On location: All's Wells in Ecuador
MetroStars.com turned over the website to Zach Wells to write about preseason training in Ecuador.
Hi, it's Zach Wells, second-year goalkeeper for the Metrostars, and I'm writing a journal entry because I've had a gripe with the website since arriving in Ecuador (and I wanted to give the fans a first-hand look at what preseason is like for the players). First of all, I'd like to set one thing straight ... Chris Leitch never was, and never will be a frontrunner in the ping-pong competitions sanctioned by any Metrostars staff, players, or front office. Thank you. Now I have the peace of mind that all the readers of MetroStars.com know the truth, and that is what I wanted all along.
Here is my diary for Sunday, March 6, I hope you enjoy it:
7:45 a.m. -- Wake up to the alarm clock and get down to breakfast before it ends at 8 a.m. My two roommates, Jeff Parke and Tim Regan, both suffered various illnesses in the previous two days and don't look like they're up for breakfast. As I look out the window I see the stadium field covered in fog just up the hill, where it nestles between two large hills. The cloud cover looks promising, as we haven't had a truly mild day yet, only heat and humidity. The pavement is still wet with rain from last night and this morning.
I decide to pass on the pancakes and honey for the first time in a week, and choose the runny scrambled eggs with salsa de tomate with three pieces of buttered toast. I don't know how much running the goalkeepers are doing today, but everyone seems to be taking a pretty light breakfast. Top everything off with a glass of orange juice on the way out ... but it's not your typical American orange juice because a grapefruit flavor presents itself and combines with some unknown ingredient to produce a rich and smooth taste.
8:04 a.m. -- Grab the gear from the equipment for my roommates and myself for the morning session on the way back up to the room. Both are still sleeping as they ward off the nagging effects of stomach aches, head colds, and flu. I rest in bed.
8:46 a.m. -- Assistant coach Mo Johnston enters our room looking for Mark Lisi and wakes everyone in the process, though Mark is in the next room. Thus, Big Tam (which is assistant coach Des McAleenan's Irish pronunciation for Tim) and I start to prepare for training as Parkey receives confirmation of his exclusion in order to rest and fight his flu. We listen to Pinback's album "Blue Screen Life" on an iPod hooked up to computer speakers.
9:13 a.m. -- Regan and I walk outside to the training room where the team convenes before every training session to get taped or pick up their heart monitors and to walk up the hill to the field as a group.
9:21 a.m. -- The goalkeepers get an early start on the pack, as Des, Mike Ueltschey, Henry Ring and I make a brisk walk for the hill. We notice the dirt fields that children played on earlier in the week and looked dry as a bone, have now gathered rain puddles and adopted a much deeper clay hue. The droves of visitors to this new complex Saturday have gone home to rest for Sunday, and the many auxiliary fields remain empty.
9:29 a.m. -- We arrive at the second field and begin our warm-up, with three laps around the perimeter of the field while mixing in jogging and various calisthenics. The stadium field is closed because of the rain, yet the field players are warming up on the field because they have two 10 minute runs to complete at their fastest lap times yet.
10:01 a.m. -- The field players make their way over to the second field as we turn the warm-up into a workout. Mike, Henry and I finish many drills including basic handling techniques to more game-paced action with crossing and arranging our feet for 16-yard blasts from legendary goalkeeper coach Des McAleenan.
10:42 a.m. -- We start a full-field game, neither team dominates, but the green team scores with 10 minutes left and seals the 1-0 victory.
11:10 a.m. -- Players receive free time to do whatever they wish on the field, while Amado Guevara follows his plyometric routine, Woly (John Wolyniec), Youri Djorkaeff, Michael Bradley, and Sergio Galvan Rey finish crosses from Mo, Regan, and Wardo (Chris Ward). Youri shows some excellent finishing touches, while Michael learns the knack for finding the corners of the goal, off of low skipping crosses.
11:33 a.m. -- Many players finish stretching and move on to core work and push-ups. Woly, Leitch, Regan and Wardo sculpt their abs with fervor and dedication! Others begin to descend the hill, as the sun bursts through the clouds in just enough time to burn the pasty holdovers, who endure the dangerous rays for one more set of crunches.
12:06 p.m. -- I return to habitacion 15, make a Gatorade out of powder and water, then hit the shower.
12:34 p.m. -- Lunch: chicken, rice, pasta. To finish the meal in style I make a famous peanut butter, banana and honey sandwich on white toast. It's unbelievable.
1:17 p.m. -- Read a couple chapters out of Don Delillo's novel, "Underworld". (No, it did not become a motion picture about vampires.)
2:19 p.m. -- Take a nap.
3:14 p.m. -- The team leaves for a match between Barcelona and Nacional. The street leading up to the stadium spills over with yellow Barcelona jerseys, as truckloads of fans rush to buy their tickets. The buses drop us off at the highest point of the dirt parking lot, yet we still have some climbing to do. Our group sticks out like a sixth finger, and we seem to be a magnet for vendors and beggars. We ascend the hill and the temperature appears to raise about 10 degrees because many players begin to sweat at the stadium entry, looking for shade to rest in and cool off.
Des says, "If you ain't wearin' a yellow Barcelona jersey, you ain't a true fan," as he refers to the ridiculous number of jersey wearing fans and the sea of yellow that follows the curved walkway up to the stadium. We enter with little hassle and find our seats equally as easily, in the southwest corner of the lower bowl. While waiting for the 4 p.m. kickoff I look to the right and see a section of fanatics, who are separated from the rest of the seats by a 15 foot fence and barbed wire slanted at an angle towards their side. A bottle rocket goes off in that section, and a brawl in the dense pack ensues. Wardo becomes silent as I see his anxiety manifest itself through his rigid posture and lack of speech. Another bottle rocket goes off, and this one explodes just above the heads of the upper bowl crowd. Jeff Agoos says he wants to go home ... I don't know if he's scared or just misses his family ... I'll let you be the judge.
3:58 p.m. -- The players enter the field, Nacional to boo's, whistles and projectiles, then Barcelona to screams of joy, confetti and yellow smoke. The game entertains us for a while, as Barcelona seems to hit every part of the goal except the net in the first half. There's an expulsion at halftime, as a group of Nacional players surround the referee, then a yellow card ... but nobody in the stands ascertains the justification for these punishments.
5:09 p.m. -- A band of Nacional fans dare to enter the lower bowl beating a drum and chanting, while Barcelona fans turn to throw beers, empty soda bottles, and anything else they can get their hands on at the daring carolers. Barcelona scores shortly afterward and the fans go nuts, as projectiles fly from the upper seats ... hitting Fernando Ruiz and Michael Bradley with full beer cups (and I'm not talking Madison Square Garden beer cups, I'm talking all-you-can-drink Cancun beer cups). Thus, each MetroStar receives a refreshing beer shower, now we really are a part of this game.
5:31 p.m. -- We leave the game a little early to avoid traffic, but find out on the way to dinner that Nacional tied the game at 1 and that the Nacional goalkeeper has saved a penalty kick as well. The game ends as a draw, but we feel like we've missed out on some exciting action.
6:36 p.m. -- We arrive at El GranChef, a chinese buffet in Guayaquil and take advantage of new food. Equipment manager Craig Chmiel is the first in the ice cream, but he's been working hard for the last month, so I think he deserves it. But it won't help his "chiseled good looks and legendary abs" (according to McAleenan). Usual talk at the dinner table, arguments about sports hall of fames and who is the best running back of the last 15 years.
9:23 p.m. -- Back at the soccer compound, Regan, Parkey, Wardo, Michael, and I sit down to watch our required two episodes of the television series "24" on DVD. We're on the second-to-last disc and Jack Bauer perseveres as the biggest bad dog of all time.
11:02 p.m. -- Brush teeth, shower and go to bed (Hope you enjoyed the journal).
Notes from training (Monday, March 7)
Training update: The MetroStars underwent a very similar session to Sunday's session. They started with a run at a fast pace and then moved into some ball work. They finished by playing some small sided games.
Winding down: Monday was the final practice session for the Metros on their trip. They have one game Tuesday, and then they will travel back to the States on Wednesday morning. The MetroStars play their final game at 8:00 p.m. against Barcelona SC at Estadio Mondelo in Guayaquil.
Ecuadorian Quick Fact of the Day: The Andes Mountain Range crosses Ecuador from north to south. The Occidental and the Oriental Ranges are born from this mountain system as it divides in the province of Loja, forming plains and valleys along the Andean Corridor. Between the two ranges there is a plateau which reaches heights of three thousand meters. The Highlands Regions, commonly referred to as La Sierra, is made up of 10 provinces, each of which have important peaks such as Chimborazo, the Illinizas, Cotopaxi, Cayambe, and Antisana. (Source: AmazingEcuador.com)