Tuesday March 27th
Woke up at 9 am sharp to prepare the day’s morning session to correct some errors we saw in game vs Junior. The two major problems were our build up out of the back off restarts (goal kicks and when gk gets the ball) and our front 3 pressuring and denying the switch of point of attack from opposition’s back line.
L’Hospitalet head coach Jordi Vinyals and assistants were running the coaching course for some of our partners in conjunction with our session on a turf field across the street from the Nou Camp.
Session went well. Boys interpreted the points regarding our options and how they differ when playing 7 a side. It’s difficult to transition in 2 weeks after a year of training with a different system and formation. Nonetheless, we felt we got both key points across and were hoping it would help our performance leading up the evenings game against FC Barcelona Academy Benjamin A team.
We all returned to the hotel for lunch. The “city tour” we have each year for all the players, coaches, and parents on the trip was programmed for 2pm. Not the ideal scenario before the big game but this is also a cultural experience for the players and families who have seldom been outside Los Angeles….much less to Barcelona. The tour took us to Park Guell and Sagrada Familia Church but we cut it short and skipped La Rambla, Olympic Village, port/beaches, and many other historic monuments because the boys looked exhausted and needed a little rest before the big match.
Bus picked us up and we arrived at Cuitat Esportiva 1 hour before 7pm kickoff time. We were escorted by security to our own locker room where the boys got dressed in the game gear and listened to our tactical talk reviewing key points we had worked on in the morning. Coach Danny Rogers, Paul, and myself took the journey with the team from the locker room onto the game field at the magical Cuitat Esportiva de Barcelona….where all the magic happens and the factory is in production.
Without delay FC Barcelona Benjamin A made their way out to the field and the coach Marc Serra Gregori approached me to have a chat about our stay to date and to ask about our team. I informed him we had a great team but not as polished as in previous years because it was a brand new team we had built 6 months ago. Marc Serra Gregori had a laugh and said he sure hopes it’s not like the previous 2 teams we had taken. He then went on to mention his team was the best crop of talent they have had at this age in a very long time. Oh yeah, Barca TV cameras were all over the place. In previous seasons, there were no camera crews, no media, and very little public in attendance. Something was off and it felt like an ambush.
Game time, we started with a 3-2-1 formation again. Barca employed a 3-2-1 that quickly changed to a 2-3-1. Their players took it straight to us and were combining all over the field both horizontally and vertically. Their right back carved up our left back on the wing and drilled a shot that missed the far post by inches. Barcelona continued to carve right through us on quick changes of point of attack and this time is was the left back flying forward into our box and hitting a diagonal bomb that skimmed the post. Their goal was coming and it was inevitable. Our boys looked slow, dazed, confused, nervous, and inferior. After 2 minutes I whispered to Danny Rogers, “we are fucked!” Barcelona dropped 2 quick goals to close the first quarter with a 2-0 lead. We had not connected one 5 pass sequence nor taken a shot on goal. It was a clinic on the field.
Second quarter began and we made 1 change in player personnel. Barcelona made 2 changes. *Sidenote, we brought 14 rostered players on the trip, they had 10 dressed out for the occasion. More of the same in the 2nd quarter, Barcelona in possession and our team chasing all over the field. The nerves were still there. Barcelona CM #4 started to leave his mark on the game and jaws on the floor in amazement with his movements on and off the ball. It was fucking ridiculous how he completely owned the game. We gave up a soft 3rd goal midway through the second quarter off a corner kick with their African kid elevating untouched to head home. Halftime, Barca – 3, Barca Academy CA – 0.
We were having a difficult time covering their outside wingbacks in their 2-3-1 formation so we adjusted to a 2-3-1 of our own to attempt to match up better on the outside. It paid dividends in the 3rd quarter as we slowly got ourselves in the game. Possession was no longer completely monopolized. The boys started to compete and string some passes together and get to goal. A couple of half chances went wide and over. A dead ball situation had their keeper truly tested for a the first time and he was up to the task making an excellent save. Barca capitalized on a quick counter with their pacey #7 striker to seal the game with the 4th.
End of the 3rd quarter, down 4-0.
We decided it was time to get all of the players onto the field to experience the game first hand and see just how bad it feels to be chasing all game long. They made us feel how we make everyone else feel back home. We were chasing the ball and getting pressed in possession, constantly turning the ball over. The avalanche continued and did not stop until the final whistle, 8-0 FC Barcelona Benjamin A had avenged their peers of the previous two years. Coach Marc Serra Gregori came over with a big smile and congratulated the boys on their work rate despite the scoreline and always playing the right way out of the back, never resorted to kick ball or punting the ball once. He reminded me how good his current team was and pointed to the league standings where they are undefeated through 24 games with roughly 200 goals for, and 10 against.
Barca TV reporter Judit Esteban approached me for an interview. They were very intrigued by our Academy and Penya and how we made our yearly trips. She has been well versed about our prior successes in defeating their Academy team 4-1 in 2010 and drawing 2-2 in 2011. A couple of the players were also interviewed. What a great experience for the boys! Just a little detail for them to see how professional the environment truly is. We are attempting to get the game footage and a copy of the show when it is aired tomorrow.
**Sidenote, all Barcelona Academy big bosses were in attendance at kickoff and had asked us the previous day about our players and team. The level of respect for our program is tremendous. Albert Puig, Guillermo Amor, Pere Gratacos waited for me to finish with interview to discuss the game and talk about their newest crop. They will be present at MIC Cup next week to check on our now U11 boys they saw and liked during last years trip to track their progress.
Rob A says
Great stuff. Your video popped up on my radar last week when someone shared it on one of the multiple coaching message boards I frequent. Needless to say your U11 group in the video has been a hot topic with many glowing comments. Sorry to hear about the beat down you received, but hopefully it will be something that drives your skillful young players.
I’m sharing that video with my own U11G this weekend at training. They are nowhere close to your kids, but the philosophy is similar. I regularly show them video of Barca or Arsenal but there’s something lost in translation when it’s grown men who are executing. It’ll be nice for them to see that, yes, kids CAN play this way and can be successful at it (if they have the technical ability to drive the style).
Best of luck and keep the updates coming!
Brian Kleiban says
Thanks for sharing Rob. The beatdown was for the u10’s, not the u11’s in the video. Those boys came last year and tied 2-2. They are arriving on Sunday to play MIC Cup next week.
And you are absolutely correct that it can be done. Any youth team can execute when these methods are rehearsed and instilled into the kids. It’s much easier when the kids can interpret them and will bleed for the coach because they believe in the concepts.
I would absolutely love to see the footage of this game! Must have been eye opening to get a taste of their own medicine a little, it should keep them hungry so that winning a state cup or a tournament stateside they will know it’s nice but they know there is better and that will keep them hungry knowing they need to always continue to improve. It sounds like Barca has a special group of kids this age, maybe it will be as good as the 87’s with Cesc, Messi, and Pique?? Footage of the games and training sessions during your trip would be absolutely amazing to see if that is possible!
Yes, footage would be great. For 8 v 8, what formation do your teams normally run?
Chris H says
New to the site. Love it. I can’t begin to imagine how amazing this experience in Barca would be for a kid (or parent). Videos of their games would be great to see. I would love to see where my son would stack up with your players. He is finishing up his first year at U9 academy at a semi large club in NC. Although the club philosphy preaches development over results, I’m not seeing it. There is more focus on the athlete with a wicked shot over developing technique and the soccer mind. I have challenged the coaching staff a few times regarding this and they seem to have their collective heads in the sand. Not sure what to do other then find another club…problem with that is the others in the area seem to operate in a similar manner. I do believe my son has some serious potential but I worry that he will not reach it where he is. Please tell me there are plans to start a Barcelona USA club in the Charlotte NC area in the near future 🙂
The first time I heard of the format of how Barca plays 7v7 and uses quarters was a couple of months ago. Can you maybe explain how that looks, time? Etc. At what age do they go 11v11 or what is the progression past that.
Gary Kleiban says
Hank, I’ll leave Brian to answer those details. He’s over there.
Chad P. says
Awesome experience for your boys no matter what the score! A couple of questions for you. What happens to your players after they leave your club? Are they moving along throughout the development ranks or are they falling by the wayside because they aren’t gigantic athletic types? Does the USMNT development system know about you guys and are they scouting your players at all? I always read comments by Klinsman and by other USMNT coaches about how difficult it is to scout players in the US, it would pain me to know that they are not scouting at your academy. I think they should be scouting at academies like yours instead of at colleges and high schools. In my opinion, high school and college players are too old to develop into world-class players.
Gary Kleiban says
I can speak for teams we’ve had, not necessarily the club as a whole (lots of kids to track).
* Pretty sure everyone who’s played on our teams has gone on to play at a higher level than when they came on. For instance, if they joined us at the Silver level. When they left they joined a team at the Silver Elite, Gold, or Premier level. Our first team which aged out in 2008, had several special ones that are now swimming in the D1 college ocean or attempting to transition to the pro level. Long stories which I’ll certainly write about in time. For now, here’s some names you can look up:
**Jonathan Prieto (on Seattle Sounders discovery list but they don’t sign him! Unconscionable by global futbol standards. Another long ass story.)
**Jose Gomez (Creighton. The country knows about him, but we’ll see what happens.)
**Jacob Barron (Penn State. Starting to get on the map. We’ll see what happens.)
Finally, you can find video and other names of players that have come through our hands here:
Gary Kleiban says
Does the USMNT development system know about us?
Yeah, they’re aware but I don’t know how superficial or deep their knowledge of us is. Whatever the case, my opinion is they don’t really think there’s much difference between us and others. They’re that dense (although I’m hoping this new entourage of Klinsmann, Porter, Reyna, Ramos, et al will see differently).
This ‘academy’ we’ve just started is currently just at the U9, U10, & U11 age groups, so there’s no impact to the NT yet.
John Sobhi says
I must say, these are some of the most thrilling notes I have ever had the pleasure of reading in my life. As a coach myself, I have longed to witness first hand the tremendous style of spanish futbol. With the way things are going, it seems like a trip to see the Barca USA team is in order.
I congratulate all of you on such amazing success, and look forward to reading more of your notes. Haha I must say, Espanyol is definitely not the fan-favourite of Barca.. but I mean when you’re lightyears infront of teams, who would be? 😛
Meeting Dos Santos though must have been exciting for sure. Sometimes our ‘little kid’ in us comes out at these moments too! Haha who is more excited to be there, the coaches or the players?
Cheers From Windsor Ontario Canada and a job well done to everyone! Players and coaches and staff included!
Stumbled onto this video of the game someone had posted.
Wow! That was some very impressive play. It was evident that the number one problem for your team was the pressuring up front like you had stated. They were able to switch the point of attack to easily. Great stuff finding that video. #4 didn’t disappoint from reading about him your writeup either.