The MLS Select Team has arrived in Madrid as they prepare for the Trofeo Santiago Bernabeu against Real Madrid on Tuesday. Earlier in the morning they arrived in the capital and rested for a few hours after a long trip following their regular season games last weekend. In the afternoon, part of the 19-man roster got ready for a tour around Madrid, a city that all have agreed in describing as "marvelous." The tour included a guided bus tour around the city´s landmarks, an official welcome at Madrid´s City Hall, a visit to the Prado Museum and a press conference.
Before leaving the hotel premises, some of the players answered questions from the media. This game has created great expectations as it is the first game that Real Madrid will play at home in front of its fans this season.
All MLS players, including some with tremendous talent such as Landon Donovan, José Burciaga, Ronnie O'Brien and Jaime Moreno, have shown great excitement for Tuesday´s game. "Playing against Real Madrid is a great honor and a great opportunity," they all agreed.
Douglas Sequeira and Youri Djorkaeff, who played a game on Sunday, joined the group in the afternoon. Amado Guevara, who scored a hat trick for the MetroStars on Sunday, was the center of the anecdote of the day as he missed the connecting flight from Paris but finally arrived with some delay in the late afternoon. Columbus Crew defender Chad Marshall is the only player who won´t be traveling after all.
Bus tour and visit to Madrid´s City Hall
The starting point for the guided bus tour was the main artery of Spain´s capital, Paseo de la Castellana. The first stop along the way was the famous Cibeles Square with its Cibeles fountain, where the importance of the landmark to Real Madrid was explained to the MLS players as the place where the galácticos celebrate all the club's important victories and present the trophies to their fans. After that it was the Puerta del Sol, Ópera, the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral and the Plaza de la Villa, where the City Hall is located.
Real Madrid Vice President Emilio Butragueño and Miguel Ángel Villanueva, managing director of economy and city participation, were waiting in Madrid´s City Hall as ambassadors of the local club. MLS Deputy Commisioner Ivan Gazidis, who was with the players at all times, led the honorary visit to the City Hall.
Villanueva made clear in his speech that this visit to Madrid should go beyond sports. "It´s a great opportunity to provide a great game but also to get to know the city of Madrid. We have a very attractive cultural offering and a fun nightlife that I personally recommend you to enjoy," said a smiling Villanueva, his remarks resulting in a burst of laughter from the MLS players group.
"Nobody feels foreign in Madrid, we welcome everybody."said Villanueva. "Real Madrid is the best ambassador of our great city, and the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is one of the most important attractions for tourists in the capital."
Ivan Gazidis was thankful for the reception and for the game. "We are delighted to be here. It´s a great honor to be hosted by Butragueño and to be invited to such great game. Tomorrow will be a very special night," he said.
Said Butragueño: "Our relationship with Major League Soccer is really good, our U.S. tour was fantastic. Last year they were really close of being able to play for our trophy, and this year it's finally possible. We are pleased to be playing against a U.S. team."
Butragueño explained how Real Madrid faces the game on Tuesday. "It's our own trophy and the first game this season that we're playing at home - we would like to leave a good impression for our fans. For (Real Madrid coach Wanderley) Luxemburgo it's also a good test before facing the first game of La Liga".
Visit to the Prado
After the reception, the players went on to visit the Prado Museum. It's one of the most representative places of Madrid that opened today just for the occasion. It was a short visit, focusing on the masterpices by two of the greatest Spanish painters, Velázquez and Goya. The MLS players had time to be photographed next to some of the most famous paintings: Las Meninas and the Cristo Crucificado by Velázquez, and La Maja Desnuda and La Maja Vestida by Goya.
Then it was back to the hotel after going through Retiro, Puerta de Alcalá and Plaza de Colón. It was indeed a short but intense visit of more than two hours that was enough to show the MLS Select Team the beauty of the city. The players were very passionate and they all agreed in saying that they wanted to see more.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.