In April, the Manhattan Kickers FC – DV7 brought a team to Barcelona and competed in the 2005 age group of the Mediterranean International Cup, one of the most competitive youth tournaments in the world. At the 2017 event, MKFC advanced to the quarterfinals – a best ever finish for the club who has played in the MIC the past three years. The team also attended an FC Barcelona match against Real Sociedad, and toured not only Barcelona but other historic towns in Catalonia.
Led by MKFC President Evan Rosenthal and Coaching Director, Hèctor Núñez, the team arrived in Barcelona on April 7th to visit the city and prepare for the tournament. Based in the neighborhood of Gràcia, the team trained and played in three friendlies: first against a FCB Penya selection squad at the fields next to the Camp Nou, and then FC Cardedeu, and the last preparation match was against CE Europa, at their stadium. With three games under their belt, the team travelled to Palamós for the MIC and a first match against Southampton FC, from England.
In the first of three group matches, MKFC was down 0-1 at halftime but came alive in the second half and won a back-and-forth match 6-3, upsetting the Premiership youth club–with great play and an important goal from Ryoma Colyar (2005). The next group match was against Sutherland Shire from Sydney, Australia. It began as a physical match but MKFC took control towards the end of the first half and never looked back – and the score finished 8-0. MKFC player Jonathan Shore (2007), playing two years up, scored a hat-trick and Nikolai Peralta (2005) provided a strong defensive performance. In the final group match, the team was in great spirits and performed well against Masaki Sports Academy from Japan, scoring quality team goals in a 10-1 win. The team got another three goal performance from Jonathan Shore along with two goals from defender Sam Davis (2006).
Winning the group was a great achievement for the small club of 90 players. But the team was not finished. In the first knock-out round, MKFC eliminated YS Gem Academy from Japan, 3-1, in a match that was televised in Catalonia. In that game, the team was led by goalkeeper Pol González (2005) and two goals from the lone 2004-born player, Julian Larrea. The team then faced Racing Sarrià CF of Catalonia in the round of sixteen. In one of the best matches of the trip, led by the great play and three goals of Weston Jonke (2005), the team won 6-4 and moved to the quarterfinals — setting up a match with RCD Espanyol, the winners of the division the past two years.
In the quarterfinals, MKFC’s place was among large clubs such as RCD Espanyol, Paris Saint-Germain, Olympique Lyon, Valencia CF, along with Catalan club CE Mercantil and CF Badalona. The quarterfinal was another televised match, and in the end MKFC was overpowered by RCD Espanyol, the eventual champions, and lost 0-8. In all, it was a great experience for the team, composed of boys born in 2005, 2006, and 2007 — a young group for the level of competition faced. Against great teams from around the world, the players held their own and the club is excited about the potential of 2007-born Jonathan Shore, who led the team in both goals and assists during the tournament.
With the competition over at the MIC, the players were able to watch the finals of other age groups and then was treated to the FC Barcelona vs Real Sociedad match at the Camp Nou, where Lionel Messi scored two goals. During the final day before heading back to New York City, the team took in the sites of Barcelona.
Reflecting on the trip, MKFC President Evan Rosenthal said, “This type of trip is always a great experience, regardless of the results. But winning the first five matches at the MIC, finishing at the top of our group, and advancing deeper into the tournament really added extra excitement. I think it will be a trip these players remember for a long time.”
Hèctor Núñez works hard to plan the trip because of the value it provides for the players in the club. “Playing in the MIC and going to Catalonia is an immersion into a culture where soccer means everything to the young players,” Hèctor said. “These players dream about becoming a pro and you can see that in the intensity of the play, the passion, and the knowledge they have. It’s a master class for our players.”
MKFC TEAM (Players, Club, Year of Birth): Nikolai Peralta (MKFC, 2005), Jonathan Shore (MKFC, 2007), Sebastian Azzopardi (MKFC, 2005), Sam Davis (MKFC, 2006), Pol González (Fundació Hermes FC, 2005), Julian Larrea (BW Gottschee, 2004), Daniel Salom (Club Barcelonista Terlenka, 2006), Ben Kaspin (MKFC, 2007), Milo Hoffman (MKFC, 2005), Weston Jonke (Team Challenger FC, 2005), Milo Hignett (Team Challenger FC, 2005).