For a pair of soccer players from Sedalia, a summer tour with the Kansas City Legends 14-and-under soccer team took them to some of the most historic venues in the sport, and allowed them to test their skills against players from England and Wales.
Alex Esquivel and Riley Moore are in their first season with the Legends and recently got back from a six-game tour of Britain.
“Having them taking it so seriously and being surrounded by it,” Esquivel said. “Football is their main thing. It was great to play with people who were really in love with the game, players who eat, sleep and breathe soccer.”
Over the course of the tour, the Legends went 2-2-2, including scoring three goals in 10 minutes to salvage a draw with Bangor City on the day they arrived despite the jet lag.
“It was really difficult,” Moore said. “We actually got in a day later (than planned) because our flights got messed up. We got in the next day, practiced in the morning, unpacked and then went to our game.”
Esquivel assisted on all three goals, including one scored by Moore. From there, it was on to Ruthin Town where a pair of goals from Esquivel helped the Legends to a 4-2 win. Moore had a goal and an assist and Esquivel scored twice in a Legends win over Dronfield Town.
After loses to Roehampton and Glebe, the Legends ended the tour with a 2-2 draw with Ascot United.
“We were able to hold our own sometimes, but some teams are so good at moving the ball and playing together,” Esquivel said.
Moore scored four goals during the six game trip, two on rebounds, one a drop pass from Esquivel, another on a through ball he lofted over the keeper.
Throughout the trip they had to get used to the British style of play.
“The shape is more spread out,” Moore said. “Players aren’t as bunched up as they are here. There is usually 5 meters between players at least.”
The Legends got a chance to train with the coaching staffs of a pair of English professional teams, Premier League side Fulham and Bolton Wanderers of the Championship, the second level of football in England.
“He helped us with things that we would have never thought about,” Esquivel said. “He helped us realize some of the stuff we were doing wrong that could help us
dramatically during a game, maybe opening up or speed of play.”
Many of the techniques the team picked up during those training sessions were used in games, including one drill from their session at Fulham that emphasized passing.
“We would pass it from the back of the field, and we would use that in games,” Moore said.
That style of play is also something they are hoping to implement with the Legends back on this side of the Atlantic.
“Moving the ball like that plays a key part in being able to win games in league play,” Esquivel said.
Moore and Esquivel also got a tour of Premier League stadiums Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea, and Old Trafford, home of Manchester United.
“Since Chelsea is my favorite team, I loved it,” Esquivel said. “It was amazing. Touring Old Trafford. I didn’t take as many pictures because of the rivalry, but I loaded up my camera with pictures of Stamford Bridge.”
Moore is a Chelsea supporter as well and said he enjoyed Stamford Bridge more than Old Trafford.
“It was way too red,” Moore said. “It’s historical value was cool.”
The team saw other, non-soccer related, historic landmarks on the trip like Big Ben, Windsor Castle and Tower Bridge, transitioning from tourists to soccer players and back again.
“It was a little hard at first but when we showed up at these stadiums we realized we had to play,” Esquivel said. “The first game was in a professional stadium for Bangor City. We were realizing we were playing in a stadium. This was amazing. I think it was easy to switch back and forth between getting serious about soccer and having fun otherwise in England touring historical places.”
More than just a six-game tour, it was a trip of a lifetime for the two.
“I’m glad that we can play with new players and experience different styles of playing,” Esquivel said.
“We got the fact that there are different cultures out there, and if you do want to go professional, you’ll have to adapt if you don’t want to play in America,” Moore said. “The speed of play is definitely different over there.”