On their third day in Colorado Springs, Mainz only held one practice, a morning event featuring play with the ball and scrimmaging after mainly working with weights and running the last two days.
It was a beautiful Monday in Colorado Springs, a blue sky and more moderate temperatures than on Sunday, where a combination of higher temperatures and the thin mountain air was challenging for the players.
Practice was open and Mainz fans watched from the bleachers as Coach Martin Schmidt put his players through the paces, while goalkeeper coach Stephan Kuhnert worked with the goalkeepers — newcomer Jonas Lössl, slated to replace Loris Karius between the posts, along with Italian veteran Gianluca Curci and Jannik Huth, the 22 year-old who has played 46 matches for the Mainz reserves in 3.Liga competition over the last two seasons.
While the goalkeepers worked on the other side of the field, Schmidt had his players in two groups playing keep-away with short passes before the players worked in a half-field scrimmage. It was fun to see the players with the ball at their feet after seeing them just running yesterday, but it was also great to meet so many wonderful fans. And let’s face it…the fans are as important as the players. Have you ever watched a game in front of an empty stadium? Boringgggggggggggggggggg
The day began on a bright note when I saw a young man wearing a Mainz jersey in the parking lot of my hotel. He and his father, who is from Mainz and now lives in Miami, came up for a whole week to be near the club they love (I apologize for not having a penat the moment to write down their names). At practice, among those present were USAF Academy Men’s Head Soccer Coach Doug Hill, who has had a lengthy relationship with the university’s soccer program and retired from the Air Force as a Lt.Colonel. With Doug was Mike Freitag, Director of Coaching for the Colorado Soccer Association, and a former St. Louisan (although he came up on the city’s south side, whereas everyone knows that the city’s north side produced the best soccer players ha). Mike also coached at the University of Indiana, one of the traditional powers of US college soccer.
As the morning went on, I also had the pleasure of meeting Anthony, Desmond and Renate from Froozer, a company that is among the sponsors of the Colorado Cup and who provided their delicious, healthy frozen snacks for fans and the players. Great folks, as were Eric Martin and his son, Remy. Eric’s family back in Japan has a relationship with the family of Yoshinori Muto, and he hailed Muto-san for a photo, and it was great to see Eric and his son meeting a family friend.
Also met Shirley, the mother Cup organizers Justin and Jason Rose, who came from Arizona to help out, and Levi and Lila. Levi lives in Denver and is from Thun, Switzerland — Martin Schmidt coached the FC Thun reserves from 2008-2010 before being appointed Mainz reserve team coach. Levi’s wife Lila is from Mexico City — they met at the Washington,DC airport.
One of my highlights of the day was speaking with Charmaine Häusl, slated to play for Mainz reserve team in 3. Liga. Charmaine, 20, joined Mainz reserves last season and featured in twelve matches after playing with the club’s U-19 squad. Charmaine was born in Seychelles, the small nation of islands 900 miles off the coast off East Africa. By the age of five, though, he was living in Munich and played for the youth teams of 1860 Munich, and still prefers Die Löwen over that other Munich team that plays in the Champions League every year.
To be chosen for Mainz’ American trip was an honor for the young man, who features as a central defender but also can play as a right back or as a defensive midfielder. Soft-spoken but pretty well-spoken in English, we talked about the leap in competition between playing with U-19s and playing in 3 Liga, where the crowds are much bigger and the average age of players last season was 23.2 years, with several 3.Liga clubs seasoned with multiple older players.
Charmaine and I also talked about Mainz’ upcoming matches against the Colorado Springs Switchbacks and Leones Negros. The Switchbacks are a third division club of professionals who are 16 games into their season with only five losses thus far in their USL PRO campaign, while Leones Negros is a club that played in Mexico’s top division just two seasons ago and begins their regular season on Friday. Mainz, who have only been training about 10 days, will have their fitness severely challenged in the two friendlies on Tuesday and Wednesday, with their opponents additionally motivated by the chance to knock off a Europa League team.
After a lunchtime break, several of the Mainz players came back to meet fans and do interview. Photo opportunities were abundant, and the guys were very cool, posing together as a group and individually with fans. Daniel Brosinski and Fabian Frei were nominated by their teammates to speak to the American who doesn’t speak German.
Both are quite excited about upcoming Europe League play, although they are quite aware that they’ll be in a group that will feature tough teams. And both are enjoying their time in Colorado, although Daniel has been to the States before and is quite the traveller. Of course, being a serious journalist, I asked Daniel which teammate had the coolest car. He didn’t pause long before answering, “I do…. a Mercedes 563 AMG.” I also asked Daniel who at Mainz was the worst dresser and he named Christian Clemens, who “always wears his shirts tight.” Poor Christian. After playing on loan from Schalke with 05 last season, he inked a permanent deal with Mainz this summer. Fabian Frei nominated Jhon Cordoba’s Porsche as the coolest ride among Mainz players, but after diplomatically refraining from answering the question concerning Mainz worst dresser, he did volunteer that Clemens was the biggest eater among the Mainz squad. Hopefully we’ll get a chance for Herr Clemens to give HIS opinions. Payback time…..
The Mainz squad consists of players from 15 different nations, and as the Mainz players left for the day, I had to ask which country had the best national team. Pablo De Blasis answered quickly ” ARGENTINA !!!”
Tomorrow brings another practice and then, finally, another match. The players will also be available to meet and sign autographs later in the week. I can’t emphasize enough to Bundesliga fans in North America (or anywhere for that matter).., try to get out here to the Springs. If you love Bundesliga football, you will be in heaven.
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