Men's Soccer Tour of Italy

This will be a running blog for the UAB Men's Soccer trip to Italy. The Blazers are visiting the country and conducting training in Milan. Below is accounts from players on the team and their days in lo Stivale.

May 21 - Chandler Stroupe
Today was the most eventful day so far. Starting early with the usual team breakfast to fuel up for the long day ahead us. After breakfast we set out to Bottagisio Training Complex where we were  fortunate two coaches in the Chievo Verona organization took time from their days to show us a true Italian training session. The practice was quite different from what we are used to, but it was very quality as we worked on touches, passing, finishing, and ending with splitting up to play a small sided game.

After a quick lunch we were off to Venice to spend the rest of the afternoon. Arriving in the city, the views were breathtaking. Being able to see, up close, the architecture of buildings and churches as well as the canals running through the city was unbelievable. Pictures couldn't do it justice.

While walking through the gorgeous city, it wasn't hard to get lost in the maze of narrow alleyways and streets filled with tourists. We stopped for a late pizza dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant. Luckily Rami accompanied us, with his 5 years of Italian, we were able to order and pay for our meal with no problem. As after every meal, we stopped for some gelato on our path to exit Venice. Upon arrival to the bus, everyone climbed on and had no trouble sleeping on our way back to Verona.

May 20 - Ryan Sullivan
Thursday morning began with an early breakfast at Montresor Hotel before heading off to training. Situated a short drive from Verona, our hotel is at the edge of the Alps Mountain range in the historic town of Bussolengo. The area is surrounded by small shops (gelato was quickly deemed a team favorite) and outdoor cafes in the center, with vast vineyards making up the outskirts of town.

After a quick drive through the countryside we arrived at the Bottagisio training complex, home of Chievo Verona FC. This complex we have been fortunate enough to use is located near the town center and sits alongside the Adige River. Training Thursday primarily focused on shaking off the jet lag from travel and sharpening up some last minute tactics before our first game.

Our host for the trip, Alberto ("Big Al"), has used his knowledge of the area to reserve lunch at a quaint, authentic restaurant called Osteria Da Montresor.

Next on the schedule was our first game against U19 Chievo Verona FC. The team is currently in the final 8 of the Primavera Championship for Italian Academies. Upon arrival we were grateful to get a full tour of the impressive facilities and even meet the first team manager and some current professional players. With little time to prepare and fully adjust to the time difference, the experience and competition itself was a great take away, opposed to the 4-2 result. Needless to say, the team was not strictly academy players, as several train with the first team, have been rostered and even seen playing time in the Serie-A as well as their respective national teams.

After a long, eventful day, we were happy to head back to the hotel and indulge in Italy's seemingly endless supply of pasta, salad and dessert. The night ended as we watched, on television, a second local team--Hellas Verona--earn promotion into the top division of the Serie A.

May 19 – David Valverde
Personally, it has been a great experience for me so far. I have never been to Europe before so being here is like a dream come true. It's amazing to explore and learn new things from this great culture. I have noticed people here are kind and welcoming. Aside from this, the food is just as delicious as I imagined. The buildings and the views from our hotel are breath taking. I can say that adjusting to the time difference has been quite challenging but it's all worth it when you get to wake up every day and do what you love the most in a great place. Today we are preparing ourselves for a great game against a very good team and I can feel the excitement from my teammates and coaching staff. It should be a great match. I hope to learn from our opponents while we are here. And hopefully take all that we have learned here back home with us, and have a successful season this upcoming fall.

May 19 – Mike Getman
Today’s match was against the Chievo Verona Primavera.  This is their Reserve Team or U-23 Team.  When we arrived at the field I was a little disappointed because the field was only 110-by-65 yards.  This is very small compared to our BBVA Compass Field at 120-by-80 yards.  I was worried that the game would be just a physical battle without much room for skill or tactics.  I was very wrong.  The match was very fast but very much a game of skill.  All of their players were big, fast, strong, and SKILLED!  The first 10 minutes we struggled to keep up. They moved the ball quickly and put us under a lot of pressure.  Their high press tactics made it difficult for us to play the way we like.  Once we settled in and moved the ball quickly the game evened out.  After 44 minutes the game was still 0-0.  Unfortunately, games are played in two 45 minute periods.  With just a few seconds on the clock they scored to make it 1-0 at the half.

The second half was a bit different.  As we fatigued, they got stronger.  They are nearing the end of their season and their fitness and team understanding showed.  We scored twice in the second half but they scored three times for a final score of 4-2.

We came to Italy to play against teams that will challenge us and help us develop into the team we want to be.  Today’s game was a perfect match.  We always want to win but today was much more about learning and we did.  We had several good chances to tie the match but we failed to hit the target.  One or two defensive lapses also hurt us.    

We have a few days to recover and fix our mistakes before facing another very good team of similar quality. 

Now it is time for dinner and some rest.

May 18 - Evan Scarbrough
Today was very nice, and our team got to experience many things. We started off by having breakfast on the top floor of our building while overlooking the city of Verona. The site was beautiful with the Alps in the background.

We then went on to train at a very nice soccer complex called Bottagisio Sports Complex. The fields were in great condition and it allowed for a successful practice leading up to our game tomorrow. Shortly after, we cleaned up and went on a short bus ride to a very cool "hole in the wall" restaurant to have lunch as a team. We got to eat some authentic Italian food and it did not disappoint.

Next, we went on a very impressive tour of the shared soccer stadium between Serie A team Chievo Verona and soon to be Serie A team Halles Verona. We got to learn of the stadium's great history as well as the great rival between the two clubs. The stadium was massive and had one of the nicest playing surfaces I've been on. We got to walk through the players' tunnel, see the locker rooms, experience the press conference center, and see where the president of the team sits during games. Overall, it was an extremely eventful day and we got to have a lot of once-in-a-lifetime experiences as a team.

May 17 - Mathieu Laurent
So far our trip has been pretty lengthy. We arrived at the airport ready for an eight-hour flight to Paris, which ended up feeling short for me because I was asleep for most of it. Once we arrived in Paris, we had another eight-hour wait in the airport so the team took the train into Notre Dame.

It was a good experience walking around the city and enjoying the different culture. The scenery was nice with a lot of detailed buildings and, of course, the food was delicious. After two hours of roaming we headed back to the airport to wait for our flight to Milan.

The late dinner at the hotel was good; we had a three-course meal and many of us tried swordfish for the first time. Time for some rest and then training in the morning!