The Atlanta Silverbacks embarked on their second road trip of the week Friday morning, heading to Blaine, Minn. to prepare for Saturday’s matchup against Minnesota Stars FC at NSC Stadium.
As part of a short road trip series, atlantasilverbacks.com came along to chronicle the team’s travels. Saturday night’s game will be the team’s second under new interim head coach Eric Wynalda.
7:00 a.m. – It's an early morning on Friday for the guys. An 8:40 a.m. departure from the airport meant the team needed to meet at the check-in counter by 7 a.m. For players like goalkeeper Joe Nasco and defender Martyn Lancaster, who reside in the far northern suburbs of Atlanta, the early flight forces an even earlier departure time from their homes. Nasco and Lancaster were on the road en route to Hartsfield-Jackson before 6 a.m.
The guys receive an A+ for punctuality, and along with Nasco and Lancaster, defenders Chris Klute and Patrick Robertson and midfielder Tony McManus are already through security and at the gate before the pre-scheduled 7 a.m. check-in time.
7:45 a.m. – It’s coffee time! Like many early-morning travelers, about half of the team stops throughout the concourse for a cup of joe and some breakfast. Despite the hot Atlanta weather, iced coffee is not the most popular order. Players like defender Jose Burciaga, Jr. and midfielders Ciaran O’Brien and Raphael Cox grabbed a hot Starbucks beverage to get them going.
8:40 a.m. – After boarding the plane, several players pull a switcheroo on seats to avoid an overly uncomfortable flight. 6-foot-2 forward Jahbari Willis convinces 5-foot-9 midfielder Nico Colaluca to sit next to the monstrous Nasco.
8:50 a.m. – The wheels are up to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and with that comes a crossword puzzle competition between McManus, O’Brien, and PR Manager Neal Malone. The trio each take a crack at the same puzzle in AirTran’s in-flight magazine, and after more than an hour, the contest concludes with each participant getting stuck on the same final few answers.
The vast majority of the team decides to go the headphones route, listening to their favorite music and catching some early morning sleep on the northern-bound flight.
10:40 a.m. – The team touches down in Minneapolis, and takes a picture with the AirTran in-flight staff once they get off the plane.
11 a.m. – After gathering team gear and luggage at the baggage claim, the team heads over to the rental car counter. A pair of 12-passenger vans later, it’s time to head to the hotel, but not before a 30-minute wait in the parking lot. The humid weather in Minneapolis makes the guys reconsider their choice to wear pants as part of their travel uniform. With the van keys finally in hand, the A/C gets put on full blast for the trip over to the hotel in Blaine.
11:45 a.m. – The team checks in to the Comfort Inn & Suites, located just seconds away from the National Sports Center where they’ll play Saturday’s game. After dropping off their bags in their respective rooms, there is only one thing on the players’ minds…lunch.
12:15 p.m. – With a team lunch scheduled for Saturday afternoon, the guys are free to go wherever they’d like today. O’Brien, Cox, and Colaluca opt to sit down at a local grill, while forward Matt Horth leads the charge to the Chipotle across the street from the hotel. The coaching staff heads over to Jimmy John’s to enjoy a sandwich and discuss the plan for training later in the day.
4 p.m. – Following an across-the-board napfest, players begin trickling into Head Athletic Trainer Adam Greenfield’s room to receive minor treatments before practice. Several players, including forward Borfor Carr, get taped up, while Lancaster and others receive quick massage treatments.
5 p.m. – The guys gather in the lobby, clad in their white training tops and black short, before piling into the two vans for the short ride over to the practice field.
5:30 p.m. – Sporting his new Silverbacks hat for the first time, Coach Wynalda readies the field for training while goalkeepers coach Gaucho Pinho guides the team through light warm-ups. Wynalda calls the players into a circle and goes through Saturday night’s gameplan before splitting the team into groups for drills. The animated Wynalda puts the team through a fast-paced practice, focusing on the main points for their game against Minnesota.
6:20 p.m. – Training concludes with a round of claps from the team, and before they leave, Nasco and fellow goalkeeper Daniel Illyes battle Pinho in a crossbar challenge. After a few clanks off the crossbar, the guys gather the balls and training gear and head back to the hotel before dinner.
7:15 p.m. – The hot and humid weather leaves the players beckoning for a shower after training. After that, it’s time for dinner! Japanese food is on the menu for several players. For midfielder Lucas Paulini, O’Brien, Colaluca, Cox, Greenfield, Pinho, and Malone, the orders vary between various kinds of sushi and hibachi meat, seafood, and vegetables. The grill master preparing the food puts on quite a show, leaving the guys both satisfied and impressed as they headed back to the hotel for the night.
9:30 p.m. – Players retire to their rooms almost immediately, while Wynalda and the rest of the staff relax in the lobby, visiting with each other and conversing with passing hotel guests.
Stay tuned for the second installment of the road trip series, which will be available on atlantasilverbacks.com in the coming days.