Before we get to the status entry below, a touch of background:
Brian has been traveling to Barcelona every year for the last 5 years to learn and have his teams compete.
This year is no different.
On Wednesday his 2001’s will open group play in the Mediterranean International Cup against the 800 pound gorilla, FC Barcelona!
Andrew May, our long time friend, former teammate, and coaching colleague is in Spain with Brian as well. Lucky bastards!
What follows is Andrew’s account of Saturdays activities.
Date 3/23/2013, Saturday
The anticipation of Saturday soccer games at Ciutat Esportiva all day was worth the 14 hour travel to Barcelona. The morning could not have arrived soon enough. Everyone jumped out of bed, put on their best soccer attire, and ate a typical Spanish breakfast. Engergized and ready to go, we went and watched Infantil “B”; Ben Lederman’s team against Vendrell CE. The first half was 1-0 after standout midfielder Lucas dropped a bomb from 25 out to force the goalkeeper into making a great save off the crossbar, only to fall to the winger #7 who took the shot on the volley from 8 out.
The connection between Lucas #8 and right winger #7 was the only thing worth watching in the first half. The team was slow and predictable in their attack and were forced to make outside shots or hopeless crosses. There was no change of rhythm to break in behind, nor was there successive wing 1v1 to get in behind inferior defenders. The attack became narrow and vanilla…
Second half, enter the flavor! The coach replaced all 3 center mids and center forward. Ben did not play in the first half due to rotation policy within the team, but lit up the second half providing his team with a quality center mid performance. Thank goodness!
He was smooth on the ball and entertained the crowd with tight turns, combined with penetrating dribbling and passes. He was partnered with #16 at the attacking center mid spot and #18 (Zlatan) as the center forward. These two showed their worth to the fans as they would play a role in the other 2 goals. The second goal game from a penetrating run from the right back who cut inside and slipped the ball with the outside of his right foot to Zlatan who made a diagnol run into the box and with one-touch played the ball behind him with his heel to an on-running #16 who finished the open net. The third goal came after the #16 dribbled by a few players and used Zlatan for a wall pass and then scooped the ball in behind to the left winger who rounded the goalkeeper and scored.
Vendrell CE was barely hanging on all game but not until the second half did the quality of these players change the game. I, probably like everyone else, wants to see the #8 play in the middle with #16 and Benny. That would add for some true flavor. After the game, Ben walked right by us gave a high five and continued to locker room like a true professional. We would meet up with him later.
We made our way to watch Jordi Vinyals and his Juvenil “A” team play. This was a weird week due to many players having international games. This team was without 7 of its regular guys. The disconnect between players was evident from the kick off.
Barca dominated the possession, not shocking, but lacked in the final 3rd missing chances and poor decision-making. The last place team, AEC Manlleu, was able to score 2 goals in the first half to shock the onlooking crowd. Both goals came off of set piece corner kicks, one from each side. The players were placed in strict zonal marking with the near post front loaded. An inswinging left corner reached the near post and a player ran in and scored with no challenge. The second came from the opposite side and inswung to near post and again, players refused to impede any runs or make a challenge. The team needed an inspirational talk from the coach.
And that’s what Jordi provided and his team responded. A couple of tactical and personnel changes allowed for the team to make more of their opportunities. Trailing 2-0 with 12 minutes left, the team cameback and scored to make it 2-1. The stadium could feel the second goal coming and so could the other team. With 2 minutes left in normal time, they found the equalizer. The other team was demoralized and couldn’t believe what just happened. In injury time – that seemed to go on forever – Barca found the way to destroy any post game party celebrations for the other team. Jordi Vinyals and Juvenile “A” 3, the other team 2. Tots Barca!
After a little lunch of Frankfurters at Sandwichez! We made our way to Cornella, near Espanyol’s stadium. There we watched Barca’s team that will be competing in MIC cup this year at our same age (the aforementioned 800-pound gorilla), play a 7 a-side game against Cornella. We wanted to get a good feeling for this team and it’s players.
We plan on watching them play 11v11 tomorrow morning to see how the player’s games translate to the big field. We watched them dominate the game and lead the match 2-0 until the 4th quarter. And then the fireworks came out and exploded all over Cornella, final score 8-0. The anticipation of us and Barca playing against each other in group play is heating up. We are keeping an eye on a couple of players… more to come tomorrow after we analyze the 11-a-side game.
Time to rush back to hotel, Togo, Artur and XuXu, just arrived today and were headed to Barcelona “B” game at the MINI.
Barca “B” matched up against an inferior Huesca squad. Rafinha, Thiago’s brother, played center mid and was a class above everyone else on the field. Like many of the Barca games we watched today, they dominated possession and squandered their chances in front of goal. Huesca was able to notch a goal in the second half that made the hinchas of Huesca go nuts. It wasn’t until the ref awarded a penalty for Barca in the 80th minute that gave them the best chance to equalize.
Somehow it must have gotten lost in translation when the coach Eusebio said, let the best player on the field take it (Rafinha), and it ended up being the center back who was possibly the worst player technically on Barca. Needless to say, he missed the penalty and Huesca pulled off the shock result. Just like Finlandoza!!!
So what have we learned from these games? Finish your chances and punish other teams in front of goal, or they will be the ones celebrating!
Schedule for tomorrow:
– Meet team at airport to pick them up when they arrive 9:30 am.
– Get them to cuitat sportiva to watch games and tour the facility 10:30 am.
– 12:30 pm Brian, Rodgers and myself will scout barca playing 11 a-side vs Greek team in a friendly.
– The boys will rest and recover in hotel from long day of travel.
– Monday morning training session.
Keep on kickin’
p.s. Just a heads up that we may be publishing daily for the next couple weeks.