Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Seattle Pacific University's Student Newspaper

The Falcon

Falcons in Spain

SPU men’s soccer gets head start to season across the pond
Seattle Pacific University midfielder Brady Fendrich (23) celebrates with forward Luis Zazueta (15) after scoring to against Antiguoko KE during the first half of a pre season soccer match on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, in San Sebastian, Spain. Seattle Pacific University won 2-0. (Rio Giancarlo)

Two weeks before most programs reported for the 2023 season, the men’s soccer team was boarding a plane headed to Europe. The 12-day international trip allowed the players to get a start on their season, participate in team bonding and experience new cultures.

The trip was organized by European Soccer Solutions. ESS is a company owned by Seattle Pacific University men’s soccer alumni, Todd Stauber, that organizes tours for American soccer teams.

The tour started in Girona, a city in the Catalan region of Spain. After a long travel day, the team had their first training session at the academy facilities of LaLiga club Girona FC.

Although the goal of the trip was to prepare for the upcoming season, head coach Kevin Sakuda expressed that his favorite parts of the trip occurred off the field.

“I loved the meals we had at some of the smaller places, like the first night in Girona, the little hole in the wall. That really makes it feel like you are in Spain,” Sakuda said. “The beaches that we went to were amazing. It was probably some of the most beautiful beaches you could [imagine].”

The first of the five games during the trip was against Girona’s academy. Jet lag took a toll and the team lost 1-0.

To end the first leg of the trip, the team watched a pre-season friendly between Girona FC and S.S Lazio. This game was a highlight for many of the players, especially the ten who were selected to be ball boys and got to watch the game from the sideline. It was an exciting game with the home team Girona winning 2-1.

Seattle Pacific University midfielder Raymundo Mendez (3) fires a shot into the back of the net during the second half of a pre season soccer match to put Seattle Pacific University up 2-0 against Antiguoko KE on Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, in San Sebastian, Spain. Seattle Pacific University won 2-0. (Rio Giancarlo)

When the team arrived at their next destination, the Basque town of San Sebastian, former professional European soccer player, Didi Rodriquez, led a training session. The training allowed the team to learn from someone who played internationally.

“Didi was great for us,” Sakuda said. “His experience at Barcelona and the places he has played, for us, was very beneficial.”

The next morning, the team headed to Monte Iguadalo, a castle overlooking the town of San Sebastian. After taking a cable car up to the castle, the team had time to walk around, take in the views and enjoy the many attractions at the renovated castle.

The following day, the team traveled to the town of Biarritz in the south of France for a match against fourth-division professional side Les Genets D’anglet. Senior goalkeeper Matthew Sampson was extremely impressed by the level of play he witnessed.

“That was arguably one of the best teams I have ever played against,” Sampson said.

After going down 1-0 late in the first half, freshman Christopher Soto brought SPU back up. However, Les Genets pulled ahead again late in the second half, keeping that lead through the final whistle. Despite the loss, the performance was a big improvement from the first match.

The next day, when the Falcons played Antiguoko KE, things finally clicked. They came away with a 2-0 win, with goals coming from redshirt freshman Brady Fendrich and junior transfer Raymundo Mendez. The bus ride back to the hotel was filled with lots of singing and chanting.

The next day, the team got on the bus and drove to Vitoria-Gasteiz, a city in Spain home to La Liga side Deportivo Alaves. The match was at their training facility against the Alaves second team, a team consisting of young talent and future professionals.

The game was a back-and-forth battle that ended with SPU losing 3-2. The goals came from Brady and Raymundo with another strong performance by the whole team. After the game, the team headed to Bilbao.

After checking into the living space and getting dinner, the team headed downtown to the Estadio San Mamés to watch the opening weekend clash between Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid.

For Sampson and many others, the game was unforgettable.

“That was the most insane experience I have ever had,” Sampson claimed. “It’s going to be hard for me to see a Sounders game in the same light after seeing the passion that the Bilbao fans had and seeing some of the best players in the world.”

Before playing Bilbao C, the team toured the club’s facilities. With the fatigue of travel, four games in five days and the quality of the opponent the final game ended in a 3-0 loss. The score did not represent the competitive nature of the game. The team was able to walk away with a strong foundation to build on when they returned to Seattle on Aug. 14.

The head start was a great way to integrate the incoming players and get an edge on the competition.

Seattle Pacific University defender Evan Aune (2) greets the Deportivo Alaves B captain before the match between Seattle Pacific University and Deportivo Alaves B in Vittoria, Spain on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023. (Rio Giancarlo)

“As a player, I feel like having two weeks extra compared to everyone else is an unreal advantage,” Sampson said. “To bring in the new guys is a great experience and it brought the team very close together”

Sakuda believes there are a lot of great lessons that they can take from this trip that go beyond on-field performance.

“Because we had that extended time together I think the guys are very clear in how we want to play. I am excited to now see us play in our league and see where we are at, and play something that really counts now,” Sakuda said.

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Rio Giancarlo
Rio Giancarlo, Chief Photographer
Rio is a sophomore visual communication major with a minor in photography. Rio manages a team of photographers and illustrators to supply content for the greater SPU media groups. Before he took his current position he worked as a staff photographer, mostly covering sports. When not working for The Falcon he works for the SPU athletic department and as a freelance photographer. In his free time you can find him skiing, or wishing he was skiing. 
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