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Spain trip day 10: FC Barcelona youth games

BARCELONA, Spain — Though NorCal Premier Soccer’s coaching education trip to Spain was nearing an end by the time the calendar hit double digits Saturday, the action and learning showed no signs of slowing down.

For the roughly 30 directors of coaching on the trip, the penultimate official day involved a series of youth games at FC Barcelona followed by a third division game featuring the second team of crosstown rivals Espanyol.

The day at the Joan Gamper Sporting Club began with some of the younger age groups, followed by a U19 match between FC Barcelona and UE Cornella.

“The youngsters, just their mentality of that they get to the field and are ready to play is amazing,” said Tom Ginocchio, the Director of Coaching at Walnut Creek Soccer Club “We see in our kids the same enthusiasm to play, but at FC Barcelona, they go right away into a lot of decision making situations, which I really like to see. They’re very disciplined, much more than what I see in our players in terms of individual technical and tactical applications.

“Their relationship with the ball, how they receive it, which foot, spacing off each other is incredible,” Ginocchio added. “I look at my six-year-old son and watch these players who are 10 years old and I think that we have a lot of work to do in four years. My takeaway is that we need to be better with the tactical approach to the game, especially with the youngsters, and with the ball and play more small-sided games.”

After the youth matches, focus at the nine-field complex shifted to the showcase grass pitch where those U19s took on local power Cornella, a squad from just outside of Barcelona.

It took the visitors less than one minute to find the back of the net when a player beat the Barcelona keeper near post on a quick counter attack.

What impressed Ginocchio about the early goal though wasn’t the play in and of itself, but the response from Barcelona.

“They got scored on early and it didn’t faze them,” he said. “You saw their opponent, they were very passionate about the game, there was so much emotion coming out from them, but the thing they said was that they want their opponents to change to them, to get them to adjust. You saw that. Every game you watched from youth to U19, their opponent sits in, their opponent sits back, they allow a lot of freedom to play between the center backs.”

Barcelona went on to control the flow of the game and eventually win 2-1 thanks to a superb diving header from their left back, who had been a thorn in the Cornella side for the entirety of the match.

“Seeing how high up the field the backs got is outstanding with how connected they are to overloading the midfield and then getting to the front line,” Ginocchio said. “The goal where the outside back gets up, he’d been in the attack all day, and he scores that great header goal on a fabulous serve in. The main thing for me was how they want to impose their will on their opponent and they really do, you see how their opponent changes as the game goes on and on and become so much more defensive. They really lose a sense of who they are, their opponent. Barcelona just has a methodical approach to the game and the application.”

One thing that Ginocchio said he would have liked to have seen though is how FC Barcelona would have played had their opponents pressed high up the field, something that seemingly none of the opposing teams at any level that we watched tried.

Where NorCal did see that was at the Espanyol B game later that night, a 3-0 win for the home side.

“What I liked seeing was that both teams did press the backs more, so we saw a non-Barcelona approach to the game for both teams in how they applied their tactics,” Ginocchio said. “They pressed the keepers and tried to make both teams make mistakes. I saw a lot of half-ideas like trying to open up the flanks to play, but some of the earlier combinations didn’t make that possible, whereas with Barcelona, you’d see the combination between the center channels of players and the movement of the wide midfielders.”