May 16, 2012
TORONTO, Canada - The UConn men's soccer team has officially embarked on a spring foreign tour to Canada. The Huskies are set to face several professional teams throughout Toronto. Here is the first installment of a week-long blog to detail the trip from the eyes of the current UConn players as the student-athletes train, study and compete against the top teams in Canada.
Photo Gallery Hockey Hall of Fame, Matheson BBQ
Photo Gallery Day 6
Photo Gallery Day 4 and 5
Photo Gallery Match Day
Photo Gallery Welcome To Toronto
UConn Soccer Running Blog - Foreign Tour - Toronto
Colin Bradley, May 10, 2012 - Day 1
After a long day, we have finally arrived in Toronto for the UConn Men's Soccer Canadian Tour. In preparation for the trip, the team just finished up a week of tough training which began immediately after our final exams. For most of us, the day started with around a 3:15 AM wakeup call after what felt like just a quick nap. Our 4 AM departure was slightly delayed as some people had a hard time making it to the bus on time. By the time we got off campus, most of us had already fallen back asleep, and stayed asleep until our first stop.
Our first pit stop was in Syracuse where we stopped for a quick breakfast and then we were back on the road again. The next stop wasn't until the border, which was surprisingly quick and efficient. We got off the bus, the officers checked all of our passports and we were able to continue on to the Canadian side of the border where we would stop for lunch and check out Niagara Falls.
The first piece of business in Niagara Falls was to grab a bite to eat as we were all starving after the long trip from Syracuse. Once this was settled, we all headed on over to the waterfall where we were able to get a close view and snap some photos. For most of us, it was our first time at Niagara Falls and it was certainly a cool site. It was also good to get up and walk around for a while after spending such a long time on the bus. It was a beautiful day in Niagara Falls which made it perfect for walking around.
Our last stint on the bus was the quick trip from Niagara Falls to Toronto. We finally arrived at around 4:30 and got settled into the hotel which will be our home for the next ten days. The main attraction of the hotel is that it is right in centerfield of the Toronto Blue Jays Stadium. The view from the hotel restaurant is something special. The rest of the night consisted of some pizza and NBA playoffs. We will get back to business in the morning with training in preparation for our Saturday match with Toronto FC.
Jossimar Sanchez, May 11, 2012 - Day 2 - UConn Soccer Invades Toronto, Day 2
After a long day of travels and what seemed like an incredibly short sleep, we woke up at 6:45 to begin our second day in Toronto. Breakfast was followed by a short session to get the legs back after being on a bus for 10 hours. After a productive practice, in which Coach Ray praised Mamadou for finally scoring a goal away from Morrone Stadium, we headed back to the hotel. There we showered, ate and headed out to the Royal Ontario Museum.
There the players went around, checking out the exhibits while those that are in a May semester course went with Professor Wright to look at Canada's First People. Our next destination was the CN Tower which proved to take a toll on a player. Which player you might ask? Well, none other than Connecticut's own Max Wasserman. Unfortunately for Max, he didn't bring an extra pair of underwear.
The ride up was amazing, and people and cars began to look like ants and hot wheels respectively. While at the top, all the guys took pictures of the fascinating view and pictures of the glass floor. It was a scary, but great experience looking down through the glass floor. It was impossible to suppress thoughts of the floor breaking and one falling through.
The upcoming seniors took a picture together before leaving and then we headed back to the hotel to wait for when it was time to go out to eat. We ate at Real Sports Bar & Grill which had a great environment for watching sports on television. There were so many televisions it was hard to decide what to watch, golf, soccer, baseball. It was good to get out and have a meal with all the guys, in the end it was a successful day. After another long day we headed back to the hotel to do some homework and get some shut eye. Tomorrow we face our first challenge of the trip: Toronto FC, a game we feel confident about and are excited for.
Day 2 is over. Great Success.
Today was the first match of the tour against the MLS team Toronto FC's Reserve side. The game day began with an 8 AM wakeup call for breakfast. Following the delicious hotel breakfast, most of the guys on the team had to meet for class. For the lucky few on the team who are not taking the class such as myself, it was back to sleep for a few more important hours.
The customary pregame meal of chicken and pasta occurred at noon, followed by the pregame meeting in the hotel at 1:30. The short trip to the field was elongated by the large amount of traffic, and we arrived just in time to start our warm up on time. There was a sense of excitement within the team since it had been a while since our last match and the fact that the opposition was a professional club.
Allando Matheson was especially excited to be playing in front of his family and against his former club. We were able to pull off an impressive result against the very talented but young Toronto FC side, 4-0. The two roommates on the trip, Mamadou Diouf, and I opened up the scoring in the first half. Sean Weir added two great second half goals playing back in his homeland. It was certainly great to have Carlos Alvarez back on the field after missing out on the spring.
All in all, it was a great performance from the guys and we will look to build on this result throughout the rest of the trip. After the match, we traveled into the Greek section of Toronto to take in some of the diverse culture and cuisine that Toronto has to offer. The most popular dish at dinner seemed to be the gyro. Coach Reid, a big Rangers fan, made sure their game 7 was shown on the television. The team took in the big Rangers win while discussing our own match and enjoying the delicious food. Tomorrow will be a day off from soccer, and we will enjoy some Toronto sightseeing.
Jossimar Sanchez, May 13, 2012 - Day 4 - Fort York, Rest and Relaxation
Today was more a day of relaxing and sightseeing rather than soccer related. We enjoyed a walk to Fort York, a historic site in the city of Toronto. There we got to enjoy a video introduction briefing us on events that had occurred on the site in the 1800s. A tour guide dressed in a customary British army uniform then took us around Fort York.
We first saw a barrack that had 16 beds, but to our surprise housed around 32 soldiers, which made the quarters quite cramped. No one on the team should ever complain about the dorms at UConn after seeing the small space that the soldiers were provided.
From there we went to what was the residence of an officer, which was a mansion when compared to the barracks. The interior was beautifully decorated with traditional British furniture and we were greeted with some snacks when we toured the kitchen of the residence. Afterwards the team took pictures around the fort and on cannons. Jake Wagmeister and I seized the opportunity to plank on two of the cannons.
We left Fort York, ate lunch and went to a local park to see a match of hurling. At first we confused it with curling, but hurling is an outdoor team game that has ancient Gaelic origins. To us it seemed like a sport that combined soccer, rugby, baseball, golf, and lacrosse. Not to mention it seemed very dangerous because of the lack of helmets by some players and the risk of getting a wooden stick hit to the shin. All and all it was a very good experience to see a sport that none of us really knew about.
After a long day some players opted out of going on a boat ride while others were eager to go on it. The boat left from the Toronto harbor. It was a type of old schooner and it took the players out through Lake Ontario for about 2 hours. It gave us a spectacular view of the downtown Toronto skyline. Coach Brian enjoyed a nice basket of nachos during the boat ride. Then we were on our own for dinner and had the night to relax and rest up for an early session tomorrow morning.
Day 4 is over. Great Success
Yet another day is down in Toronto. Today started with another early wakeup call so that we could get some breakfast in our bodies before the 8:30 AM training session. Coach O'Donohue met back up with the team in Toronto after being put hard to work in California recruiting UConn's future stars. He did not miss a beat bringing his usual energy and enthusiasm to the opening technical piece of training.
From here, training moved on to Coach Reid's famous "6-5-3" possession exercise. After another possession drill, we moved on to a half field exercise to goal before finishing up with the front guys finishing while the defenders worked on defending crosses.
Following the hour and a half training, the announcement that we would all get some time to ourselves to spend however we pleased was met with some excitement. Some guys rushed back to the hotel to get ready to go explore the city while others took the time to catch up on some sleep. I chose to explore what Toronto had to offer on yet another warm, sunny day. Toronto's shopping district is just a short walk from the hotel, and is filled with a wide array of shops and restaurants. However, most of the shopping done by the guys was just window shopping, although Shane Hudson did buy a nice pair of sunglasses.
After the match on Saturday and the tough training session this morning, simply walking around was much more difficult on our legs than we had imagined. Most of the guys were excited just to get back to our hotel rooms to rest for a while before the 4:30 PM class. Dinner was scheduled for 7:00 in a nice Italian restaurant in the Little Italy section of the city. Dinner allowed for some great food and great bonding time for the players and staff alike. The night was capped off by a range of different activities, including watching the Blue Jays' game down in the lobby, watching the NBA playoffs, and skyping with loved ones back home. Stay tuned to find out what tomorrow has to offer.
Jossimar Sanchez, May 15, 2012 - Day 6 - Old Toronto
Today started at 8AM with a jog and stretch in preparation for tomorrow's game. During the stretch in a local park area, we almost lost our teammate, Flo Liu, to the feisty jaws of a cute Canadian puppy. Fear of heights and canines have almost taken two of our dear players.
When we returned, we ate breakfast and headed off for another day of sightseeing. We first went to the St. Lawrence Market. This used to be the location of an old city hall. The market had a huge variety of food and everything looked and smelled delicious. From there we went to St. Lawrence Hall, which is a meeting hall. Here we learned that Naismith invented basketball in the U.S. (at Springfield College) and shared the game with our Canadian neighbors, something that many of us did not know about. We were in the actual first room in which basketball was ever played in Toronto, needless to say it was a pretty exciting feeling.
The last place of the tour was the Cathedral Church of St. James. The cathedral was majestic in size and full of beautiful stained glass window. The organ was equally as massive and we were able to enjoy its sounds while the organist practiced. We were able to walk around and admire the craftsmanship seeing as there wasn't a service going on. It was a beautiful church, which added to an already fascinating Old Toronto.
All the locations on the tour were impressive and the guys all looked to be having a good time. Another good day and tonight we rested up to get ready for tomorrow's game. Looking for another win in Canada.
Day 6 is over. Great Success.
Colin Bradley, May 16, 2012 - Match Day vs. Hamilton FC
Today was the second game day here in Toronto against Hamilton FC of the Premier Development League. The day started with an early morning jog to a local park where the team stretched and had a very short technical session with the ball just to get the legs going. The early morning clouds and rain eventually turned into a nice day, although it was cooler and windier than previous days.
After breakfast, the guys had a chance to relax in the room in preparation for the match as there were no class or sightseeing obligations. Following the customary pregame meal in the hotel, the team packed the bus and took off for the match which took place at the University of Guelph.
We were able to pick up a win with a 3-2 score line. Hamilton FC was a tough opponent who played very physical and direct, and pushed a lot of numbers forward. Because of this, our front guys Mamadou Diouf and Allando Mathesonwere very dangerous on the counter. Allando opened the scoring with a typical poacher's goal before Mamadou drew and converted a penalty kick to make it 2-0. However, Hamilton were able to pull one back with an impressive free kick.
Amazingly, I was able to score my second goal in as many games to make it 3-1. I'm still waiting for my first career goal in the fall. However, Hamilton would not give up and they made it 3-2 in the second half. We were able to close out the match to earn the result by keeping possession for much of the rest of the game.
Jake Wagmeister made some big saves to preserve the win in the second half, including a fantastic save in the last minute. We were able to get the result we were looking for against a tough PDL team. We will look to close out the tour with another win in our final match on Saturday.
Jossimar Sanchez, May 17, 2012 - Hockey Hall of Fame - Day 8
After a positive result we had a day to relax and recover from the hard running. The day started with a jog to the same local park for a stretch and a bit of regeneration. The stretch was followed by a jog back to the hotel. As we got closer to the hotel the jog turned into a bit of a sprint as we were all starving and wanted to eat. Chris O'Brien, for the third consecutive jog, came in first place showing his passion for sausage and eggs.
Our only team function for the day was visiting the NHL Hall of fame. There we saw the evolution of the Stanley Cup rings, which seemed just a little bit pricey but were beautiful in design. Many admired the Stanley Cup which was on display. Most of the team couldn't resist taking some wrist shots and blocking some shots in the interactive games section. Carlos Alvarezshowed a promising future for Mexican hockey by scoring the most goals in the wrist shot game. An impressive 2 goals out of 5, that's 40%. Alex Ovechkin, watch out.
After a few more games and walking around we headed back to the hotel. We were on our own for the rest of the day. Some guys walked around to get food while others just ordered pizza. Good day, with plenty of laughs.
Day 8 is over. Great success.
Colin Bradley, May 18, 2012 - Matheson Cookout, Blue Jays vs. Mets - Day 9
Today was one of the busiest and most exciting days that we've had in Toronto. The day started with a training session in preparation for tomorrow night's tour finale against Sigma FC. The team's last training session until August went smoothly but this was only the first phase of the day.
Toronto native Allando Matheson and his family were nice enough to have the team over for a BBQ. Here, the team enjoyed endless delicious food as well as card games and dominoes. Andre Blaketaught us all a thing or two about how to play dominoes. There was even a live DJ playing all of the Jamaican hits. The food consisted of jerk chicken, burgers, fish, goat curry, and many other delicious dishes. Everyone left satisfied with a full stomach.
The last surprise of the day was the on-field passes for the team to the Blue Jays and Mets game. We were able to watch the Mets batting practice on the field and were able to meet some of the players. We even got a photo with MLB All-Star David Wright. The guys were all in awe of the ease in which the players were hitting homeruns in batting practice. Our seats for the game were out in right field but unfortunately each of the homeruns that were hit flew out to left field.
Everybody seemed to enjoy the game despite our numerous unsuccessful attempts to start the wave. Mets fans Greg O'Brien and Jake Wagmeister were disappointed to see their team beat pretty easily, 14-5. Nevertheless, it was a great experience for everyone. The guys rested up the remainder of the night for our last day and last match in Toronto.
Jossimar Sanchez, May 19, 2012 - Final Day in Toronto Day 10
On the last day, the players were filled with mixed emotions. We were happy we would be returning home, but at the same time, we knew we would miss Toronto and more importantly, we would miss each others' company during the summer. We had breakfast then those that had class had the last meeting for the course. Then we had time to relax until the pregame meal, the last pregame meal until our first scrimmage in preseason. After the pregame meal we took the bus down to the field where we were playing.
We were playing a team called Sigma FC in our last match of the tour. The warm up went smoothly and everyone was ready for the match. We had the better opportunities from the start, but weren't as clinical on the finishing as we would have wanted to be. The first half ended 0-0.
In the second half we continued pushing numbers forward and creating golden opportunities. Sean Weir finally broke the deadlock with his third goal in as many games. That goal opened Sigma up and forced them to play with more risk. This allowed us to score our second, through Mamadou Doudou Diouf, off a counter. Mamadou was one on one with the keeper and coolly slotted past him to effectively seal the game for us.
The players and coaches were happy with the way we got the result and overall it was a great tour in which we learned more about each other and got to play some great soccer. Going to miss Toronto and the memories we made there. Now our attention is on summer workouts in preparation for what should be an exciting season.
Thank you to all. Tour is over. Stay classy Toronto.