This week, IMG Academy boy's soccer teams are training overseas in Lisbon, Portugal. It is a chance for them to experience international soccer, and to be able to observe and train with one of Portugal's premier clubs, Sporting Lisbon, and to compete against some of the top youth soccer players in the nation.
Forty-five IMG Academy players, accompanied by their coaches, made the journey. Each team is chronicling their experience to give us three points of view on the excursion, and our U17 team has checked in again to report on the second half of their week. Shu Kitamura wrote in on behalf of the U17 squad to describe their ongoing training, experiencing local fandom and much more.
IMG Academy U17 team, Days 4-6:
Once again, like characters from the Walking Dead, we arrived at study hall half asleep (or half awake?). Once that was all done, we went to train and prepare for the first of our three games. Training went well, but we did not know what to expect from our opponents. Once it was game time, we began to warm up. The game started with our opponent Olympico scoring first. Then Zach Skedzuhn slotted a penalty to tie it 1-1. But then they scored 2 goals before I chipped the keeper from outside the box. Although the game ended in a 3-2 loss, we felt that we could improve as a team.
Like always, the boys grumbled to study hall like gamers being pulled away from their computers to continue school work. Training was relaxed and easy, because we had just played an intense game. The coaches understood the importance of rest and how it affected our performance. Once training was over, we visited the Lisbon area to look at the Sporting Lisbon Stadium. The tour around the towering ground was incredible, and cameras were flashing to take pictures of what could be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Coach David Da Silva explained what it meant to play for a local club and the pride the players had. The guide explained to us the history of the club and their founders.
The big game day came where we faced off against Sporting Lisbon. The U19s had pulled in Zach, Cody and I. The game was intense as the two teams battled each other. The game was intense, but we managed to keep it close in the first half. The game ended 4-0. In the afternoon, it was our turn to play what could be the best youth team in the world. The game began with an early goal from their team. We managed to keep the ball for a fair amount of time, but their midfield continued to dominate us. Towards the end of the game, we managed to find our flow and with a pass from Nico Buhler to his brother Sebastian. Sebastian found the back of the net. The game ended 7-1 but scoring a consolation goal helped a lot. We found the gap between our team and their team to be great, but we found that our passion and heart for the game matched theirs. All three teams were tired and exhausted, but we all returned to the hotel, collapsed on our beds and passed out. Lights-out at 10:30 p.m. was unnecessary.