This was the trip of a lifetime. I am very grateful and proud to have represented MKSC Academy overseas in Madrid, Spain, and to have played with some of the best youth players from around the nation. A huge thanks to the coaching staff at MKSC for giving me this opportunity, it will stay with me forever.
It all started with a connecting flight from Milwaukee to JFK international where I met, for the first time, the coaching staff and players that I would be training with for the next week. At a glance the first time meeting everyone was an intimidating sight, with many of the players introducing themselves with what club/academy they play for and what college they are committed to. It was ever apparent that this was a team of 32 youth players and coaches that lived for soccer. Even though there was a lot of competition, with many players playing the same positions, the team came together and connected almost instantly which was amazing. Moreover, one of my biggest fears before the trip was wondering how the team would play with only knowing each other for a few days before our first game, but that went away as soon as I met everybody.
We arrived in Madrid in the late morning and the coaching staff made an important point of making us stay up during the day so that the jet lag wouldn’t affect us in the upcoming days of intense training and playing. After getting through the first day, the training started on Monday with the Real Madrid Foundation Clinic coaches at Real Madrid City. Walking into the complex left me speechless. There were fields everywhere, some of the nicest locker rooms I have ever seen along with countless features I could never imagine from massage rooms to some of the most expansive weight rooms I have seen. The training was very intense but very beneficial, I could tell how knowledgeable and experienced the coaches were.
During the second training session of the day is when the teams were split up for the first time. The coaches wanted to scrimmage so they split the 32 players into two teams based on the training that they saw earlier. Of the two teams, it was determined that one would be very strong defensively and one very strong offensively. I ended up playing with the more defensive orientated team as we trained with the Spanish academy teams Rayo Vallecano and Getafe.
After three days of intense training at the beautiful Real Madrid City’s training facilities we had our first opponent, Rayo Vallecano. From the second we stepped off the bus it was all business. We knew the team we were about to play was on a whole new level of soccer and we were ready. The game started and it was instantly noticeable how fast we were going to have to play. I was playing at defensive mid and absolutely loved it. I had to fight for every ball and had never had such a challenge. Even though we defended for about the first ¾ of the game it was in the 70th minute that we struck home on a counterattack and our left wing, Nikcussi, scored a world class volley to put us up 1-0. We ended up taking the W and it was one of the most memorable moments in my life. I had never had such a battle against such a world class team and it will stay with me forever. Little did I know that Rayo Vallecano was just the first test and that we played the La Liga giant Getafe next.
After a day of recovery, the team was feeling good and very excited about the upcoming match. We traveled to Getafe’s complex and knew that this would be the hardest match yet. With an amazing warm-up we were ready. As soon as the game started we struggled to find our rhythm and Getafe dominated the possession for the first half. We were able to hold off their attacks until halftime, which seemed like a saving grace but after an impromptu team meeting we changed our formation and came out with a new game plan. In the second half we were able to secure possession and had a few chances but in the 68th minute Getafe struck on a corner. They had launched in it and after a botched clearance they put in the second ball leaving us down 1-0. This was a morale destroyer after all the defending we had done and how we had just found our rhythm. We were able to rally ourselves and start to fight back, but they found the back of the net once again. After taking the ball down the left side Getafe’s left back took a strike from about 20 yards away. Our goalkeeper was able to get a hand on it but parried it to the side of the goal where a Getafe player was waiting after losing his mark and put it away. Another second chance goal. The game ended shortly after and even though we lost it was another memory that will stay with me forever.
Again huge thanks to MKSC, especially Coach Chico, Michael King, and Coach Álvaro. Thanks for always pushing me and helping me further develop my soccer career.