Friday, April 9, 2010

England Through My Eyes - Galaxy U-18 Defender Joe Kearney

After weeks of hard work and anticipation, our U-16 and U-18 Galaxy squads prepared for an exciting ten-day trip to England. Arriving at the airport on Friday, April 2nd, I had few expectations and many hopes of what the trip would provide as an individual and for my team. I expected to play games, train, and tour the cities in which we sojourned. I hoped to gain unique experiences in a foreign country, and I thought these affairs would make our team closer and stronger in preparation for a meaningful stretch of games to make the playoffs.

After an aching, dreary flight, we spent the majority of our first day in England on route to Manchester via bus. Our coach Matt Mennell instructed us not to sleep, as it would completely throw off our sleep schedules. Some adhered to the advice, while others craftily found ways to evade our coaches intruding stares and admonition. One even found the bus floor as a temporary mattress for the ride.

After finally arriving in Manchester, we had a team dinner and spent the rest of the night relaxing and recovering. On Sunday, we headed off to the Everton Academy for a training session and later, a match between Everton and West Ham. I greatly appreciated the different techniques and lessons Everton Youth Coach Mick had to offer, and I was very excited for my first Premier League game. The old-fashioned stadium amazed me. The tightly packed fans all cheered and booed different referee decisions, and the West Ham and Everton fans were not shy to poke fun at one another.

The experience was like no sporting event I've witnessed before; I could only imagine how passionate the FA cup semi-final would be later in the week.

The next day, we headed off to the Blackburn Rovers Academy after defeating our first opposition--a failing bus. We were unprepared for the Blackburn side, who rudely awakened us to English Youth soccer. After resting for the evening, we prepared for two practices with the Manchester City Academy the next day. These two practices focused on individually on defensive and then offensive techniques and they surely proved that I know far less than I thought about the game.

I felt honored to work with two coaches with loads of Premier League experience and they bestowed boundless knowledge and advice within two, two-hour sessions. After solid training sessions, we had high hopes for our match against Manchester City, another powerful squad. We combined players from the U-16's and U-18's to play the match, and integrated all the ideas we had learned in practice. After a scoreless half, we knocked in a goal to take the lead. Unfortunately, the pressing Manchester offense found the holes in our defense twice, to take a 2-1 victory. I was very much satisfied with my own and the teams' endeavors, as we fought hard, and the game could have gone either way. We ate lunch with the Manchester City team, and learned how much alike our players are. We found out that we had played against three national team captains and players from as far as the Ivory Coast. We then boarded a bus on route to Norwich, where I stay now in a supposedly haunted hotel (which I believe is still to be determined).

I approached the hotel with little trepidation, until the fire alarm went off at midnight and all the doors were shut in the halls. Some of our team members showed their true spirit in the hallways, possibly waking up the rest of the hotel.

I can't wait for what England will unveil throughout the rest of the week.

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