Day Seven (March 22): Heading Home
In less than 10 hours, I’ll be in the air and on my way home to Dallas. It’s been an amazing week in Madrid for everybody involved, and the entire FC Dallas organization has a lot to be proud of in these Academy players and how they represent the club.
READ: Match Recaps vs. Real Madrid
Like yesterday, today was primarily focused on rest and preparation for this evening’s matches. Breakfast was at 9:00 a.m. and we reconvened for lunch at 2:00 p.m. The lunch today was the quietest meal that we’ve had all week. There was no joking or laughing in the dining room this afternoon, I could tell that the boys were completely focused on the task at hand.
The U-18s left for the Ciudad Real Madrid training facility at 3:15 p.m., and once again, you could tell by the complete silence of the 40-minute bus ride that the team was intensely focused on the game ahead of them. Real Madrid’s training complex is a beautiful facility, and a monument to the country’s passion for futbol.
The U-18s got a goal from Jonathan Top early in the match, and went into the half with a 1-0 lead. However, Real Madrid would score two goals off of free kicks in the second half to win the game 2-1.
READ: U-18 Madrid blog
The temperature had steadily dropped during the U-18 match, and by the time the U-16s kicked off it had become extremely cold outside. The team competed well in the first half and headed into the intermission tied at one. However, just like the previous game, the U-16s would give up two goals in the second half and end up losing the game 2-0.
READ: U-16 Madrid blog
At the end of the day, both teams competed at a high level and should hold their collective heads high as they return to Dallas. It’s been a fantastic trip and an invaluable learning experience for everybody involved, including myself.
As a relatively new member of the FC Dallas family, I came into this trip with a limited amount of familiarity with these two teams and the personalities of the individual players. After spending a week with this group in a foreign land, I can say with utmost certainty that each and every one of these boys represents the values of FC Dallas well and would make Lamar Hunt proud with their professionalism, character and work ethic. This trip has been a complete success and these 36 young men will return to Dallas better players and better people.
Be home soon,
Day Six (March 21): Ready for Real
We’re heading into the last day of matches in Madrid and the FC Dallas Academy teams remain undefeated thus far on their Spring Break trip. Both teams seem ready to take on Real Madrid tomorrow evening, and hopefully finish this trip as strong as it began.
Today started out with a breakfast at 9:00 a.m. and a light walk and stretch in the morning. The emphasis was mostly on making sure the players got enough rest though, as the teams were preparing to play two games apiece in about a 24-hour time span. Lunch was at 3:30 p.m. and the boys had a team meeting at 4:45 p.m. before the U-16s left for Rayo Vallecano’s training complex.
READ: U-16 Madrid blog
The brand-new complex had just opened this past fall, and it truly is an impressive facility – in my opinion even rivaling the Spanish National Team’s Ciudad de Futbol. Rayo was a very technically sound team, and each of their players was incredibly fast on the ball. However, just after halftime FC Dallas was able to capitalize on a counter-attack that culminated in Bobby Edet scoring his second goal of this trip.
READ: Day Six Academy match recaps
At the same time on the other side of town, the U-18s were competing in what I’m told was a very physical match. The game ended in a 0-0 draw, which may not be an ideal result, but it also means that the U-18s have yet to be scored on through three matches here in Madrid.
READ: U-18 Madrid blog
The U-18s are slated to be the first match of the day tomorrow, scheduled to kickoff against Real Madrid at 5:00 p.m. The U-16s are scheduled to kickoff immediately after that game at 6:45 p.m.
Stay tuned to FC Dallas Youth on Facebook and @FCDallasYouth on Twitter for the earliest updates, photos and videos, and FCDallas.com for updated match recaps, player blogs and this blog.
Day Five (March 20): FC Dallas en Madrid
FC Dallas' fifth day in Madrid started out with a light breakfast followed by a recovery training session at Ciudad de Futbol. As always, the session started out with some stretching and jogging, and then the boys worked on some passing and finishing drills. After training was over we had to rush back to the hotel for a quick lunch before making our way to downtown Madrid for our tour of Bernabeu Stadium.
The tour was amazing. We got to see all of the trophies that Real Madrid has won over the years and learn all about the rich history of the club. We also got to go down to the pitch level of the stadium and see the benches and locker rooms used by Real Madrid and visiting teams. The end of the tour was capped off by the Real Madrid superstore, where you can own any piece of Real Madrid merchandise, for the right amount of Euros.
READ: U-18 Madrid blog
After I emptied my wallet at Bernabeu Stadium, we went on a guided bus tour of Madrid. It was great to see all of the big landmarks and learn a little bit about the history of the city. After the hour-long tour, we were given some free time to roam around in the heart of the city. Once again, I found plenty of souvenir shops to help lighten the load in my wallet. I also managed to try caviar for the first time in my life. As they say, "when in Madrid..."
READ: U-16 Madrid blog
After everybody regrouped we came back to the hotel to have dinner at 8:00 p.m. After dinner it was straight to the rooms for the players, as they have a total of four games to play in their final two days here in Spain. The U-16s will be taking on Rayo Vallecano at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow, and the U-18s will be facing Atletico Majadahonda at 7:30 p.m.
Of course, don't forget to stay tuned to FC Dallas Youth on Facebook and @FCDallasYouth on Twitter for the earliest updates, photos and videos, and FCDallas.com for updated match recaps, player blogs and this blog.
Day Four (March 19): Halftime
We’re officially past the halfway point of our stay in Spain, and the FC Dallas Academy teams have played half of their games scheduled for this trip as of today. The boys had breakfast at 9:00 this morning and rested in their rooms for a couple hours until we left the hotel at noon.
The U-16s played a local youth team made up of players from Spain who are of Latin American descent. The team was called Federaligas and they lost to the Dallas side this afternoon by a score of 6-0. Erick Chapa scored four of FCD’s goals in the 70 minute match, with Bobby Edet and Jacob Garza netting the other two.
WATCH: Chapa talks about his four-goal game
The U-18s played right after that, and I have to admit they weren’t quite as dominant as the U-16s. They only won 3-0. Does sarcasm translate the same in blogs? Victor Pinal had two goals and Jose Perez scored the third from the spot.
WATCH: Pinal talks about his second goal of today's game
As soon as the second match was over it was straight to the bus and back to the hotel where we immediately ate dinner and got back on the bus to head to the Madrid Derby between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at Atletico’s Estadio Vicente Calderon. Calderon is no Bernabeu; it seats about 30,000 less than the stadium we went to on Wednesday night.
READ: Match Recap - FCD teams outscore opponents 9-0 on second day of matches
Although the noise level was noticeably lower, the intensity was clearly higher than it was at Wednesday night’s match, as the Madrid Derby represents a rivalry that dates back to the 1920’s. Players were taking each other down left and right and there must have been at least six or seven yellow cards in the match.
Real went up 2-0 in the first half, taking some of the spirit out of the crowd, but Atletico clearly had more quality scoring matches throughout the match. Things got really interesting in the 85th minute when the home team scored to cut the lead in half, but it was too little too late as Real held on to their one goal lead through the end of stoppage time. Overall it was a highly contested match by both squads and it was great to see the beautiful game played at such a high level.
We got back to the hotel just after 1:00 a.m., just in time for kickoff of the Brimstone Cup home opener between FC Dallas and the Chicago Fire. Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch the match, but I was able to keep an eye on the MLS MatchCenter while I worked. Good to see the boys were able to come from behind to tie the game and preserve the point after going a man down. Way to go FCD!
Well, that about does it for me tonight. Tomorrow’s agenda includes a morning recovery session and an afternoon tour of Madrid.
Stay tuned to FC Dallas Youth on facebook and @FCDallasYouth on twitter for the earliest updates, photos and videos, and FCDallas.com for updated match recaps, player blogs and this blog.
Dallas ‘til I Die,
Day Three (March 18): Holy Toledo!
The third day in Madrid started off a little earlier for the FC Dallas Academy teams. Breakfast was at 8:00 a.m. sharp, and by 9:00 a.m. the teams were on the bus and headed to Ciudad de Futbol for a recovery training session following yesterday’s games.
The session started with a light jog around the field and some stretching. After that the boys broke up into groups of five to seven players to run keep-away drills. The drills were followed by another lap around the field and then the players separated by team.
Both teams ran similar drills, dividing up into two smaller teams by birth year. The object of the drill was to connect a specific number of passes uninterrupted with a limited amount of touches. After that the teams did some cool down jogging and stretching before wrapping up the hour-long session.
READ: U-16 co-captain Caleb Underwood recounts his first match in Spain
We returned to the hotel and were given about half an hour before we had to be back on the bus to head to Toledo. It was about an hour drive from our hotel, but the view was well worth the wait. Toledo is a beautiful city with a rich history.
We got to Toledo at about 1:30 p.m. and once we got to the city square the boys were allowed to split up and explore the historic city. With all of the players splitting up, I was invited to trail along with FC Dallas first team Home Grown player Jonathan Top and U-18 midfielder Jose Gamino. We did some exploring around the narrow streets of Toledo, but spent most of our time touring the city’s Holy Church Cathedral.
READ: FCD Home Grown player Jonathan Top talks about the U-18s first win
There are few structures in this world that can compare to the size and intricate detail of European churches. The Cathedral was built in 1492, and it’s hard to imagine such a grandiose, awe-inspiring building being constructed without the use of modern-day construction equipment.
WATCH: Top and Gamino talk about their time in Toledo
After we were done taking in the history of the Cathedral, we made our way back to the square to meet up with the rest of the team, stopping at a few souvenir shops on the way. The trip back to the hotel took a little bit longer than the trip there, as we got stuck in some nasty Madrid rush hour traffic. I used the extra time on the bus to catch up on some sleep.
We finally got back to the hotel at about 6:30 p.m. and had some free time until dinner at 8:00. After dinner the boys were told their curfew for the night would be 9:00 p.m. sharp, as they’ve got a long day ahead of them tomorrow. The teams will wake up for breakfast at 9:00 a.m., have team meetings at noon and leave the hotel at about 12:15 p.m.
Tomorrow's opponents will be some local rec teams from here in Madrid. The U-16s play at 2:00 p.m. and the U-18s play at 4:00 p.m. Then it’s back to the hotel for a quick dinner before heading back out at 8:00 p.m. to go watch the Madrid Derby between Real and Atletico. The game kicks off at 10:00 p.m. and we should be getting back to the hotel at about 1:00 in the morning. A long day indeed!
I’ll be checking back in tomorrow night, but I too will be needing a solid night’s sleep to make it through tomorrow.
As always, stay tuned to FC Dallas Youth on Facebook and @FCDallasYouth for the earliest updates, photos and videos, and FCDallas.com for updated match recaps, player blogs and this blog.
Day Two (March 17): Good Results
Day Two may have been the first day of matches for the FC Dallas U-16 and U-18 Academy teams, but it certainly felt less eventful than Day One. The morning started with breakfast at 9:00 a.m. followed by a light stretch and walk around the hotel.
After that the boys returned to their rooms until noon, when everyone gathered for a walk to the nearby grocery story. This place is essentially Spain’s equivalent of a Target or Wal-Mart. It’s about a ten minute walk from the hotel, and yes, just like many of the players, I stocked up on snacks to help get me from meal to meal here at the hotel.
We came back to the hotel and the boys had a few hours of downtime before the pregame meal at 4:00 p.m. and team meetings at 5:40 p.m. After the meetings the teams went their separate ways, as the U-16s were kicking off at 7:30 p.m. and the U-18s at 8:00 p.m.
I went to the U-16 match against Atletico Madrid, and it was very tightly contested. Atletico went up a goal in the first half, but the boys from Dallas dominated in the second half and eventually tied the game at one in the 90th minute off a goal from Jesse Estrada. It’s funny in soccer how those last second ties can really feel like victories.
After we came back to the hotel and ate dinner we were rejoined by the U-18s, who defeated Rayo Vallecano 2-0 with goals coming from first team Home Grown forward Jonathan Top and midfielder Danny Garcia.
With two solid results in the book, the FCD Academy teams will have a light training tomorrow morning followed by some free time in Toledo in the afternoon.
Don’t forget to stay tuned to FC Dallas Youth on Facebook and @FCDallasYouth on Twitter for the earliest updates, photos and videos, and FCDallas.com for updated match recaps, player blogs and this blog.
Day One (March 16): What an Opportunity
We’ve wrapped up Day One in Madrid, and as I type this entry the FC Dallas Academy players are getting a full night’s sleep in preparation for their first games of the trip tomorrow. And rightfully so, it’s been an eventful and busy first day.
The flight left DFW an hour late – as international flights tend to do – so we landed in Madrid at about 10:00 local time Wednesday morning. By the time the group of nearly 50 FC Dallas ambassadors made it past customs, collected their luggage and arrived at the hotel about 10 miles north of downtown Madrid, it was time for lunch.
READ: U-16 captain Alex Frankenfeld talks about the long flight
After lunch at the hotel, the players were given about an hour to rest before transferring across the highway to Ciudad de Futbol for a light training session. Ciudad de Futbol is the Spanish National Team training facility and is quite a sight. The training consisted mostly of stretching and jogging before the two teams split up and ran through various possession and passing exercises.
“It was a long trip,” said coach Francisco Molina. “We were trying to get the boys accustomed and let some of that energy out so they can be a little bit more tired and get a good night’s sleep tonight.”
The squads then returned to the hotel from training and got about another hour’s worth of rest before it was time for dinner. After dinner it was back on the bus to head to Estadio Santiago Bernabéu to watch the UEFA Champions League match between Real Madrid and Olympique Lyon.
READ: U-18 captain Jack Coleman recounts the Champions League match
I’ve been to a lot of sporting events and concerts in my lifetime, but I have never seen anything like the atmosphere in this stadium. We got there about an hour early, and before the stadium was even a quarter of the way full the crowd was already louder than any I had heard before.
By the time the 80,000-plus capacity stadium filled up – on a Wednesday night mind you – the crowd was deafening. Every goal, every chance, every call was reacted to with such unbelievable passion. I’ve officially been convinced that there is nothing quite like soccer in Europe!
We finally made it back to the hotel at about 11:30 and after a very eventful first day it was time for the boys to get some real rest in preparation for their first matches tomorrow. The U-18s will be taking on Rayo Vallecano and the U-16s will face their counterparts from Atletico Madrid.
I think FC Dallas Youth director of coaching Chris Hayden summed up what this trip represents best when he was wrapping up training with the U-16s.
“Think about it guys – Atletico Madrid tomorrow – what an opportunity.”
Stay tuned to FC Dallas Youth on Facebook and @FCDallasYouth on Twitter for the earliest updates, photos and videos, and of course FCDallas.com for updated match recaps, player blogs and this blog.
For Day One in Madrid,