North Shore United's U13 boys and girls teams returned this week from a 10-day trip to Wales, where they each played a pair of matches and soaked in the spirit of English football.
The boys lost 5-2 to the Swansea FC U13 side; lost 4-2 to Newport County, made up of players from Cardiff City; and drew 1-all with Lianelli Town U14s, whose top club plays in the Welsh Third Division. NSU's U13 girls defeated the Garden Village U14s, a Welsh Second-Division side, 8-0 and lost 3-0 to the Welsh U14 national south team.
North Shore United has a partnership with Swansea FC, which is again sending coaches to Cedarburg this summer for the Swansea Summer Camps at Port Washington State Bank Soccer Park, July 14-18.
“Swansea City AFC rolled out the red carpet for our teams and opened up their facilities and made their coaching staff available to our teams, so our teams could experience what professional soccer in Europe is all about,” said Joe Hammes, director of coaching for North Shore United. “Both teams had several training sessions at the Swansea City facilities that were led by members of the Swansea City coaching staff. Their facilities were first class and our players represented NSU and the quality of play that we are developing very well.”
The traveling party flew out of O'Hare Airport and landed at London's Heathrow before busing 3 1/2 hours to Swansea and then practicing at the Landore traning facility, home to the Swansea youth academy.
On Day 2, the NSU boys played Lianelli while the girls trained again, and that night everyone was invited to see Lianelli Scarlets and Zebre in a rugby match. Joe Raasch scored the goal for North Shore vs. Lianelli.
The following day the NSU girls tangled with Garden City on the club's first-team pitch. Katie McLaughlin scored a hat trick and Maddie Kwiatkowski added two goals for North Shore; afterward the girls were invited to meet and socialize with their Welsh counterparts.
The boys got goals from Ben Brekke and Drew Schildt in the 4-2 loss to Newport County, whose players are from Cardiff City, like Swansea a member of the English Premier League.
After a cleanup at the hotel, both teams were guests at the Liberty Stadium for an EPL match as 10-man Swansea battled Chelsea gamely into the second half before a Demba Ba goal at 67 minutes secured a 1-0 decision for the Blues.
A practice at Fairwood, Swansea's first-team training ground, with a session run by coaches from Swansea was the following day's soccer action. A behind-the-scenes tour of Liberty Stadium — which opened in 2005 and hosts both the Swans and the Osprey Rugby — and a tour Oystermouth Castle in Mumbles, Wales were other highlights.
Soccer wrapped up the next day with the big matches — NSU boys vs. Swansea and NSU girls vs. Wales. Both matches were on the training ground at Fairwood, which amazed the entire traveling party with its immaculate condition. Statistics for the boys match showed that Swansea kept almost three-fourths of the possession but shots on goal were only 10-6 in the Swans' favor.
The girls, playing a year up against the best U14 players in South Wales, couldn't manage a goal but Coach Mick Collins was pleased wth the way his team hung in.
“Despite our missed chances, the girls put on a great show and left me feeling very proud,” he said. “They competed on all fronts, possessed the ball well, and defensively dealt with the threat of Wales two best players. Courtney Hoppe and Charmaine Dee were outstanding and both deserved a goal for their efforts.”
Sightseeing and shopping in London wrapped up the trip on the last day.
North Shore United is grateful to Huw Cooze of Swansea FC and everyone at Swansea and in Wales for helping make this trip a reality, and for their generosity and hospitality.
Thank you to Joe Hammes, Mick Collins and Kurt Kwiatkowski for contributing details and photos to this account.