DAY TWO: TUESDAY, 2/11/14, MEXICO CITY; 7:04am Local Time
Mexico City is one of the world’s largest and most populated cities and on Monday, the LA Galaxy were able to learn this firsthand.
The morning began early as the team began the day at their hotel in the borough of Tlalpan.
Tlalpan is one of 16 boroughs in Mexico City and it's known not only as the largest area-wise, but it's also renowned for the forestation of its hills which can be plainly seen from the team hotel.
However, there was little time to admire the area’s beauty as the Galaxy were quickly shuttled off to the “Cantera” (quarry) in the city’s Coyoacán borough which serves as the main training ground for Pumas UNAM. Coyoacán may be just 15 minutes from the team’s hotel but getting to the facility was no small feat as the team bus was forced to deal with the crush of Mexico City’s infamous traffic.
Upon their arrival, the Galaxy were greeted to a remarkable sight as the training grounds were located deep within a quarry with large rock walls standing just inches away from an immaculate pitch. The hour-long practice was preluded by a brief introduction with representatives from Herbalife who offered their support to the club for making the trek down to D.F. They were not the only onlookers however, as Pumas youth players quickly gathered to catch a glimpse of the Galaxy—especially the Mexican National team’s greatest villain: Landon Donovan.
A quick shower and meal later, and the Galaxy were back on the road. This time, the team was not traveling for soccer reasons, but rather altruistic means.
After an hour-long drive, the team found themselves in the Pueblo San Bartolo Ameyalco which sits in the hills of the Álvaro Obregón borough for an appearance at Casa Herbalife, an orphanage for disadvantaged children. Once there, the team toured the facility and met with staff before head coach and general manager Bruce Arena presented a 25,000 dollar donation on behalf of the LA Galaxy Foundation to the Casa for better nutritional care for the children.
The donation may have drawn considerable ballyhoo from the Mexico City press, but it was the chance to actually spend time with the children that truly brought a smile to all involved. Whether it was handing out teddy bears and cinch bags loaded with school supplies, signing autographs or playing on the trampoline like Omar Gonzalez did, each player was left in awe of the work being done at Casa Herbalife.
“It gave me two different feelings," said midfielder Marcelo Sarvas. "I’m a father and I always put my son first so to see the situation of these children causes your heart to break a little. But it’s also beautiful because you have a chance to bring a little bit of love to their lives by spending a few moments with them. To see their smile and play with them is an experience that is much more meaningful for us than to them.”
Following dinner at the team hotel, the hectic day closed with a brief hour-long cocktail reception at the top floor of UNAM’s Engineering building. The event was attended by the entire team as well as several Pumas players, Pumas UNAM Vice President Mario Trejo, and Herbalife representatives.
The reception did contain one unexpected guest: Jose Villarreal.
Villarreal is currently on loan to Liga MX side Cruz Azul but stopped by UNAM to say hello to many of his teammates and send his well wishes. The 19-year-old has currently made two appearances for Azul’s U-20 side scoring once.
The focus now turns to Tuesday’s match at the famed Estadio Olímpico Universitario. A stadium that served as the Olympic stadium for the 1968 Summer Olympics as well as the site for several matches during the 1986 FIFA World Cup. According to a representative from Pumas, the Galaxy will face the UNAM first team on Tuesday in what will be their fourth preseason match of 2014.
We’ll have plenty more tomorrow…
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com