On March 9th eight players from the 1v1 Soccer FC Masters program learn more travelled to Portugal to train at the FC Porto youth academy. The objective of the trip was to provide our young players with the opportunity to train at one of Europe’s top youth academies.
In a series of articles, I will be highlighting my coaching observations from our visit to the FC Porto academy.
By travelling to Europe, or young players are immersed in the culture of a leading football (soccer) nation. They are able to train with some of Europe’s top coaches, assess their own abilities by training alongside European academy players and receive feedback on performance improvements.
FC Porto’s playing philosophy is highlighted by retaining possession through playing the ball on the ground and using rapid sequences of short passes to create goal scoring opportunities. The club have dedicated staff at the academy to specifically focus on technical development and out players benefited from daily morning sessions that were focused on individual player technical development. In the evenings the players joined in FC Porto academy players in a series of small-sided game activities, designed to improve decision-making and game understanding.
Our players were praised for their dedication to improving and their physical attributes. The areas to improve upon are consistent with feedback we have received from other European academies. North American players need to improve their technical ability. They also need to understand the game better and not always be impatient to play forward all the time.
At Porto the youth players are comfortable to play the ball back, retain possession and wait for key moments to split the opposition and break lines into midfield and the forwards using quick passing sequences.
FC Porto – Club Background
FC Porto was founded on 28 September 1893. It is one of the top three clubs in Portugal – alongside Lisbon-based rivals Benfica and Sporting CP. They are nicknamed Dragões (Dragons), for the mythical creature atop the club’s crest, and Azuis e brancos (Blue-and-whites), for the shirt colours. Since 2003, Porto have played their home matches at the Estádio do Dragão, which replaced the previous 52-year-old ground, the Estádio das Antas.
Porto is the second most successful Portuguese team, with a total of 74 official trophies. This includes 27 league titles and they are the only team in Portuguese league history to have won two titles without losing a game – the 2010–11 and 2012–13 seasons.
At the international level, Porto have won seven trophies – the European Cup/UEFA Champions League in 1987 and 2004, the UEFA Cup/Europa League in 2003 and 2011, the UEFA Super Cup in 1987, and the Intercontinental Cup in 1987 and 2004. FC Porto is the only Portuguese club to have won the UEFA Cup/Europa League, the UEFA Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup, and to have achieved a continental treble of domestic league, domestic cup and European titles (2002–03 and 2010–11). Together with Barcelona and Real Madrid, Porto have the most appearances in the UEFA Champions League group stage (21).
FC Porto Youth Academy
FC Porto is recognized for having one of the top youth academies in Europe. The club has invested in renovating their former stadium, the Campo da Constituição, into a brand new training centre dedicated to their youth academy. The stadium, which served as home to FC Porto from 1913 to 1952 was converted in 2008 to a training complex – named the “Vitalis Park”. This youth centre serves as anchor for the club’s project “Dragon Force”, a youth development project based on football schools and trials for children aged from 4 to 14 years old. It is designed to help produce players for the first team, by exposing young players to the club identity, developing the players playing ability and developing life skills.
The ultra-modern Vitalis Park consequently also comprises a synthetic turf 11-a-side pitch and a covered synthetic 7-a-side pitch, both of FIFA 2 star rank for football turf fields. This provides their young players with a playing surface that offers safe and predictable conditions for player development. This helps optimize the players’ tactical and technical skills development, so that they can come up with better solutions to every game-related situation. It also helps facilitate more complete and creative players, who are trained to produce a very technical style of football.