AIK in USA – Day 1
AIK have reached American soil for the first time in modern history and trained at Portland’s Jeld-Wen Field for the first time today. With matches coming next week against Chivas USA, San Jose Earthquakes and hosts Portland Timbers, the Gnaget have a busy seven days ahead. Having flown to Portland, via Amsterdam, just yesterday, jet lag has not yet subsided so training was nothing too challenging for the weary team. Instead, Andreas Alm turned the session over to Christer Swärd, the latter of whom led the players through light possession drills and games for a half-hour. Later AIK moved into rotating 6v6 games on a half-field – games that started slowly with quite a few missed shots (the majority of which sailed high over the bar) but eventually developed into spirited affairs.
Helgi Daníelsson skipped the day’s session due to his late arrival in Portland. Daníelsson captained Iceland in their 3-1 defeat against Japan in Osaka on Friday and is even more jet lagged than the rest of his teammates. The 30-year old watched practice from the sideline, chatting with assistant coaches and leisurely juggling a ball in between his teammates’ 6v6 games.
New signing Celso Borges was not an active participant as he continued to rehab his leg injury with a series of stretching, running and agility drills. The Costa Rican international will not only miss his country’s game against Wales on February 29 but will not take part in AIK’s pre-season tournament in Portland. He will continue to rehab with the goal being his debut in the Supercupen on March 24 against Helsingborg, though more likely not fully recovering until the season begins in April. Borges was in good spirits, joking with his strength coach in Spanish as well as chatting in English with various team representatives.
Number two goalkeeper Kenny Stamatopoulos is not yet in Portland as he is representing Canada in its friendly against Armenia in Cyprus on February 29. The player who is the sole connection between AIK and hosts Portland Timbers is expected to arrive in time for the third match of the tournament, though whether or not he will feature is as yet unknown. In his place, 18-year old Simon Lundgren has been called up to the A team for this tournament.
22-year old defender David Fällman is on trial with AIK having come to the end of his contract at Väsby United, an affiliate club. 17-year old defender Edward Owusu is in camp with the A team having signed during the winter transfer window from IF Brommapojkarna, a second division Swedish side. Lalawelé Atakora was also signed this winter, fully joining AIK from Fredrikstad in Norway after a loan spell at Råsunda in 2011. After securing his signature in the fall, AIK have also brought Alhassan “Crespo” Kamara, an 18-year old Sierra Leonean striker, into the team.
Alm spent the majority of the training session watching from the North End of Jeld-Wen Field. Only during 6v6 games did he return to the sideline, carefully watching his players while refraining from overt critique or praise. After his players retreated to the warmth of the locker room, Alm walked the field, chatting with his assistants, before the team returned to their hotel.
Tomorrow will bring another training session and a chance to speak with Alm and several players about their expectations for this tournament, the Supercupen and the upcoming season.
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