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Follow our adventures in Argentina and Uruguay!

Day 9: Our Final Day to Create Lifelong Memories

By Brandon Williamson

Today was the last day in Uruguay and sadly our last day in South America as a whole. We walked the downtown streets of Montevideo on our much deserved relaxation time before our flight. I got to buy some last minute gifts for my family as others browsed for maté cups with the expertise of our very own Nicolas Macri, who knows way too much about drinking mate but was happy to help others find an affordable cup for themselves.

  

We took the bus to the Peñarol’s stadium and got a fantastic tour of the locker room, the VIP boxes, and even some brief time on the actual field of the Estadio Campéon del Siglo. You never really realize how big the stadium is until you are in the center looking out at all of those seats that look like they could hold all of Uruguay. After everyone took their fair share of pictures on the field and in the seats that the first team sit in every game, we got on the bus to head to the airport and start our overnight journey back to the states.

  

As a whole, the trip was one that would not be forgotten soon and undoubtedly will be a highlight of everyone’s time at Duke and as part of the men’s soccer team. There was never a dull moment with such unbelievable experiences in countries and cultures so dedicated to the sport we all love so much. From the Boca Juniors game all the way to just learning about the history of Uruguay and Argentina, there were so many memorable moments and lessons learned throughout this trip.

First and foremost, on behalf of everyone who got to be a part of this amazing trip there is a huge appreciation for GoPlay and their organization and management of our trip, and I would like to express how thankful we are for family, friends and alumni, that without their generosity and donations this trip could never have happened. With such a once in a lifetime experience provided by them, these things do not go unnoticed by the players and coaches.

By the end of the trip I think the team and even the coaches were surprised and happy with the soccer we are capable of playing against what could be the next generation of world class players in Argentina and Uruguay. Winning games against Nacional U19 and the Uruguayan U17 team felt amazing, but more than that, the simple fact that we were able to play really good soccer at such a high level was a testament to what we are capable of as a team and what we should continue to strive for throughout preseason and into the fall games as we fight for ACC championships and national titles.

While talking and interacting with THE Rúben Sosa, another lesson that really sunk in with me was that high class soccer isn’t about what you have but what you put in. It’s easy to get comfortable with the luxuries and resources that are readily available within the United States but what Rúben Sosa harped on during our time together was that although Uruguay doesn’t have as much resources and money to provide for their soccer players, the Uruguayans have such passion and dedication to the sport so much that it doesn’t matter to them what they have because they will work until they get to where they want to be.

I think this was a lesson that really opened our eyes to what hard work and dedication really looks like, when for them it’s not just a sport anymore but a means to provide for their families. So throughout summer trainings and into our actual season if our team can take this lesson and push ourselves a little more, I have no doubt we will be holding a national championship trophy in the near future.

Personally, these 11 days contained some of the best experiences I have had in my life and I can speak for the rest of the team and even the coaches in saying that this will be a trip that we will all reminisce upon for years to come!

Day 8: Finishing with a Win and Another Great Meal

By Wil Jacques

Following our game against the Uruguayan national team we had a quick turnaround before our next game. Only 15 hours separated us between the end of this game and our next game against one of the best teams/academies in Uruguay, Club Nacional de football. Playing four games in nine days is not easy, but like coach says, “You don’t always get the chance to wake up and play Nacional!”

With every game we played on this trip we aimed to build on the positives of our prior performances, and this being our last game we intended to come out with a statement win. Unfortunately, the game didn’t start as we had planned.

Although we began the game optimistically, we conceded a goal early on. Fortunately, we learned from our last game against The Uruguayan national team and we did not put our heads down after the early setback. We responded positively, but just couldn’t get the goal before half. After talking things over at halftime, we came out for the second half hungry. Again, they scored early, but we were unfazed. We put our heads down and worked, and eventually it payed off. Three unanswered goals, two of which we scored within the final ten minutes, to earn the victory. What a match!

After the game we had some free time to get lunch and chill before we went to go see another local academy, Defensor Sporting Football Club, train. They welcomed us to their facility to see their U-19, U-17 and U-14 kids train. It was fun to watch them practice, but it was also interesting to see the similarities in how each age group played. I haven’t had the chance to see their first team play, but after seeing how the coaches implemented these values at different levels of the youth set up I can imagine how they play.

Following the practice we returned to the hotel before our final event of the day, an asado barbecue hosted at the Club Nacional de football facility (the same team we played in the morning). When we arrived we were greeted by the familiar face of Ruben Sosa, a club legend. He welcomed us to the dining area of the first team. The food was fantastic, and was accompanied with clips of Ruben from his playing days as well as interviews he had done. After the meal he took us to the players’ lounge for nacional where we played hours of intense pool and ping pong. Coach Kieran and Jack Doran ended up running the table, but the occasion was fun for everyone who “took part.”

Eventually everyone reconvened in the dining area of the facility. Here Ruben expressed his joy in being able to show us around Uruguay and watching us grow as players. He finished by saying that we are always welcome here at Nacional and we are part of the family (even after we beat them 3-2).

On a more serious note, I would like to thank Ruben for welcoming us to his country with open arms. Because of him my teammates and I were able to share some truly unforgettable experiences. It was a privilege to spend time and learn from a true football legend like Ruben.

Make sure to follow us on our social media pages for more about the trip!

Day 7: Success On and Off the Field

By Daniel Wright

 

To kick off our second full day in Montevideo, Uruguay we were able to get a good night’s rest and get breakfast at our own leisure at our beach-front hotel. After breakfast, we met up with our newly acquainted friend Ruben Sosa, former player of huge clubs in Europe such as Lazio, Inter Milan, and Real Zaragoza, to have a “pre-game activation” on the beach.

At the beach, after an intensive warm-up, we had games of soccer tennis, as well as Sosa teaching us his blend of mental and agility exercises, which we learned is crucial to our development as a player. After the exercises, Sosa had us close our eyes, focus on our breathing, and then envision how we would play and put mental pictures in our heads leading up to our match against the u17 Uruguayan national team. 

  

After the beach exercises, we had a chance to take quick showers and then head to a local Italian restaurant called “Don Peperone” to have our pre-game meal. At the restaurant, we learned that Maxi Rodriguez, a professional player for local club Penarol, who also played for my beloved Liverpool F.C. and for the Argentinian national team, was at the same place as our whole team. However, we could not catch him before he left, much to the despise of the several Liverpool fans on our team.

Following the pre-game meal, we made our way back to the hotel where we had a quick turnaround before our departure for the Uruguayan national team training facilities. After a relatively short bus ride, we found ourselves at the very secluded fields. We came to find out later on that our team is of a select few who has ever been inside the facilities, which made this match all the more special. After a short delay at the field and the warm-ups, the match began.

We were playing the game in three 30 minute increments, so that we would be able to get needed breaks during the game, to prevent injuries. In the first segment, we struggled to play the way we are used to and to that effect, the Uruguayans scored two unanswered goals. After a much-needed talk and formation change from the coaches at the first interval, we came out ready to play and our attitude shifted immediately. We continued to apply pressure and create chances, finally leading to a goal through a Colby Agu penalty kick.

With this boost of confidence, minutes later, Suniel Veerakone broke even with a great team goal, putting the score at 2-2. After the second interval, the coaches made substitutions to the majority of the team to give us that added energy boost we needed. The substitutions paid off as the Argentinian Nico Macri scored the winner against his native country’s rival through an amazing individual effort, which ended the game as a 3-2 victory to Duke. It was a great experience to play against such a good team, for what the Uruguayans lacked in size and experience, they made up for in skill and precision.

   

After the cheerful bus ride home, we made our ways back to our rooms to shower and rest for a couple hours. For dinner, we returned to “Garcia”, the restaurant we went to our first night in Uruguay, to enjoy traditional Uruguayan “asado” and chicken. It was a great way to end a hard-fought and busy day, but we look forward to the final days of our trip!

 

 

Day 6: Learning About Uruguayan Soccer

By Michael Reis

 

After a special 5 days in Argentina we had an action-packed first day in the beautiful country of Uruguay. We did not get to see much after arriving to the capital, Montevideo, so today we got to see the city for the first time.

 

Montevideo is very different from Buenos Aires in that it is more suburban rather than a big city. After an early breakfast we drove over to a small facility that had three turf futsal fields. There, we met with the famous Uruguayan fútbol player Ruben Sosa. We had a training session that touched on a lot of aspects. We began with a passing combination drill that developed into a possession game.

 

After that the team split up and half did a finishing drill and the other half did another possession drill. The session finished with the whole team together playing a full field transition game. Overall, the training session was very good and a great experience. It was great to have a former professional player of such high stature watch us train. 

 

After training we had lunch on our own and had the chance to walk around downtown Montevideo and experience what the "city" is like. I put parenthesis around city because it is more like a small town than a city. I found myself at a small restaurant called "Almacen de Pizza". They served classic South American food such as empanadas as well as pizza. The food was delicious and very different from American pizza. 

 

The next event on the itinerary was another session with Ruben Sosa as well as a Uruguayan national team coach. The session was split into two parts: the first part was a presentation where they talked the meaning of soccer in Uruguay and how their national team system works. The second part was playing what we saw sitting the presentation like the national team.

 

This experience was unforgettable. To not only have Ruben Sosa talk to you about his experiences but also to have a national team coach talk to you about how they do things as a team and how similar yet different it is from the United States was helpful for the players and also the coaches because they gave Insight on how the players played and also how the coaches coach and structured their training.

 

One thing that was touched on quite a few times during the presentation was the passion Uruguayan people have for soccer. People here see soccer as the golden opportunity. Around 8/10 boys play soccer here and they are all trying to make it big so they can bring their parents out of poverty. This is very interesting because not only do people find soccer as a sport and a hobby but they also find it as a job. This results in more people becoming more serious about soccer earlier in life which increases the competitiveness and overall increases the quality of soccer. Overall, I think that the session was very helpful for the coaches as well as the players. It was a great experience and I think that we all had a lot to take away from it.  

 

Once we finished the session we went back to the hotel to shower and get ready for dinner. You cannot end a day in South America without eating a fantastic meal. We went to a classic Uruguayan Diner that reminded me a lot of the diners we have in the United States. All in all, our first day in Uruguay was very fun and I can't wait for the next couple of days. 

 

This has been Michael Reis from Duke Mens soccer. Keep in touch for updates on our trip on our Instagram and Twitter @dukemsoc. Come back the next day to find Daniel “Frosty” Wright's take on Day 7.

 

 

Day 5: Goodbye Buenos Aires, Hello Montevideo

By Max Moser

After a few early wake up calls and exciting night activities since our arrival to Argentina, the free Saturday night and Sunday morning gave us some time to get some rest and catch up on sleep. Most of our guys used the free evening to grab a quick bite close to the hotel and watch the highlights of some soccer games that we missed during the day. Not surprisingly, Chelsea beat Coach Kieran‘s Manchester United to win the FA cup while Bayern Munich lost in the German Cup final to underdog Eintracht Frankfurt and the Italian legend Gianluigi Buffon made his final appearance for Juventus against Hellas Verona.

Sunday morning could not have started any better for us since we were able to sleep in until 11am, pack our bags and get ready for the trip to Uruguay. Following breakfast at the hotel we walked to the nearby shopping mall to spend our remaining Argentinian pesos at a gelato place that our tour guide recommended to us earlier this week. Around 2:30 pm we left the hotel and drove to Puerto Madero where we took a ferry to the Uruguayan Puerto De Montevideo.

The boat was divided into economy and business class and equipped with very comfortable seats, several TVs, stores and a canteen which made the 2-hour trip more bearable. Like on any other away trip some of our guys spent their time playing Catch Phrase - the team‘s favorite game. From our tour guide Flora we learned about the obsession of Uruguayans with mate-tea: unlike Argentinians who drink their tea usually at home with other family members, Uruguayans drink it even on the street and carry their thermos with them all the time - an easy way for us to distinguish locals from foreigners.

  

Around 7:30 pm we finally arrived at the port of Montevideo and checked in at our new hotel right at the beach. The bus ride along the coastline of Montevideo has a great view of the city’s skyline and already reveals what amazing experiences tomorrow will bring. Our day ended with a delicious dinner at the local steakhouse “Garcia“ that served asado and chicken. Special guest was Coach Kerr‘s friend Ruben Sosa, a retired Uruguayan soccer player who played for big European clubs like Zaragoza, Lazio, Inter and Borussia Dortmund throughout his career.

Since we arrived late in the evening, we weren’t able to see a lot of Uruguay so far. Stayed tuned for another report tomorrow and make sure you follow @dukemsoc on Instagram to see what we are up to on our first full day in Uruguay.

Day 4: History lesson and Bike Tour Fun

By Jack Doran

After a few busy days immersing ourselves in Argentina’s storied soccer culture and competing against some of the countries best young academy players from River and Boca, Friday offered us the opportunity to explore the city of Buenos Aires, dubbed the “little Paris of South America” because of its wealthy French influence from many decades ago. We strolled only a few blocks from our hotel and proceeded to spend the entire morning slaloming through the neighborhoods of Palermo and Barrio Parque on a bike tour. The coaches decided to join us on the ride; it was nice to see them finally get some fitness in for once. We visited historic sites such as the rose garden, city planetarium, La Recoleta Cemetery and the Plaza of San Martin. My favorite landmark easily had to be the “Monument to the Spanish”, a huge statue almost 90 feet tall which was donated to celebrate the centennial of the “Revolucion de Mayo”, which won Argentina its independence in 1810.  It also contained pieces representing the country’s four main regions: Pampas, Gran Chaco, River Plate and the Andes. Needless to say it was very beautiful.

After our tour, we took taxis downtown to grab lunch at “Las Nazarenas”, a traditional “asada” joint serving Argentina’s incredible brand of barbecue. The skirt steak turned out to be a huge hit for our guys, some even calling it the best they had ever tried. After some much needed rest, our cultural incursion was capped of with a night at the tango, taking place at a hole in the wall studio called “El VIejo Almacen” (The Old Warehouse) that seemed to be plucked right out of the early 1900s. Not quite knowing what to expect, we marveled at the skill and rhythm of the pro dancers and the live orchestra that accompanied them. Each new routine seemed to captivate me more than the last. It was an experience unlike any I have ever had before.

After a couple more days in the Argentine capital, we will move on to Uruguay, taking with us not only a respect for the nation’s boundless passion for soccer, but also a true appreciation for its rich cultural heritage as well.

Our resident Italian will have his perspective next. Stay tuned!

Make sure to keep following us on social media, especially Instagram - @dukemsoc to see what we’re up to.

 

 

Day 5: Visiting the Pink House

 

By Daniele Proch

    

 

Yesterday was our last day in Buenos Aires. As always during this trip, we decided to make the most out of our time in the Argentinian capital city.

 

The alarm went off at 8:30. Waking up early was not hard because we all knew that on planta baja (“ground floor”) the tables would be filled with great breakfast choices. With our bellies full, we then left the hotel. Destination: Casa Rosa (the “Pink House”), the building where the Argentinian president works.

 

It is still unknown why the walls of this building were painted in pink. The tour guide explained that there are different explanations for the characteristic color of the presidential house. However, none of these explanations is fully accepted, and many embrace the idea that the color pink is simply for aesthetic purposes.

 

The main attractions of the house were the Presidential and Vice Presidential offices, the “Salon Eva Perón” (Eva Perón was the First Lady of the Argentinian president Juan Perón in the post-War World II period, and she is an iconic figure for the country still today), and the room where the president takes the oath at the beginning of his tenure.

 

Once done with the classic team pictures outside the Pink House, we headed to “Rodizio,” a restaurant with a suggestive view on Porto Madero. Team meals are always the best, this is no news. But, in the opinion of many, yesterday’s lunch was particularly delicious.

 

Some empanadas paved the way for a huge buffet, which had a vast choice. Everybody filled up at least two plates (rumors say that coach Rich had four). Caprese, prosciutto e carpaccio made for a prefect Italian appetizer, while the Argentinian meat (la carne) was served directly at the table. The meal ended in the sweetest possible way: ice cream on a waffle while Antonio Conte was leading Chelsea to the victory of the FA Cup final against Mou’s Manchester United.

 

After lunch, we barely had a moment to rest up in the hotel room before it was already time to leave again. The days here in Buenos Aires are very busy, but we do not mind it because there is always something exciting to do. Last night, for instance, we attended another game. 

 

No fútbol this time, we did not want to sound too boring. Instead, we went to the rugby game between the Argentinian Jaguars and the South African Bulls. Many people on our team had no idea what to expect from this game, as rugby is not a very common sport among us.

 

The José Amalfitani Stadium, however, did not take long to show us that rugby is much more than just a game in Argentina. Fireworks and hype music welcomed the Argentinian team on the field last night in a black uniform. The message was clear: they were ready to fight the battle and get the W in front of their people.

 

Thanks to the determination of the players and to the push given by the 11,300 supporters on the stands, the Jaguars destroyed the Bulls. The superiority on the field was evident throughout the entire game; at full time, the Jaguars had a clear 30-point lead on the Bulls (54-24).

 

As we prepare to hop on the feery to get to Montevideo, we look back at these six days with a huge smile. We are happy to have checked off all the typical Argentinian experiences from our bucket list, knowing that we have made many memories with a team that we are proud to call “family.” Many more of these memories will be made in the remaining four days in Montevideo. As always, we will make sure to share these experiences with you all.

My dear Austrian friend, Max Moser will have the next update for you. Meanwhile, follow us on Instagram @DukeMSOC for all of the fun!

    

 

Day 3: Game 2, Pizza and More Fun

By Max Feldman

 

Today was our third day in Argentina and it was another early start. We had an awesome time last night enjoying the Boca game at the Bombonera and we got to wake up this morning and play the U-19 team. We were really excited for the chance to play Boca and I think because of it we played a lot better and were a lot more confident on the ball.

We started off pretty well in the first half but conceded a goal before halftime. We responded well after the half and Daniele [Proch] scored a good goal to bring us level before Boca scored two goals near the end. Overall it was a great game and experience and we played a lot better in my opinion than the day before. We learned a lot from the first game and did a much better at playing out of the back while being pressed. It was super fun and a really great experience to test ourselves against some of the best players in Argentina!

After the game the Boca coaching staff toured us around their really cool new facility, including hosting a small Q and A with us about Boca. It was really interesting to hear about a huge pro club and what they do differently than in the United States. I thought it was very interesting that at Boca if you don’t study you can’t play for them! That was a really cool perspective on soccer that isn’t taken by a lot of clubs and I think that is really beneficial and sets all of their players up for success later in life even if they don’t succeed at soccer. 

After the game we drove back to the hotel and were on our own for lunch. We wandered around the city and found a really delicious asado place for lunch. After lunch Wil Jaques and I went to the Boca team store to buy a jersey. It was a really unique experience because I got to haggle with the shop owner for the price of my jersey.

They tried to rip me off and charge me more but I told them in Spanish they were wrong and they fixed it. It was super cool to use my Spanish for something like that and I was actually surprised I was able to do it! After that most of us all went back to the hotel and napped for a couple of hours.

After our naps we walked a couple of blocks to an Argentinian pizza place that was super good. The pizza is a little different here than back home, they load it up with cheese and meat on the pizza and I liked it a lot. We also started an Instagram war with the coaches posting funny pictures of each other on the Instagram page. My favorite was one of the videos of Suniel [Veerakone] during the Boca match bobbing his head up and down to the chants looking pretty goofy. Obviously we also celebrated Coach Rich’s birthday for the second day in a row. He had the birthday joke handed to him from Carter Manley after he forgot his passport for our trip.

Overall it was another awesome fun-filled day. We started with a great experience and game, got to walk around and buy some stuff, got in some essential rest, and finished the day off with a fantastic meal. There is not much more you can ask for one a trip like this. Can’t wait for all the other awesome things to come!

Jack Doran will have the next update for you!

Make sure to keep following us on social media, especially Instagram - @dukemsoc to see what we’re up to.

Day 2: Our first full day in Buenos Aires

By Colby Agu

May 16, 2018

Today was our first full day in Argentina and it came hard and fast! Waking up at 6:30 was a bit of a challenge for some of the boys as we still were feeling a bit of jet lag from the eight-hour flight. We had the privilege of playing against River Plate’s academy comprised of players aged from sixteen to eighteen. The field was next to the River Plate stadium, Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti, which was an amazing spectacle that holds so much history. The match presented a different complex to what we were used to as River Plate had very technical players all over the field who were all comfortable on the ball. The game ended 1-1 against River Plate and was the start of a truly momentous day!

During the day we were able to do some sightseeing around Buenos Aires and learned about the rich history of the country itself. The tension between Argentina and Great Britain through history spilled into our group as a lady on the street thought we were from England. Let’s just say she had a few choice words for me! We attempted to ride the subway to go downtown but it wasn’t available, so we walked the busy streets a few blocks from our hotel which had much to offer. We learned that the sales tax in Argentina is astronomically high so many citizens travel to specifically Miami to buy their electronics such as iPhones, computers, and televisions so they won’t be taxed as heavily.

The most exciting part of the day came in the evening as we attended the Boca Juniors versus Allianza Lima match. The energy in the stadium was so vibrant and the passion in the voices of the fans was something that can hardly be put into words. The fans live and die for Boca and it was evident in their constant chants all throughout the match. We were able to see the likes of world class players such as Carlos Tevez, Cristian Pavon, and so many others. Each time Boca scored a goal the stadium erupted, and we found ourselves celebrating with random Boca fans we had never even met as a connetion was birthed through the love of the game. The match ended 5-0 to Boca and the songs of the stadium filled the air as we left on our way home.

My teammate Max will have more for you from Day 3.

 

     

    

Day 1 – Departing Duke and Buenos Aires Arrival

By Suniel Veerakone

After many movies and the inevitable struggle of sleeping on a plane, we finally made it to Argentina.  It wasn’t long into our drive from the airport to the hotel that we passed the training facility of the Argentinian National Team.  We even caught a glimpse of some players on the field.  It was hard not to imagine the kinds of goals Messi has scored on those fields...

An hour or so later we arrived at the hotel, quickly settled in, and then headed out for lunch at a local café.  We then got a chance to come back to the rooms and get some much needed rest.  We then walked to training, and got to play on a small turf field.  We continued our season tradition of Americans vs. Foreigners, and us Americans got the win (Coach Kieran was in goal for the foreigners so it wasn’t too difficult J).  

After training we headed back to the hotel, and got ready for dinner.  Nico’s [Macri] family had us over for an authentic Argentinian asado.  We tried a number of meats and appetizers, and to top it off the Rogel cake with some ice cream was delicious.  We then came back to the hotel and all hit the beds pretty quickly as we play River Plate tomorrow morning in our first official game.

Stay tuned for more adventures from my teammates over the next 10 days…

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