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Thursday, December 14, 2006

More on QPR's (Reserves) Game against Generation Adidas

[Unfortunately QPR's Official Site has not made any reference to this game.]

Generation adidas' trip abroad a success By Jason Halpin / MLSnet.com Staff

Team played against and watch top talent during time in England

For supporters of soccer in the United States, every chance -- no matter how small -- to build the game is a golden opportunity.

Last week's trip to England for Major League Soccer's Generation adidas players was another shot for future stars of the league and the U.S. national team to get a taste of foreign competition and bring their sport a step forward.

Columbus Crew head coach Sigi Schmid led a squad of 21 members of the league's premier developmental program on a training trip to England from Dec. 1-10. In addition to playing games against the reserve teams of three English clubs, the players got the chance to attend Chelsea FC's UEFA Champions League match with Levski Sofia and two English Premier League games: West Ham vs. Wigan and Liverpool vs. Fulham.

"What I think they'll bring back, more so than anything, is confidence," Schmid said. "I just think they bring that confidence that they realize that, 'Wait a second. I can hold my own here. I don't have to shy away from comparisons,' at least at the level that they've competed at here.

"Being able to come back with that confidence, to share that confidence and then to build upon that, I think is the most important thing."

Schmid said the primary goal of the trip was actually for the players to enjoy themselves. At the same time, he said, the players were intent on acquitting themselves well. As with most professional athletes, their competitive instincts took over once they hit the field, despite the informal setting.

The Generation adidas squad won two of their three games. They defeated Queens Park Rangers of the Coca-Cola Championship (second tier) 2-0 on Dec. 4, fell to Championship side Coventry City 1-0 two days later and downed EPL side Watford 3-0 on Dec. 7.

"We wanted to represent ourselves well and MLS well and the U.S. well," Schmid said. "We wanted to get good results; we weren't just here to have some fun, shake hands and say, 'Great.' We wanted to win games, as well."

Alfonso Mondelo, the MLS director of player programs, said several Generation adidas players opened the eyes of the coaches in England. He said Chelsea liked what they saw of Los Angeles Galaxy defender Nathan Sturgis, who played as a defensive midfielder on the trip.

With many people abroad somewhat ignorant of the standard of play in MLS, Schmid said, such impressive performances can help to change the misconception that the U.S. league is not up to par.

"I still think overall there's still a prevailing feeling in Europe that the soccer in the United States is of a lesser standard, and it's not of the standard they think it's at," Schmid said. "It's a much higher standard. It's interesting in talking to people, there's some people that get it and some people that understand it. And there's other people that really don't get it.

"They try to be polite to you, but they don't get it. I think we took a few more bricks out of that wall, and eventually we'll be able to knock that wall down, but it takes trips like this to keep breaking it down."

Other players who put on a strong performance throughout the week include Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan and New England Revolution defender Michael Parkhurst.

Schmid said he was impressed by Parkhurst's intelligence and ability to make the game simple, despite the difficulty posed by the fact that forwards in England are particularly physical and Parkhurst is not well suited to that type of play.

"No matter what scenario he gets thrown in, whether he's faced with a big, strong forward or you think, 'Well, he's going to get outmuscled here,' he finds a way to win the battles," Schmid said.

Guzan came up with a handful of good saves, particularly at times when the games were close. The University of South Carolina product deflected praise to his teammates, marveling at the way they controlled the game against QPR.

"For never playing together as a unit before, we went in and in the first game we played QPR, and I would definitely have to say we dominated the game," Guzan said. "We kept possession of the ball, created a lot of scoring chances and limited their scoring chances to one or two. When we scored, it wasn't a fluke goal. They were really good goals, so I definitely think we opened some eyes while we were there."

The result against QPR was especially impressive considering the fact that half of the club's lineup has first team experience, including two players who came off the bench in QPR's league match against Crystal Palace the prior weekend. In their only defeat, Generation adidas faced a Coventry City side that featured nine players who have played with the first team this season.

"Everybody talks about the European leagues setting the standard and MLS just being new and American soccer being what it is," Parkhurst said. "But when we go over there and we compete against these teams and we put up victories and we perform well, it gives all younger Major League Soccer or American players a lot of confidence."

Most of the players -- and Schmid himself -- cite the games they attended as fans as the highlights of the trip. While Schmid cited the Liverpool-Fulham match at Anfield as his favorite moment, most of the players cited the Chelsea Champions League match.

"Being able to experience a Chelsea Champions League game was pretty sweet," Guzan said. "A big hats off to adidas. Without adidas and MLS, we definitely wouldn't have had that opportunity [to take the trip]." [New England Revolution

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