SOTOGRANDE, Spain - Hello from Spain! FC Dallas' preseason training camp in Sotogrande, Spain is underway. The team will be bonding, training and playing preseason games in the south of Spain until Feb. 9. If you'd like to follow along, I'll be updating this blog with photos, videos and all the happenings over the next two weeks. Stay tuned and DTID!
January 28-29: Planes, Trains and Automobiles
The team began its 5,000-mile trek from Dallas to Sotogrande on Sunday afternoon. Twenty-nine players, 23 staff members and 56 checked bags of luggage and equipment piled into a Boeing 787 and took off from DFW airport and, nine hours later, landed at the Madrid-Barajas airport. After passing through customs, the group loaded onto a bus and headed for the train station to travel from Madrid (in the center of the country) to Málaga in the south. Once on the south coast, our jet-lagged travel party split into two busses and drove another two hours to reach the Sotogrande Spa & Golf resort where we'll stay for 11 nights. It was an exhausting 24 hours of travel but the cozy accommodations and beautiful views of Sotogrande made it worth it. Now, the real work begins.
Tuesday, January 30: Two-a-Days
Our first full day in Spain began with an 8AM breakfast in the meal room, which includes an excellent view of the Sierra Almenara mountains surrounding Sotogrande. Afterwards, the team headed to its first training session at the Ayala Polo Club. The session included 30 minutes of gym work, followed by various possession and position drills, plus a whole lot of running. Afterwards, a quick lunch followed by another training session, this time in the gym. Nothin' quite like preseason two-a-days, which will be a big part of this trip to make sure the team is physically prepared for the long MLS season ahead.
Wednesday, January 31: Routine
Day Two in Sotogrande was the team begin to fall into a routine. The 8AM breakfast was followed by a short team meeting and then it was off to training. After a short warm up in the indoor facility, the players broke into three groups for a small-sided game utilizing six small goals (three on each side). This second training session was, understandably, much sharper. The tempo and general mood of the group was much higher than the previous day, which had its fair share of rust after the long day of travel. After 30 minutes or so of a similar three-team drill using full-sized goals, the session was over and the team headed back to home for lunch before departing again for its second session of the day. Unlike Day One, there was no team dinner planned - allowing the players and staff to explore the local cuisine in Sotogrande.
Thursday, February 1: Matchday -1
It's the day before FC Dallas' first game here in Spain so training was lighter than usual. The team played a game of tag to get things started, Yep, tag. And then did some short sprints and rondo drills to keep everything sharp. Afterwards, the team played full-field 11v11 for a little while before lots of set-piece practice. Then it was back home for lunch before a short afternoon gym session. The day was also marked by FC Dallas' signing of forward Petar Musa from Benfica for a club-record fee. Thus, there was a little extra energy in the group as the excitement filtered down from the coaching staff to the players. It's not often your club signs a Croatian international forward, who will join up with the squad in Sotogrande in the coming days. But for now, it's time to rest up and get ready for Denmark's Odense Boldklub on Friday.
Friday, February 2: Matchday 1
It's our first Game Day here in Spain! Everyone began the morning with a team breakfast followed by a meeting to talk about the upcoming game against Odense BK of Denmark. The coaching staff prepared a presentation that covered the first and second half lineups, the day's tactics and a brief overview of how they expected Odense to play. Then a short rest and pregame meal, then we were off to Marbella for the match. The field was located in the mountains of Marbella, and included the best pitch surface I've ever seen. Large hill faces surrounded the field, scattered with villas rising up into the distance. A picturesque place for a preseason game. Unfortunately, the views were probably the prettiest part of the match - which ended 0-0 despite Dallas creating a number of good chances. But that's okay, this is what preseason is for. Full game recap. After full time, the team headed back to Sotogrande for dinner and rest. All in all, a good first outing here in Spain.
Saturday, February 3: Exploration
It was the day after a game so training and team activities were short and ended by 1PM local time. After that, it was a free day! No scheduled team lunch or dinner, so players and staff were left to their own devices, which meant most ventured out to explore the surrounding countryside. A large group made the 30-minute trek to Gibraltar, a British overseas territory located on the south coast of Spain. It's basically a giant, rocky island that includes some stunning views. Another group decided to catch a soccer game, heading to Estadio Nuevo Mirador for a third-division clash between local side Algeciras CF vs. Alcoyano. Estadio Nuevo Mirador is located near the sea and includes a view of Gibraltar in the distance. It's a 7,000-seat stadium and a great place to watch a match, which ended 1-1 on the day. It's been a busy and productive work trip so far, so these moments of freedom and exploration are welcome.
Sunday, February 4: Back to Work
After a relatively free Saturday, it was back to work on Sunday. And that means another two-a-day. The team began field training around 10AM with rondos followed by a 9v9 game form. Then, since it was the day before another game, there was 30 minutes of set piece practice. Also, it was Athletic Trainer Kwan Lee's birthday, and the team celebrated it in style on the practice field (below). Afterwards, it was back to home for lunch followed by a gym workout with Head of Performance Miguel Villagrasa at the resort gym facility. The rest of the afternoon and evening was filled with soccer. But the team wasn't playing, this time. Instead, they gathered in the Player Lounge area to watch Liverpool vs. Arsenal followed by Atlético Madrid vs. Real Madrid after dinner. Then, it was time to rest for the team's second friendly here in Spain the following day.
Monday, February 5: Matchday 2
Another matchday, another chance to put the training concepts into practice against real competition. The team began the day as usual with breakfast and a team meeting before a few hours of rest before departing for Marbella for the game. It was the same venue as Game 1, a picture-perfect pitch nestled in the hills of southern Spain. The opponent was Aalborg BK of Denmark. Dallas began the game slowly, conceding a number of chances before the Danes took the lead in the 14th minute. It wasn't to be the Danes' day, though, as FCD Homegrown Dante Sealy inspired a second-half comeback with two goals and an assist from wing back. Full Match Recap.
After the win, the squad bussed home for a quick pit stop before departing again for a team dinner out at a restaurant called Trocadero. Sea bass and pork were on the menu, as well as a delicious dessert of chocolate mousse. Then, it was back home for some much-needed rest.
Tuesday, February 6: An Afternoon Off
Team activities were few and far between today after a good win on Monday. Just the usual 8AM breakfast followed by a short training and then players and staff were left to their own devices. Unlike the previous free day, not everyone ventured out of the hotel. Many elected to stay home for rest and recovery. Others played golf or took a day-trip to a nearby town. Having explored Marbella during last year's preseason trip, many decided see Gibraltar (the British territory on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula), about a 25-minute taxi ride away from Sotogrande. In short, Gibraltar is stunning.
Wednesday, February 7: Last Day in Sotogrande
In some ways it feels like we just arrived in Spain. In others, it feels like we've been living and working here for weeks. Either way, Wednesday was our last full day in Sotogrande. The day focused on the final training session at the Ayala Polo Club. As usual there was activation (basically stretching and small movements to warm up) followed by rondos and simple passing drills. Afterwards, a full-team defensive walkthrough led by head coach Nico Estévez. Then, the squad split into three teams with two of them playing against each other in a 9v9 scrimmage while the third team enjoyed a shooting drill before rotating. And that was that for the team's last of 11 visits to the training facility in Sotogrande. After returning home, it was time for lunch and then resting up for two games (in Marbella) on Thursday.
Thursday, February 8: Double Header
The last day of camp was a busy, busy day. There were two games on the schedule, first against Sweden's Malmo FF followed by Odds BK of Norway. Both games were at the Marbella Football Center facility about an hour away from Sotogrande. So, the team departed for the game at 9AM to be ready for warmups at 10AM in order to be set for the first kickoff at 11AM. Head coach Nico Estévez fielded a young side against Malmö, saving his stronger XI for the afternoon game. Malmö, the reigning Swedish champions, dominated proceedings and ran out 4-1 winners. Dallas faired better in the second game, defeating Odds BK by another 4-1 margin thanks to Dante Sealy, who yet again proved dangerous from his left wing back spot. Full Recap. All in all, FCD ended its run of games in Spain with two wins, one draw and one loss while scoring eight goals and conceding three.
After the games, the players and staff loaded onto two busses bound for the Málaga train station to catch a ride to Madrid. After one night in the Spanish capital, it's off to the airport and home to Dallas. It's been a tiring yet productive trip business trip here in Spain. And one that will no doubt help the team compete over the 2024 MLS season.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading about all our Spanish adventures. Until next time, DTID!