This is a two-part look at Everton's stop in Washington D.C. for the second of two games on their U.S. preseason tour. Today I talk about meeting up with a few Everton fans the day before the game during Everton's open training session, as well as the fantastic tailgate put together by the fine folks at Boston Evertonian's Supporters Group. This was my first chance to meet and talk with
On Friday Everton was kind enough to open their early morning training session to Everton fans who applied through the club website. I was fortunate enough to be selected, and was in for a treat. Emerging from the metro station, a stream of fans clad in Everton kits were making their way to RFK Stadium. On my way I struck up a conversation with two fans from England, Darren and Jimmy. This was my first chance to talk to Everton fans in person, and it did not disappoint. Over the approximate two hours we were together in the stadium, our topics of conversation varied from the validity of selling Mikel Arteta, to our dislike of the slagging off that occurs to the Everton board.
Training itself was a somewhat lax affair. The players only ran through 3 drills during the hour long session. The first drill was a crossing drill the consisted of defenders passing out of the back and working the ball to the wings for a cross to the onrushing players in the box. This was definitely they most lackadaisical drill the team ran through, but that is most likely due to the oppressive heat. Temperatures were in the upper 90's, and the heat index was at least 110 on the day.
The second drill of the day was some small-sided matches of 7v7 on a pitch of about 35 yards in length and 15-20 yards in length. The third team surrounded the outside of the pitch, and could receive and pass the ball from where they were standing, but not move around. Action immediately picked up with all three teams going for goal, and the keepers had to be quick on their feet. Jan Mucha had an amazing string of saves at one point that consisted of 4 point blank saves, the last three of which were from the ground. Ross Barkley and Jermaine Beckford both did well in this drill, with the youngster thriving in the close quarters with some excellent one touch passing, and Beckford had several excellent goals, and a few cheeky ones as well.
Following the small sided games, Moyes closed the session with some shooting drills from the left and right side of the boxes. All the players had some beautiful goals and there were some fine saves from the keepers as well.
Arteta, Fellaini, and Howard were the three players who did not participate in training. Howard didn't join the team until the next day, and Fellaini is still out injured. Arteta suffered a bone bruise to his ankle in the Philadelphia Union match and will be unavailable for the remaining preseason matches. One of the interesting things to watch during training was the separate drills Leon Osman did with one of the assistant coaches. Osman picked up a slight knock earlier in the week and the coaching staff worked with him on a variety of drills to test out his body. Perhaps the most unique drill I saw was one where one coach would send in aerial balls for Osman to head back, and another coach would challenge him to provide some physicality to the drill. This is something most American coaches do not do at the youth levels, and it shows with many young players unable to control their bodies in the air if another player is challenging them for a ball.
One thing that also has to be mentioned when talking about the Everton training session was the attitude of the players and coaches. A lot of time has been devoted both here and at other Everton websites about some of the problems plaguing the club, but everyone here was an absolute class act. The coaches were handing out what appeared to be an assortment of Everton t-shirts, pins, and photos of many different players for the fans. In addition almost all of the players from the youngsters to the stars walked over to the fans to sign autographs and pose for pictures. Even David Moyes got in on the act of talking to the fans. There was one encounter I witnessed that showed the Scot has a sense of humour rarely seen when he was talking about how he was used to this hot weather because of how common it was in his native land of Scotland. Tim Cahill was behind the gaffer with a bemused expression on his face and was shaking his head to the contrary. It was nice to see a bit of levity from a man who so often seems to wear a serious expression in the press.
It was a fantastic few hours that only managed to whet my appetite for the next day, and I was not disappointed for the main event which began with a pregame tailgate organized by the Boston Evertonians. Founded in August of 2009 by Irishman Dermot, the group has quickly grown in size, and a good number of the fans made their way south for both of Everton's preseason matches. At least 75 fans or so seemed to be at the tailgate before I left, and I would not be surprised if the numbers rose in the 90 minutes between my departure and the beginning of the match. It was fantastic to have an excellent chat with several folks there including James, or @jwhollis for those of you on Twitter. Sometimes it is amazing to find out how small the world is as James and his wife both attended Furman, a school very close to my own institution of higher learning in South Carolina. Another positive was meeting a husband and wife who are ex-pats and reside in Houston. Both were hilarious and it was fantastic to meet them. A big hand should be given to everyone who came to Washington D.C. and I know there were several other Twitter folks I didn't manage to meet this time around, but hopefully the next Everton match in the U.S. will be the perfect opportunity to do it. For those of you who went to the D.C. United match share your experiences below, and tomorrow I will be posting my experience attending the match as a member of the press thanks to the folks at D.C. United. Until next time COYB!