Nearly halfway through their two-week training stint with Team for the World partners Atlético de Madrid, it was quite a sight to see the mugs of Fire midfielders Dilly Duka and Victor Pineda via Skype on Wednesday morning.
“We’re doing well over here,” Duka said. “It’s been a great experience to come in and be a part of Atlético so far.”
While most of their time is being spent training with the Reserve side, the duo was able to take in Atlético’s 7-0 shellacking of Getafe last Saturday and while most of their time has been spent training with the reserves, with Atlético already through in the group stage of the Champions League, the duo got a chance to train with a rather strong contingent of the first team that didn’t travel to Tuesday’s match at Zenit St. Petersburg.
“We trained with David Villa and Arda Turan,” said Duka. “We played small-sided and the games were pretty intense. We were part of the younger team with all the younger guys and actually did work and won a couple small-sided matches. It was a lot of fun to be near David Villa and so many of their good players.”
Aside from training though, both players are also using the opportunity to understand a different club culture and style of play that has developed over Atlético’s 110 year history.
“They have all these different exercises they do just for possession,” Duka said. “Watching the U19s today, when they’re playing to goal in small sided games, they’re not so direct – every drill has restrictions on how many passes you need to have before you go to goal.
“They want their players to be involved with the ball as much as possible and not necessarily be so direct,” added Pineda. “I think that’s a cool thing – you notice the players are so technical at all levels, even down to the U14s it’s very impressive the way they carry themselves on the field.”
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Because the pair won’t return Stateside until December 6, they’ll have to celebrate Thanksgiving away from family. Perhaps tiring of some of the same food at Atletico’s training facility about 30 miles outside the city, the pair has sights on heading into Madrid for Thursday’s American holiday but doesn’t expect to have any turkey.
“Any chance we get to go downtown, we try to feast and enjoy the traditional Spanish food,” said Duka. “We’ll probably have paella or a nice steak or something.”