The Washington Area Girls Soccer League sent a team of U13 and U14 All Stars to London in early August for the soccer trip of a lifetime.
During their week-long stay they got to play against a Tottenham Hotspur girls side along with other well-known clubs; tour Emirates Stadium and watch Arsenal play; practice at David Beckham’s London Soccer Dome and see some of England’s top attractions including Big Ben, Windsor Castle and the Tower of London.
The WAGS All Stars competed in, and won the inaugural Draper’s Field Cup and went 3-0-1 overall on the trip. They beat Leyton Orient and QPR each 8-0, tied Tottenham 2-2 and beat Millwall 3-2 on an 80th minute goal.
In addition to the competition, the team learned about international playing styles and explored different formations and tactics while training at the London Soccer Dome, a facility designed by Beckham. They worked with a football touring company called Excel International Sports, and along with their tour manager and trainer Robin “Woody” Wood, learned about using and defending against a 3-5-2 formation and a different style of play than what they were used to in America.
“It was more physical, a bit faster, in terms of the speed of play,” said WAGS President Sally D’Italia, who chaperoned the trip. “Some of the English teams do more mixed age groups, so in terms of the quality of competition some were tougher than others, but part of it was adjusting to a new formation that they weren’t used to. Woody helped them get used to the playing style, and they were enthusiastic about learning new techniques from their training.”
The team stayed in Greenwich, London, and along with the soccer aspects, got a walking tour of London and visited some of the well-known landmarks. They attended the Emirates Cup on Aug. 3 which featured Arsenal against Monaco and Benfica against Valencia, where they also got to tour the Gunners’ historic home stadium.
“Watching the professional games, seeing what they were talking about in training, and the high speed of play as well as the passion that the fans had over there, made quite an impression on the girls,” D’Italia said.
This was the first time WAGS has sent a team for an overseas trip, and the league expects to continue organizing similar ventures in the coming years.
“The feedback that we got through the players and parents was wonderful, they had a great experience, and I think it was good to get the league’s name out there, D’Italia said.”
U13 and U14 Division I and II players were nominated for selection for the trip by their coaches, up to three per team. After extensive positive feedback from this year’s trip, WAGS directors have discussed doing international trips as often as every other year in the future.