Wilf Thorne / Houston Dynamo

Tales of an aspiring professional Vol. 2

Christian Manisck, a member of the Dynamo Academy's U-16 team, is training with Brazilian club Atletico Paranaense for a month before returning to Houston. His experience could lead to future collaborations between the clubs, and Manisck will be blogging at HoustonDynamo.com throughout.

Day 4

Today was the first day of technical/tactical training with the team. Practice was at 9 a.m. and started off with shooting drills. Our coach set up the practice for our left foot, and the drill mostly consisted of shooting, crossing, and finishing. After that drill we had a short-sided game, about the size of the penalty box. We played 4v4 with full size goals, and once again the drill was geared toward shooting. Luckily our team won, so we didn't have to do any running!

After a short break, we went down to the gym to lift some weights before the second technical/tactical activity of the day. The second activity consisted of a half-field game. This is when I really saw how the team played. The pace of the game down here is much faster than up in the States. This is also due to the two rules for every short-sided game we play: two touches and no balls in the air. These rules really make the game fast-paced and make the guys think very quickly. So far, that's the biggest difference between the soccer down here and in the States: the pace of the game. The Dynamo have surely helped me to be able to compete at this level, and I'm sure that without the Academy the past three years, the technical side of my game would not be on par to the players in Brazil.

After this initial short-sided game, we had another one with three goals: the normal goal, and then one at each corner of the half, opposite from the normal goal. The two teams in the game would defend one goal and attack the other two. The point of this game was to change direction from attacking one goal to the other. After this drill I realized another difference between soccer here and in the U.S.: every drill is performed to emulate full game situations, and in this case the various goals provided that situation.

The last drill was a crossing one, and that's another big difference between U.S. and Brazilian soccer. Crossing plays a huge part in practice, and it shows. The Brazilian national team is well known for its aerial game, and it's no coincidence since it's practiced from the academies up through the national team.

Day 5

Today was the second day of technical/tactical training. In training today we started off with a warmup drill which involved a defender and attacker, the defender closing down the attacking player after a pass, which was very similar to some drills we do with the Dynamo.

After the warmup we had a possession drill. In that aspect, the game was very similar to many drills done with the Academy. However, the difference was, after 10 passes, one player would cross the ball into the box, while another would finish. Only after a goal would a point count. This game, of course, had the two rules of two touches and ball on the ground, which made the game very quick. Also, it is very difficult to steal the ball in these games because of the quickness of the play, but keeping possession is something the guys down here do very efficiently, and it's great to be able to adapt to their play and help the team. After that drill we had the same drill as the previous morning, but this time the ball was only allowed in the air, in order to practice more aspects that would come into play during a cross. After practice we all went to the rehab area for an ice bath after a long week of practice.

During the afternoon practice we warmed up and then went into a more technical-minded drill. The drill was four lines, two at midfield, two on each side of the box. The line on the right would switch the ball to the left with the right foot, where the person receiving the pass would go on to finish with two touches, and vice versa on the other side. Then we had a full-field drill with three teams. Two teams would play at a time on half of the field, one looking to score, the other looking to steal the ball and go score themselves against the team on the other side of the field. Once again, this was a drill which I found had much resemblance to drills we do in America, but there was one difference: it was full-field. The Dynamo are currently building new training facilities, and once they and other teams get new facilities, it will be another strong step toward making America an international soccer powerhouse just like Brazil. 

Day 6

Today we had weightlifting at 7:50 a.m., and after that we had resistance training in the sand. This training is designed to build endurance and resistance in the muscles so we can handle an exhausting 90-minute match. As far as physical training goes, America is equal. All sports in America have amazing athletes and trainers who help them get to that level, and soccer in America is only a beneficiary of this. Our teams are very much in shape.

The rest of the weekend we have off (Saturday afternoon and Sunday), but this weekend the only game in town is the older age group, the juniores, the U19s, who are full-time professionals. 

If Atletico were playing in town, it would be usually be on a Sunday, and sometimes some of the boys work as ball boys, but regardless there is always a bus to take us to the "Arena da Baixada," but this weekend they're playing in Rio.

Thanks to everyone who has been following along with my blog. I'll check back in shortly after we play some full field games and I'll be able to send some great action pictures.