We began the day at the training field doing the coaching course for our partner clubs from Nor Cal, New York, and Arizona at the field adjacent to the Camp Nou and Mini Stadi. Coach Jordi Vinyals and Arnau Navarro were running a little late after their L’Hospitalet training session so the coaches took the opportunity to observe Danny and I run a session for the boys u10 and u12 teams preparing for the evening’s games against Sant Cugat. We did a nice technical warm up with the ball to get the boys loose and moving. Communication, Dribbling, Passing, Receiving, and lots of movement on and off the ball to get the boys rolling after having Thursday off.
We then ran what is called the double rondo that has become the patent of all the youth academies here in Spain. It’s pretty much a 4 v 2 + 1 Neutral in side by side adjacent squares. Transition from defense to offense and offense to defense are key coaching points. But it all comes back to moving the ball in 1 or 2 touches, being aware of what you’re going to do way before you receive the ball, and getting lots of touches in tight spaces so it becomes second nature. Once you take this to a huge playing field, it’s truly unfair to the opposition. We will have to post video once we get home so you can see the drill and apply it with all your teams.
Jordi and Arnau showed up to have a Q & A session with all the coaches. This years coaches clinic was much more hands on in terms of the coaches having to get involved and run their own sessions. Jordi would make corrections if necessary and offer suggestions of how to improve the session to attain positive results with the objective each coach is working towards.
On to the juicy stuff!!!
The game in the evening was against a top tier local Academy Sant Cugat who is currently in 3rd place behind Barcelona in Benjamin A first division. Another worthy opponent to test our players against the best in Barcelona. It was at a beautiful turf facility but the dimensions were on the small side. This meant we’d have to think that much faster and play the ball with much more pace to avoid being closed down by the opponent’s pressure.
Starting line up was Joel in goal. Rivaldo, Jeffrey, Jonathan in the back row. Romario and Lebron in the middle with Imanol up top. Our team has slowly started to adapt to the 7 v 7 game and looked much smoother in our build up out of the back. The boys have learned to find the 2 interior CM’s and outlet to the forward or switch the point of attack to the weak side outside backs. Our high pressure paid dividends early in the game as Imanol pressed their left back into playing a diagonal ball across the field. The ball was intercepted by Lebron who cooly 1-timed a rocket to the top right corner. Brilliant goal and 1-0 lead. The pressure kept paying off as Lebron stole a ball in the midfield and threw a quick combination with Imanol who slipped a through ball for Romario. Little Romario accelerated by the Center back with his explosive patented move and toe poked past the keeper then finished into an empty net. 2-0 at the end of 1st quarter.
2nd quarter lineup Joel in goal, Oscar, Jeffrey, Jonathan, Lebron, Romario, and Artur. Game was intense. Sant Cugat plays the game the right way. Great build up in the back looking to get forward with numbers and break our line of pressure with possession out of the back every time!!! None of this launching the ball forward and cross your fingers something good happens! Everything is rehearsed. How sad to see that all clubs work in this mirror image here and back in the US it is the exception to treat the ball with care instead of kicking the shit out of it. Rant over, back to the game. We got popped on a counter down the middle and their #10 CM drilled an unstoppable shot from 15 yards out to cut the lead to 2-1 at the half.
3rd period had Jonathan, Jeffrey, and Rivaldo back on. Romario in the middle with Jacob, and Pablo up top. Pablo pressed their back line defensively like no other! He caused them fits with his pace on the small field. We were losing the ball in key areas and one costly turnover led to the game being tied 2-2 at the end of the 3rd.
On the the crucial 4th quarter. Joel, Andrew, Chuy, and Oscar were now in the back row. Lebron and Romario in the middle with Stuart playing the forward role. Stuart has a unique nose for goal and always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Tonight was no different as he pounced on a loose ball off a corner kick set piece to give us the 3-2 edge midway through the 4th. Sant Cugat kept competing and got their reward once again off a turnover in the middle of the field. 3-3, 4 minutes left. We inserted Imanol back in to hopefully link up with Lebron and Romario to get a game winner. Danny’s line up change worked to perfection as Lebron threw a nice 1-2 combo and Romario did the rest. TEEEEEEEEEEENGA!!!! 4-3 in the last minute for a huge win against a top tier team pushing our record to 3-1 on the trip.
The Sant Cugat coaches were very impressed with the boys level of play and tactical understanding. The intensity and high pressure shown throughout the trip is the common theme when discussing the games with the opposing Academy coaches. One last game vs Almeda FC on Sunday. On deck for Saturday will be Barcelona Academy games at Cuitat Esportiva and the big showdown between FC Barcelona vs Atletic Bilbao.