In the olden days, the philosophy on preseason was to take a team into a secluded area where all the players saw were the fields and the dormitory.
In today’s globalized world where lucrative preseason trips mean much needed revenue for overspending clubs, jet-setting during preseason is a must. The question remains whether players can get into optimal condition for a grueling season, even with so much travel, changes in time zones, and commercial obligations possibly taking away from what should be a single focus on the task at hand.
“Neither one or the other will reflect on you starting the season well,” new Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas said when asked if he preferred one type of preseason over the other. “ I don’t have a long career, but I’ve done one preseason on a secluded camp with Porto and one preseason by going far away with Chelsea. Neither of them reflected on the first five games of the season.
It depends on the work that you do. I can only speak on my experience. Its important that the commercial activities don’t overtake the football activities. If you manage to keep it at the right balance, you are able to get what you want, which is to build the fitness levels to play the first game and continue from there.”
Tottenham started tonight’s 1-1 draw with the Galaxy quite well with Andros Townsend impressing on the right wing, while Gareth Bale (despite coming off an injury) looked in midseason form on the left.
Townsend and Jermaine Dafoe had already brought good saves out of LA Galaxy net-minder Brian Perk before Bale produced the games opening goal in the 17th minute.
After receiving the ball on the left touchline, Bale quickly laid the ball off for new-boy Gylfi Sigurdsson and drifted inside. The Icelandic international picked the Welshmen out with a pinpoint cross and Bale powered his header into the upper corner from 14 yards out.
Despite the setback, the Galaxy looked strong early. The MLS side was comfortable in possession while Tottenham’s back-line were susceptible to the long ball either over the top or played diagonally behind the outside defender.
Marcelo Sarvas was the man responsible for serving these balls and was singled out for praise by AVB after the game. It was a long ball that forced a Galaxy corner which resulted in a special delivery from Sarvas that set up the equalizer just before the half-hour mark.
Poor clearance from the corner fell to the Brazilian at the top corner of the box. As Tottenham raced out, Sarvas sent a perfectly weighted diagonal ball to Hector Jimenez who one-timed it back across goal for David Junior Lopes to slide home his first goal in a Galaxy jersey. An equalizer worthy of being scored in the Premier League itself.
LA could have taken the lead before halftime as Robbie Keane split the center backs and latched onto a long ball, but shot at the feet of Carlo Cudicini in the Tottenham goal.
“I was trying in the warm-up to tell Robbie Keane to calm down a bit,” Villas-Boas joked after the game, “but in fairness to him, he continues to show his qualities.”
The second half was a bit disjointed with LA making seven subs at halftime. The MLS side lined-up for the second half with a rookie in goal, three more first year players on the back line, another in central midfield and two teenagers up top.
Tottenham made plenty of changes as well with Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Tom Huddlestone and Aaron Lennon among the many players to make their entrance throughout the final 45. Spurs saw more of the ball but lacked the killer pass even though they had shouts for a penalty turned down.
Galaxy’s young guns held their own, but were constantly muscled off the ball by their more physical opponents and never really looked like bullying past them.
“You never want to lose a game, so we are certainly pleased with the result,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said in the press conference after the game. “The result is not critical in exhibitions like this.”
Instead, Arena was happy that his players came through unscathed and that his youngsters (and Omar Gonzalez) were able to accumulate valuable minutes.
The result does not matter for Tottenham either, although they weren’t so lucky. Dutch international Rafael Van der Vart left the game with a groin problem after just 35 minutes while Kyle Walker twisted an ankle in the second half.
The good news for Spurs fans is that both should be okay after 3-4 days rest according to results of the initial examinations.
For other Spurs players, tonight was a chance to get back into the action and continue to learn what is expected of them from their new gaffer.
“The manager is getting his points across and obviously we are working hard,” midfielder Tom Huddlestone said after the game. “A lot of it [the work] is with a ball and the lads prefer that.”
Huddlestone is coming back from an ankle injury that limited him to sporadic appearances last season. Under AVB he has a chance to jump right back into the lineup. “The manager has stamped his authority early. He is very organized, very professional and the lads have took well to his ideas.”
For the Galaxy, this was a good 90 minute exercise to build even more confidence ahead of the second half of the MLS season. In the other dressing room, the Yids players and coaching staff also sounded pleased with tonight’s proceedings.
In the end perhaps, tonight was just as, if not even more valuable, than playing an inter-squad scrimmage or against some part-time team up in the mountains of a secluded Austrian village.
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