The practice started off with some bad news. Ewald Lenin, the head coach for Hannover 96, was sacked. Being sacked is the equivalent of being let go or fired, so it was a little on edge around the locker room at the beginning. After the guys got a chance to say their goodbyes to the coach and assistant coach and thank them for all their hard work and devotion to the team, they headed off into a brief meeting with some of the people on the committee who make the decisions within the club regarding the new coach. The three of us hung low as we were all in shock as we have never been exposed to anything like that. After a while things settled and all the guys got ready to go out.
When we walked out there were probably 30 or 40 people waiting to watch the training and quite a bit of media, so that was cool. Anyways, we finally got started and it was very intense to say the least. We had a warm-up that was very similar to what we do with Real. After warm-up, we played a little 5 versus 2 in a tight box and the guys were laughing and having fun with it. The biggest difference was the pace they play that game at. 5 versus 2 is basically 5 guys keeping it away from the 2 in the middle and if you pass it to one of the guys in the middle you replace them until you win the ball from the outside guys. Needless to say sometimes it felt like the guys in the middle were doing conditioning because the outside guys kept it for so long. After doing that for a little while, we broke off into 4 teams of 4 and played in a very small field. The field was maybe 20 yards long by 15 yards wide. It was a lot of action, and a goal-fest. It was very fast paced and guys were dropping shots so hard that the goalies didn't even try for it half of the time.
We played those small sided games for about 20 to 25 minutes and then we broke off into a 9 versus 9 game in one half of the field. Jay went off with some other guys to work on goalkeeper/finishing practice. The teams for the 9 versus 9 game were divided into young guys versus old guys so it was a little tougher for us young guys because we were playing against some very established men. The game was broken up into two halves of ten minutes and it went back and forth. My highlight of the half was hitting what I thought was a shot bound for the upper corner. Yea, right. The keeper saved my shot with ease and I was left to wonder, "What in the world do I have to do to score?" Well after a scoreless half, I was finally able to, with a little luck, solve that problem. After going down 1-0, there was a defensive miscue and I was able to steal it from the center-back and go in one on one and put the ball in to tie the score. That equalizer quickly was erased as the old guys scored back to back goals to go up 3-1. We almost got back within one as Kenny played a sick ball onto one of the young guys head, but he missed the upper corner by inches and that proved to be our last good effort at goal.
My overall impression of the training session was that the pace was at a different level. The guy's skills are amazing and stuff that sometimes works on defenders in MLS doesn't work the same here. It's a different game going at the defenders as they are very smart and very intelligent, so you have to capitalize on any mistake that they might make and put it in the back of the net or else you may not get another chance.
We will be back at it again tomorrow for another session, so hopefully it will go well and we can continue to gain some confidence and try to prove 3 youngsters from MLS can hang with one of the top teams in the German Bundesliga. Thanks for checking in and we hope you guys keep checking for updates daily on realsaltlake.com. Take care everyone!