Men's Soccer Blog from Barcelona
From Coach Barlow:
Yesterday we arrived back to Princeton after an incredible week in Barcelona. The highlights seem endless --
- the chance meeting of Pep Guardiola
- watching the best team in the world, FC Barcelona, play a match in Camp Nou, and then touring the stadium and museum
- watching Espanyol practice
- exploring the city and enjoying the magnificent tours of Park Gueil, Las Ramblas, the Sagrada Familia, and the former Olympic venues
- the breathtaking views from well above Barcelona at the Monastery of Montserrat
- the four matches we played ourselves
- the great food and hospitality we received everywhere we went
- the incredible people we met in Barcelona
On behalf of all of the players, I want to thank all of the alumni and friends of Princeton Soccer who helped make this trip possible. I also want to thank our great staff in Barcelona, including Steve Totten, Paul Oliu, Russ Steves, Kelly Widener, and Matt Kinsey. Special thanks also to Jeremy Meccage for organizing the trip for us, and Virginia, our guide on the tours in Barcelona. Ms. Tiziana Santi, our tour manager, took great care of us all week long, as did Ms. Silvia Fossati on our first day in Spain. Finally, thanks to Myles for taking the time to write some great blogs for you to enjoy. Here are some excerpts from his final blog (written just before the flight home):
From Myles McGinley:
Saturday was our last day in the paradise that is Barcelona and no more fitting a way to end our trip than a game of Futbol. This was our fourth game in a space of a week, but honestly I don't think most of the guys were feeling too sore besides a few turf burns and Cole's ridiculously stubborn cut on his knee that just oozes rather than scabs. Nevertheless, the main point is we were feeling pretty good and excited to end the trip with a few golazos.
And golazos we got. Within the first 30 minutes we had scored three, all thanks to some quick offensive play and athleticism by Cameron Porter...we finished the half 3-0. Second half began much in the same way, but we got a bit complacent late on and conceded a goal that had a pretty strong hint of offsides. Our response was good, though, and we scored through a great pass from Chris Benedict that Nico Hurtado converted, and then Dylan Bowman finished an Alex Wetterman pass. Game over, 5-1.
It was a nice way to end our trip and round out a record of 3-1 against Spanish opposition. We certainly learned a lot from the trip, not only about the way Spanish play, but also about badays, the lack of toilet paper, the lack of meat in sandwiches, weird architecture, what airline Pep Guardiola flies, I digress. What I mean to say is that our team's exposure to Spanish soccer has been an amazing experience that hopefully will contribute to our development as players and as a team in our upcoming spring and fall seasons. But what's most important was our interaction with Barcelona's culture and history. It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit some of the most iconic landmarks in the world with a group of your closest friends. Seniors... Apologies.
I know we all learned a lot and a huge thanks from the whole team to Zag sports, the friends group, and our tour guides that made everything so smooth.
Education through athletics. The Princeton motto perfectly embodied by the trip. Hopefully we see Pep on the way home but, probably wishful thinking.
-- Los Tigres
Blog Post 5
Games 2 and 3
On Wednesday we played a club named Gava C.F. According to our tour guide they would be our toughest opposition we'd face on the trip, and she was definitely right. Their stadium was located in a more urban neighborhood and was also an athletics club with track facilities surrounding the grass field. The stadium had stands that were placed on either sideline outside the track and as usual we attracted a huge crowd. By huge crowd I mean Andrew Menedez's long-lost uncle and two Princeton students who happened to be spending their spring break in Barcelona.
I thought when the other team came out wearing just athletic socks with no shin guards we would be in for a long day and for the most part we were correct. The field was soft, but the grass was slick and the ball moved pretty quickly. They kept the ball, moving swiftly between the back four and midfield, giving us little chance to get anything going. Their game plan seemed to play through the midfield, and play it wide as much as possible to attack down the flanks. Although they had majority of the possession and some great skills when going at us, they still didn't get much penetration behind us. As the half went on we were able to break down a few of their plays and go at them, getting a few good shots off from Cameron Porter. Toward the end of the half, we had one major scare when what they took a cross from wide right, and it looked to like a goal, but the ball was lofted over the top of the goal and we came away with a 0-0 result at halftime.
During the second half we actually started the more lovely of the two teams, pressuring and getting forward as much as possible. We even had a shot from Thomas Sanner ricochet off the left upright as well as getting unlucky when the ball dribbled just wide from a cross by Nico Hurtado. Our pressure unfortunately was not rewarded with a goal and they started to gain control again as the game went on. Their pace and slick passing was hard for us to handle and in the late stages of the game they scored off a hard shot to the lower left hand corner. It was 1-0 and the game would stay like this until the end.
They were a strong team undoubtedly and exposed our technical weaknesses, but we can still take pride in our defending and work ethic.
Thursday we mainly rested and those who needed to work did so. We played Rubi CF that night and started off the game very well. The first half we had the better of the play, and on a wet turf field, moved the ball well between defense and offense. Our first goal came from a great through ball by Thomas Sanner that put Nico Hurtado in on goal. In his normal sneaky way, Nico rounded the keeper and slotted it past a frustrated defender who ended up entangled in the net, 1-0 Tigers. Our pressure continued and soon after our first we scored our second. Thomas Sanner connected well off a cross from John Kendall and headed the ball past the keeper to put us up 2-0. We seemed in real control of the game until the last few minutes of the half when a defensive breakdown gave them their only chance of the half. They capitalized and made it 2-1 with a low shot past Ben Hummel's outstretched hands. Although the half was exciting and successful for us, the greatest part came midway through when Dylan Bowman was quite embarrassingly beaten on the sideline. As usual Dylan thought he had his man perfectly. But with a quick drag back, and Cruyff rendition, Bowman's legs froze, cracked and crumbled. As the player ran away with the ball, Dylan, still dazed and confused, wondered what had happened. Spanish foot skills, the main culprit of American soccer player ankle injuries.
Fortunately for Bowman, he was playing well, moving the ball and going at people, and he and the Princeton team started the second half the same way, but a few minutes in, the Rubi's completely new 11 began to take control of the game. During the second half it seemed as though we could do nothing to stop their midfield from passing intricately between us and racing forward. If not for some brave defending from Billy and Cole, we may have conceded a few. However, we did enough during the second half to come away with a 2-1 win and push our record for the trip to 2 wins and 1 loss. We really should have done better in the second half, but for the sake of the players, we will blame it on the heavy legs.
That night Barlow generously allowed us a night on the town. Things happened. Spanish was butchered. Chicas were scared. Eyes were wide, mouths dropped. Barcelona night life would never be the same.
Blog Post 4
La Sagrada Familià
Wednesday morning we packed up the bus to head to La Sagrada Familià, one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. Designed by Gaudi, construction began in 1882 and to this day is still not finished. They say it is meant to be finished in 20 years, but our tour guide was pretty skeptical about that estimate. We had seen the building a few times already when driving around the city, so we already had a taste of how fantastic the structure was and were pretty excited to see the interior.
I will say that the outside is a bit strange to say the least. Not only are there cranes and scaffolding surrounding the building, but the clear difference between the new and the old parts of the building makes the cathedral seem a bit unbalanced. Nevertheless, it was still amazing, the stone exterior walls were immaculately sculpted to depict different biblical scenes and Gaudi purposely designed it with with an aim to depict nature. There is even a green Christmas tree that stands symbolically over front entrance. The top of the cathedral may be the most impressive where massive spires shoot up into the sky. In the end there will be 18 to represent Jesus, his disciples, the trinity, Mary, and Joseph, but a lot of them are still under construction. It was certainly an iconic building, and the inside was probably even more unbelievable.
After dislodging a few rogue hairs from our headsets that spewed information about the building at us, we walked into a massive hall -- like really massive. Enormous, whatever adjective you can think of to describe more than 45 meter high ceilings and enough floor space to comfortably have more than one football field. Massive pillars extended from marble floors that split into branches resembling trees held up the structure. It really was amazing and a place everyone who appreciates culture and architecture ought to visit.
After touring the cathedral, the COS majors and junior paper procrastinators who had work decided to return to the hotel while those more vivacious and culturally aware members of the team explored the streets of Barcelona (not to say that they are nerds, but, kinda). Anyways, when in Spain do as the Spanish do, relax and hangout at cafès. We decided to eat at a little restaurant on a side pedestrian street. After a long look at the menu a lot of us decided on the hamburgeuesa especial. A hamburger with a fried egg on it. Why the Estados Unidos had not adopted this technique is beyond me. Anyway after lunch, we headed back to the hotel for a rest before the game.
Next blog post coming soon!
Blog Post 3
After a day touring the Camp Nou and visiting a park that was designed by Gaudi, it was finally time for what the main point of our trip was meant to be: futbol! We arrived at the stadium in Igualada, Spain, which was about an hour from our hotel at around 7pm. Some of the younger age groups of the club were training on the pitch and it was very interesting to watch how they practiced. Just from the sideline it was pretty obvious how technical some of the younger kids were. There were two groups, one was probably Under-10’s and the other Under 15’s, so it was hard to tell how athletic they were, but their touch really showed how the Spanish emphasize technique above all from a young age.
Igualada is a Division 2 team in the Catalonian league, so their stadium and facilties were obviously not the Camp Nou, but the team was still expecting a good Spanish outfit. The stadium was small with regular bleacher stands on all four sides and the pitch was a coarse, hard version of turf that made the ball move quite quickly. We were all very excited to play under lights and during our warm up we moved the ball around well, continuing our good play from practice the day before.
At around 8:15 the game started and the atmosphere was pretty relaxed. We came out with a purpose, though, pressuring the ball all over the field. As we had expected, Igualada was technically a pretty good team, but in the first 20 minutes, they simply could not handle our pressure and pace around the field. We won the ball in their half often and played some good combinations through the midfield to get in behind their back four. We had a couple of good shots early that were saved by the keeper, but our first goal came from a slack pass by them in the midfield that Myles picked up and quickly slotted through to Cameron who had peeled off the center back whose pace was no match for Cameron. He sprinted away with ease and placed the ball with a hard shot to the far left corner. A great first goal for the trip. The next ten minutes or so continued much in the same fashion. We bossed the game and similarly to Cameron’s first goal, the second occurred much in the same way. Myles won the ball in the midfield, took a touch forward and played Cameron in behind who beat his man and hit the far corner again. 2-0, and the team was really in a rhythm. From here on, Igualada seemed to get more and more into the game, keeping the ball well in the midfield with good touches and movement, but still struggled to get anything going in the final third. A few tame chances came their way, but all in all our back four was solid throughout the first half. Our next goal came toward the end of the first period when Cameron again picked up the ball behind their back line toward the left corner. He skillfully beat his man down the end line and slotted the ball toward the penalty spot where Jack finished well. Oh wait, excuse me, his goal was humorously stolen by Dylan Bowman, who ‘accidentally’ got in the way of the shot and deflected it past the keeper. Exuberant expressions from Dylan, fake smile from Jack. Classic. 3-0 at half time and the Tigers were feeling good… except for the aforementioned Jack.
Second half was bit of a different story. Substitutions for both sides gave the teams a different look and Igualada grew in strength. They kept the ball for long stretches, moving the midfield and back four from side to side as they looked for an opening. Credit our back four for staying solid for during the pressure, but around the hour mark, Igualada broke through after a dodgy no call when Alex Wetterman clearly was fouled on the right touchline. Arms raised and brows furrowed, the back four sprinted to stop the attack, but a quick cross from the right beat the first post and was slotted home. 3-1 now and Igualada was becoming more and more confident. They continued to keep the ball, but found limited success in the final third. Possibly a bit against the run of play, the Tigers attacked down the right through Brendan Mcsherry. A quick interchange through Myles and a great bit of skill from Brendan saw him past his defender and with time and space to pick a cross. He played a firm ball on the ground to Dylan who this time incontrovertibly found the bottom left corner. 4-1, but Igualada still had the better of the play. In the last period of the match they made us pay from some sloppy passing and soft defending. After attacking down the right, they won a corner, and from the ensuing free kick deflected the ball to the back post, which was met by a header that beat Ben Hummel. 4-2. That’s how the game would end and was more telling of our good finishing rather than who had a lion’s share of the ball. All in all it was a good result for us, but for the Tigers, as Coach Barlow said at the end of the game, "still have a lot of things to figure out” in terms of defending and attacking so we can improve our game.
Day 2 : After a great night of sleep for most of us - Sam has apologized to Cameron for the snoring-Princeton Men's soccer had its first training session in Spain. The weather was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky and a great temperature to get a run in. The coaches put us through a possession and finishing drill before we opened it up a bit bigger to play 10v10 on a half size field. Although the turf field might as well have been a basketball black top, I think we took a page out of Barcelona's book when we began the big game. Some slick passing and combination play was met with a few great saves by Ben Hummel in particular. MVP honors of the day go to Dylan Bowman who, with Iniesta like poise and guile, skillfully created chances and opened up the opposing team at will. Overall, a good session to get our legs back after a good bit of travel. Hopefully we will be able to bring some of our Princeton flair to the field when we play our first game tonight.
After training, the team went back to the hotel for showers and had a quick turnaround to do a tour of Barcelona. What a magnificent city. Our tour guide gave us an interesting history of the city as we took a bus to our first destination, the Palace Museum. Originally an actual palace, the building was placed elegantly overlooking the whole city. It was an amazing view and a great place for some of the guys to take some pictures, or in Ben Hummel's case, 'a lot of selfish'. From there we went to the Olympic Sports complex built for the Olympic games held in Barcelona in 1992. Once we stepped beyond the gate, we entered a huge plaza that looked over the ocean and the city. The plaza was themed with pillars and marble placed elegantly round long square patches of grass. Next to the plaza was the gymnasium and the soccer stadium which we went into. It was a retro stadium that had been renovated before the Olympics, but was very cool nonetheless. After we finished up we moved to another picture hotspot on a cliff that overlooked the ocean and the opposite side of the city. The views were gorgeous. Finally, for our last stop of the day we went to see the Barcelona Cathedral. It was built in the 13th and 14th centuries and restored as recently as 1970. It is not the largest Cathedral in the world, nor even in the city of Barcelona, but it is certainly a gorgeous gothic structure whose amazingly intricate exterior is matched by its interior's splendor. When you first see it you would never imagine how big it is on the inside, but its ceilings are extremely tall and the hall is massive. Amazing art lined the walls and massive Corinthian and Ionic pillars connected the granite floors to the ceilings. Besides the National Cathedral in Washington, DC I can't say the United States has a similar type of building with heritage and culture that goes back so far in history. As a team I think I can say that all of us took the experience of visiting the cathedral to heart, after all, this trip isn't just about beating the Spaniards, its also about learning something new about a culture foreign to our own in the Princeton bubble.
On a lighter note, we also saw some amazing bubble blowing right outside the cathedral. Some pesky children kept attempting to pop every bubble that was being created, but the guy who was making the bubbles still got some absolutely massive bubbles off. I know the cathedral was bit cooler, but jeez, the bubbles were captivating.
By this time it was getting late, and we headed back to the hotel for dinner. It was definitely a long day and most of us were in bed before 11. First game tomorrow and I know we are all pumped
Day 1: Princeton Men's Soccer has landed in Barcelona. I am sure I can speak on behalf of the team when I say that the trip began almost too unbelievably well to be true. After an easy bus ride to the airport during which Andrew Mills completed his first ever rubix cube with no help... well a little bit of help, but still a proud day nonetheless... we arrived at JFK airport, passed customs with flying colors, and in typical Barlow fashion, had way more than enough time to grab some food. While boarding the flight, a most extraordinary rumor began to circulate around the team: Pep Guardiola was on the plane? It couldn't be. Nico Hurtado, who sent out the original message that the Barcelona football guru himself was sitting in first class, is known for his sneaky antics on and off the field and as such, none of the team who had boarded yet gave his message more than a chuckle. However, sure enough, when we walked past first class, Pep was sitting there in all his glory. I think we would all agree that it was a pretty surreal moment, and it only got better when he agreed to take a picture with the team at baggage claim. I'm not sure I could have envisioned the start of our trip going better.
We left the airport around 7:30 am local time, and because we couldn't check into our hotel, we had time to kill. Exhausted, we deliriously walked around a small beach for a an hour or so and then made our way to the center of city of Barcelona. At this point, everyone split up and explored; we walked in and out of alleyways adjacent to one of the main thoroughfares called La Rablas, checked out a few different stores, and stopped for a much needed coffee. After three hours or so, we made our way back to the bus and subsequently to the hotel. The hotel is great, the two meals we have had so far have been great, and most importantly, the beds are great.
After a few hours of naptime after dinner, the team made its way to Camp Nou to see Barcelona vs Rayo Vallecano. Needless to say, the experience of watching one of the best teams in the world at such a famed stadium was amazing. The ambiance of the stadium was especially unique. It seemed that Barcelona fans just expected them to win and sat quietly until Messi decided to assist and score twice at which time they applauded and bowed down to the team hysterically. The funny part was, I think that the crowd was louder when angry over a foul on Messi than when the team scored. Just shows how in love with the players the Catalonians are. Barcelona won easily in the end, 3-1 and I think all of men's soccer can check a large box on our bucket lists.
After the game it was finally time for sleep and we all feel refreshed after a good eight hours. It is currently 8:45 am local time in Barcelona and practice is in an hour! I will be doing another blog post either tonight or tomorrow so stay tuned!