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Men's Soccer Scotland Tour Journal

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The Big Green before a match     By Dartmouth
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The Dartmouth men's soccer team has recently returned home from its 10-day tour of Scotland. Several players have logged a journal of their experiences to share with Big Green fans.

Dartmouth College Men’s Soccer Scotland Tour 2007
Taylor Alan-Lee ’08 and Ale Frischeisen ‘08

Our team recently returned from a trip to Scotland where we played three matches and visited some amazing places. We learned about Scottish culture and ate some interesting dishes. We also saw first-hand the Scottish obsession with soccer, something not typically found here in the States.
Before the trip, we were all excited to see the famous castles in Scotland and they did not disappoint. Edinburgh Castle, perched atop an intimidating rock face, overlooked the picturesque city. Stirling Castle, though smaller than the castle at Edinburgh was equally imposing as its structure rose above the fertile Scottish fields. From the high vantage point of the Stirling Castle we could clearly see the beautiful Wallace Monument, commemorating the heroic leader who fought for Scottish independence. Inside the monument, we were taken aback by the sheer size of William Wallace’s sword, an impressive 66 inches long. Based on the size of the sword, historians estimate that Wallace had to stand at least 6’6” tall to effectively wield the sword. This is interesting considering that Mel Gibson, who played Wallace in the movie Braveheart, is only 5’9”.

Compared to the sightseeing activities, the three matches and training sessions were equally enjoyable. It felt great to get back on the field as a team in a competitive atmosphere for the first time since November and it certainly did not hurt that we were playing at some of the premier soccer facilities in all of Scotland. Playing against stiff competition, including two youth professional teams (Rangers FC and Hearts FC) we earned a win and two draws. Though we had to shake off some rust, the effort and team spirit displayed on the field gives us cause for optimism leading into the rest of the spring season.
We didn’t just have fun playing matches in Scotland. We thoroughly enjoyed our two trips to Hampden Park, a 50,000 seat stadium in Glasgow, where we watched the Scottish League Cup Final and a Euro 2008 qualifier between Scotland and Georgia. The atmosphere both inside and outside the stadium was unbelievable, complete with fans wearing their teams’ colors, bagpipes blaring and supporters belting out their teams’ chants. Although it was cold, that didn’t stop thousands of fans from wearing their kilts proudly.

More than anything the trip allowed us to become a more tightly-knit group of friends. Whether we were shopping on the Royal Mile, enjoying the Scottish nightlife, eating some delicious haggis (a delectable medley of sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs boiled in a sheep’s stomach and then deep-fried) or fried Mars bars, or creating our own culinary disasters in our Edinburgh flats, we learned a lot about each other and thoroughly enjoyed our time together.
After ten days in Scotland, we arrived back on campus with a better understanding of each other and our aspirations as a team. The Scotland trip was an experience every Dartmouth soccer player should enjoy and one that we will never forget.

Visiting Stirling Castle and Game 1 vs. First Point USA
Nick Christman ’08 and Tom Lobben ‘08

Our first real look at Scottish history came from a trip to Stirling Castle. The castle sits atop a bluff, guarding what once was the sole bridge across the River Forth, dividing the South from the North of Scotland. The king's gold paint, recently restored on the Great Hall, makes Stirling Castle glisten in the sunlight from afar. The castle, built centuries before the United States even existed, provided a glimpse back through time - to the medieval era of kings, queens, sieges, and hard-fought, bloody battles. Overlooking the plains and rolling hills of the Scottish countryside, we dared to imagine the likes of William Wallace staving off an English conquest. We also gained a sense of everyday life from walking though the gardens and Great Hall. Oddly enough, the oldest known football was recently found on the castle's premises, specifically within the walls of Mary Queen of Scots’ bedroom.

Later in the day, we played our first match of the tour against First Point USA, a team of Scottish players who aspire to play college soccer in the United States. The match had a rocky start. After squandering some early chances we conceded an early goal, but fortunately, we pulled one back from a set piece just before halftime. The second half was a different story. A surge of effort saw Dartmouth control play for the larger part of the half. We scored two goals and comfortably walked out 3-1 winners. While our performance lacked sharpness at times, we certainly got our spring season off to a positive start. The First Point game provided great game experience for our young team, and helped build our confidence.

Rangers FC’s Ibrox Stadium and Game 2 vs. Rangers
Matt Miller ’09 and Derek Stenquist ’10

Following a hearty breakfast cooked in their new apartments, of which apartment #47’s was unarguably the best, the Big Green packed for a game against Rangers F.C. and headed back to Glasgow to tour Ibrox Stadium, the home of the Rangers’ first team. The day was warmer than most of the previous week had been, though the stadium still loomed against the typically gray Scotland sky. Greeted by their enthusiastic tour guide, the team enjoyed a look at several key rooms inside the stadium, including the manager’s office, the trophy room, and the signing room. After checking out the locker rooms and players’ lounge, several team members took turns sitting in Sean Connery’s seat in the owner’s box. Following much anticipation, we finally had the chance to walk the sideline and sit in the home and away benches, upon which some were heard to remark something like, “so…this is what the bench feels like.” Having toured the stadium, we made time to stop at the pro shop to purchase some Rangers’ apparel before heading to Murray Park, the Rangers’ training facility, for a 2:00 p.m. kickoff.

The facility at Murray Park, the first in Scotland of its kind, was incredibly professional, with a full-size indoor field, half a dozen natural and synthetic outdoor fields, and state-of-the-art conditioning, recovery, and pool facilities. The facility boasted youth and professional sections in tandem, indicative of European football professionalism and the belief in developing players. Murray Park provided a great opportunity to play tough competition in one of the nicest settings in the world. After being received with great hospitality and shown to immaculate locker rooms, we donned our boots and headed down the halls of the facility directly onto the natural surface of one of the fields adjacent to the building.

By kickoff, the temperature had dropped slightly so it was comfortably cool, and the pace of the match was extremely high from the outset. The Rangers played very good possession soccer, controlling much of play, but Dartmouth gradually gained an edge, and eventually the lead, thanks to a good ball in the box from Mike Ordonez. The cross found the foot of talented freshman New Zealander Daniel Keat, who calmly finished from 5 yards out to give the Big Green the lead. The pace of the game continued to be high and Nick Christman played a ball against the grain to open up Taylor Alan-Lee for a run at goal. Alan-Lee’s low ball to the back post nearly found the foot of Ordonez to give Dartmouth a 2-0 lead. However, the Rangers soon equalized on a through-ball from 10 yards after several Dartmouth defenders’ calls for offsides went unheeded by the official. The Big Green headed into half-time tied 1-1 and determined to increase their possession in the second half. Coach Cook’s utilization of orange and blue Powerade bottles as pawns in the half-time talk was nothing short of inspiring, and the Big Green felt ready to retain more possession during the second 45 minutes.

Play in the second half became increasingly physical, and continued to go back and forth, with neither team producing significant chances early on. A few setbacks plagued the Dartmouth players in the second half, including calf cramps and a player (who shall remain nameless, but certainly gave Assistant Coach Leigh Sillery quite a laugh) who fell victim to eating too much for lunch. Nevertheless, the Big Green managed to withstand a final onslaught of Rangers’ attempts on goal, thanks to a ball cleared off the line by Tom Lobben and great goalkeeping by Sean Milligan, while launching a few of their own. Emerging with a draw, Dartmouth was reasonably happy with the result, considering the quality of competition and the fact that the Rangers were in midseason form. The Dartmouth players returned to Edinburgh excited to explore a new city over the next few days, engage in culinary duels in their new apartment kitchens, prepare for their next match against Hearts of Midlothian F.C., and attend the Euro 2008 qualifier between Scotland and Georgia the next day at Hampden Park.

Watching Scottish Professional Soccer at Hampden Park
Craig Henderson ‘09 and Sean Milich ‘09

On Sunday, March 18 we traveled to Hampden Park to watch the final of the Scottish League Cup: Hibernian vs. Kilmarnock. Sitting at one end of the packed stadium among the passionate Kilmarnock fans, the atmosphere was like nothing we had experienced. The game was played in freezing conditions but was surprisingly free-flowing with Hibernian running out as the Cup winners with a walloping 5-1 score. Shivering in the upper stands, many of us tried to join in with the chanting Kilmarnock fans, although understanding the brogue Scottish accent was a bit of a challenge.

The following Saturday, we were back at Hampden Park to watch Scotland versus Georgia in a Euro 2008 qualifying match. Once again the atmosphere was electric with the stadium crammed full of Scottish supporters and a few lone Georgia fans. Scotland was favorites to win and lived up to their billing scoring a late goal in the last minutes of play for the win much to the roaring delight of the crowd. Highlights included being part of the crowd during the playing of the Scottish national anthem and meeting a couple of slightly inebriated Scottish 'tartan army' fans after the game.

Trip to the Wallace Monument and Edinburgh Castle
Pumi Maqubela ’10 and Donnie Surdoval ‘10

Our trip to Scotland afforded us not only the opportunity to train and grow as a team, but also the chance to take in the culture and history that is so rich in Scotland. Of the many historical landmarks we visited on our trip, the Wallace Monument and Edinburgh Castle were far and beyond the most spectacular.
Our first view of Wallace Monument was from the Stirling Castle and even from a distance the monument was remarkable. Still though, we did not truly get to experience its grandeur until we had climbed the 264 stairs to the top. From atop the Wallace Monument, we had a breathtaking view of the Scottish countryside. From here we moved on to Edinburgh where we spent the rest of our trip. In our free time in the city we visited the Edinburgh Castle. Looking over the city from atop a jutted crag, the castle had an omnipotent presence on the town. Its size and intricacy were incredible. We spent hours in the castle and were in awe of its rich history and detail.

Game 3 vs. Hearts Midlothian FC
Matt Carroll ’09 and Sean Milligan ‘09

Our trip concluded with a game against the well-known Hearts of Midlothian Football Club. We came into the game undefeated on the trip, and wanted to end the tour on a high note. However, we faced a number of obstacles going into the match. First was the high level of competition, as Hearts is one of the biggest clubs in all of Scottish football. And second was the fatigue of two earlier games and a action-packed 10-day tour. After arriving at Hearts’ first-class training facility, we took the field for warm-ups, and before long, the game was underway. After a slow start and a mediocre first half, Dartmouth really started to pick it up in the second half. We started to play our game and took control of the match. The game started to open up and both teams had a number of chances to score.

Dartmouth, Mike Ordonez ’08 and Matt Miller ’09 came closest to finding the back of the net, but in the end, neither team was able to break the 0-0 deadlock. So the Scotland tour ended in a somewhat typical Dartmouth soccer fashion – a tie. Overall, the tour was a great success. We played some of the best youth competition in Europe and emerged undefeated. The trip also served to highlight some areas of improvement for the squad as we look forward to starting our spring season. The Scotland trip was a great balance of high level soccer and other aspects of Scottish culture that we as a team will never forget.