For a past few seasons, Northwestern has had a set play called “Raúl.” It’s named for a mononymous general soccer icon, a striker who played 16 seasons for tellurian superpower Real Madrid and is widely deliberate to be one of a biggest Spanish players of all time.
Two weeks ago, a Wildcats took advantage of an event of a lifetime: At Real Madrid’s training facility, usually fifty yards divided from where some of a world’s biggest footballers practice, they ran a play opposite a namesake.
NU played a span of friendlies — a initial opposite a Real Madrid academy team, coached by nothing other than Raúl, and a second opposite English bar Liverpool’s U-23 side — opposite a Atlantic over open break. Coach Tim Lenahan called a program’s knowledge confronting this turn of European foe a initial of a kind in college soccer history.
“The players were in awe, though we didn’t play like we were in awe,” Lenahan said. “We stepped on a margin and we played, and we enjoyed personification with any other. We came out of a week a some-more assured and together team.”
Lenahan pronounced he’d been formulation a outing like this for around 5 years before it indeed came about. The devise finally came into concentration when Santiago Solari, a Champions League-winning midfielder who played for Lenahan during Stockton University in 1994, was named Real Madrid’s halt manager in October. Solari served as Real Madrid’s manager for 5 months before he was transposed by Zinedine Zidane.
The Liverpool tie arose from Michael Gordon, a boss of Fenway Sports Group — a organisation that owns Liverpool FC — and a father of Emmett Gordon, a midfielder for NU from 2015 to 2018.
The Cats drew 2-2 opposite Real Madrid on Mar 26 in Madrid in their opening match, confronting a patrol that reason possession for many of a afternoon. Senior Mac Mazzola and sophomore Jose del Valle — himself a product of a Real Madrid academy — scored NU’s dual goals on a counter.
In England 3 days later, a Cats fell 4-0 in a compare to a gifted Liverpool side that featured hotshot striker Rhian Brewster, one of a sport’s many highly-touted immature players who led England to a U-17 World Cup dual years ago.
“They unequivocally have opposite styles from a teams that we’ve played here (in a U.S.),” comparison midfielder Matt Moderwell said. “They unequivocally like to reason a turn a lot, and a peculiarity of their touches and a things they can do is flattering incredible. Having that knowledge to play opposite them and carrying to lift a possess turn has been unequivocally beneficial.”
In further to personification a matches, a organisation toured a Estadio Santiago Bernabéu and a Palacio Real in Madrid. While in England, a Cats visited Anfield, Liverpool’s home stadium; a Etihad Stadium, home to fortifying Premier League champions Manchester City; and attended a joining compare between Manchester United and Watford during Old Trafford.
The certainty that came from holding their possess opposite some of a best girl teams in a universe will lift over for a Cats a rest of this open and streamer into a fall, comparison midfielder Mattias Tomasino said. Around 10 days after their compare opposite Liverpool, a Cats kick DePaul 2-0 in a initial turn of this spring’s Chicago Cup.
“Performing good privately opposite those teams not usually gave us that bearing worldwide for recruiting in a years to come though also gave us, a guys right now, a open players right now, a certainty to come behind here and say, ‘Look, we fared good opposite a girl players in a best clubs in a world, people that are creation a vital doing this,” Tomasino said. “‘So we shouldn’t be fearful of anyone going into a open or going into a subsequent season.’”