended 1-1, the team returned to the hotel for dinner which included a special postgame menu item: Pizza!
February 7: Rain Day
Instead of FCD's typical recovery training following matchday, the team had one of its most intense sessions of the trip. Everything was a competition. Small-sided, small goal games and small-sided, full-size goal games. Even the weather decided to break routine as dark rainclouds descended over the mountains of Marbella. The constant downpour fit the mood and made for an entertaining hour of soccer.
The players' considerable efforts were rewarded by an excellent team dinner out at a nice restaurant later in the evening. A three-course meal, wine, dessert and good vibes were enjoyed by all.
February 8: Final Session
The rain was present once again during the team's final training session. While it wasn’t as intense as Tuesday, the hour-long session was more taxing than typical pre-game training. It ended with set piece drills and that’s where things got interesting. Branden Servania whipped in a cross that eventually found its way to the feet of Jáder Obrian 12-14 yards out. The Colombian lashed it home and then set off on a 50-yard sprinting celebration with his teammates in toe. They capped off the celly with an eight-man griddy in the center of the field. Absolute scenes.
Never has a team enjoyed a scrappy training goal more.
February 9: Fin
Our last day in Marbella. Our last matchday. The team faced Sweden’s Hammarby IF and earned its first victory of 2023.
Nico Estévez fielded something very close to his strongest lineup for the first time this preseason. It paid off. Dallas controlled most of the game and the big hitters up top were dangerous. Alan Velasco almost opened the scoring in the first half with long distance curling shot from the left wing and Jesús Ferreira nearly scored from a Geovane Jesus cross. It wasn’t until the second half, though, that FCD found the breakthrough. Velasco played Paul Arriola in behind Hammarby’s backline after some nifty footwork in midfield. The U.S. international made no mistake and slotted it past the keeper for his first goal of the new year. Full recap here.
The win was the perfect way to cap off a long trip that had the ideal balance of hard work and fun. Now, back to Dallas for the final preparations before FC Dallas begins the 2023 MLS campaign at home against Minnesota United on Feb. 25.
I’m signing off now for the journey back home. Thanks for reading!