CCL Journal: Guatemala

From San Jose to Dallas to Guatemala City to LA, the Quakes are covering a lot of miles this week.  

In the midst of two MLS matches on the road, the team heads south for Guatemala City to continue CONCACAF Champions League play at CD Heredia on Wednesday (7 p.m. PT on Fox Soccer Plus).  

CD Heredia, who is coming off of a win at Montreal Impact, looks to cement their top spot in Group 5, while the Quakes hope to grab all three before returning to host their home legs of the tournament.

We'll have full coverage from the Quakes' trip in Guatemala right here. Check back often for insider information from our guy on site, Frank Stranzl, and follow him at @frankstranzl


Wednesday, Aug. 28

10:30 p.m. PT - We just wrapped up our post-game dinner; tough match, but the good news is the club can still advance with a pair of wins at home. The team catches an early flight out of Guatemala tomorrow and will arrive in LA in the afternoon with their eyes fixed on the California Clasico.

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6:30 p.m. PT - We're half an hour from kickoff. The boys are on the field warming up. Our starting XI includes:

GK - David Bingham
D - Dan Gargan, Victor Bernardez, Jason Hernandez, Justin Morrow
MF - Walter Martinez, Ramiro Corrales, Rafael Baca, Jaime Alas
F - Chris Wondolowski, Adam Jahn

Worth noting: CD Heredia brought a contingent of about 200 fans armed with noisemakers of every category (including the dreaded vuvuzela). They also have a 30-person band.

Wondo and Brad Ring entering the stadium

The stadium sound system (if there's a power outage, you know what happened)

Rafa Baca and Mark Watson giving the field a lookover (possibly to make sure there are no more rusty nails on the field)

Marvin's a popular guy all over the Americas

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6:30 a.m. PT - Matchday has arrived. The Earthquakes face CD Heredia at 7 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. local at Cemento Progreso Stadium. The match will be televised on FOX Soccer Plus.

One of the pleasant surprises at the hotel was being able to watch yesterday's CCL action on TV. If it's soccer, it's on TV here in Guatemala. We missed most of the Houston game due to training, but everyone caught the Sporting KC game.

A few notes about CD Heredia:

-They have started their 2013-14 campaign and are 2-0-2 to date
-Like San Jose, CD Heredia have three games in one week
-Their last result was a 1-0 loss against CD Malacateco on the road (over 500 KM / 310 miles away)
-Forward Osmar Lopez leads their squad this season with three goals
-A majority of their squad are Guatemalan, but they do count three Brazilians, one Panamanian, one Colombian and one Costa Rican among their ranks


Tuesday, Aug. 27

7:15 p.m. PT - That's a wrap for Day 2 in Guatemala. The cliff notes for Tuesday include: breakfast, lunch, training and dinner. In more detail, the day also included: film sessions, a trip through one of the seedier parts of Guatemala en route to Cemento Progreso Stadium, a rusty nail an broken glass on the field, Jason Hernandez nailing a movie trivia question (per usual - the question was: What was the name of the movie about the Philadelphia Eagles with Mark Wahlberg), Big Vic fielding questions from media and another trip through one of the seedier parts of Guatemala on our way back to the hotel.

The dinner menu included spinach ravioli con queso, beef, chicken, salad, chicken soup with a kick to it and rice. Most meals leading up to a match are pretty standard fare.

Tomorrow, the boys will spend most of the day in their rooms with an 8 p.m. local kickoff. Expect an update in the morning with a few notes about the match.

Buenas noches and enjoy a few pictures from today (I'll post a full gallery after the trip is over):

La prensa in the house for today's training session at Cemento Progreso Stadium

The buses in Guatemala aren't Alan Gordon sized

Like many Central American stadiums, Cemento Progreso doubles as the local track (although this steeplecase barrier seems like it hasn't been used in a few years)

Chain-linked fencing separates fans from the field at Cemento Progreso

San Jose's CONCACAF Gold Cup participants run through drills at the start of practice

Barbed wire tops the fencing in the supporters' area

Victor Bernardez addresses reporters after practice

Ramiro Corrales and Ian Russell are the only two personnel on staff to suit up in CONCACAF play for the Earthquakes

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5:50 p.m. PT - We just got back to the hotel from training. It was a pretty standard practice session, aside from the rusty nail and broken glass found on the field and the heavily armed commandos guarding the perimeter.

The boys had their first look at Cemento Progreso Stadium, home of CSD Comunicaiones (the other Guatemalan team to qualify for CONCACAF Champions League). CD Heredia has to travel about 500 kilometers (310 miles) to Guatemala City because their home venue was not deemed fit for CCL play.

All things considered, Cemento Progreso is a solid facility. The field is artificial turf surrounded by a track. Fans are separated by chain-linked fencing with barbed wire topping the supporters' area. We're due for dinner momentarily, but check back later for pictures.

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10:30 a.m. PT - The boys had a chance to sleep in today with breakfast at 10:30 a.m. local. The spread included an omelette station, pancakes, waffles, bacon, ham, sausage, porridge, fresh fruit, cereal and really just about everything except for plantains (there was at least one Trinidadian winger who was hoping to they would be on the menu).

The technical staff had last week's CD Heredia-Montreal Impact match playing on the projector. The group stayed past breakfast to study up with another dose of more specific clips to come after lunch. 


Monday, Aug. 26

8:50 p.m. PT - We made it to Guatemala safe and sound (cue the music).

We had to wait an extra half hour for Big Vic to clear security - something about either checking his bags or a goal he scored while playing for Honduras - but the team arrived at the hotel just in time for dinner. Worth noting, they don't mess around with security here. We had a police escort replete with gun-wielding commandos.

Once arriving at the hotel, the group was treated to Benihana-style feast and closed the meal with a birthday serenade of Jason Hernandez (tweet at this guy and welcome him to the 30-and-over club: @J_Hernandez_21). The boys are in for the evening (which means you can count on a Hold'em tournament in somebody's room).

Tomorrow's action-packed schedule includes three meals and a training session. In the meantime, here are a few photos from Day 1:

Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow (@JMo_Row_15) strike a pose

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Local media caught wind of the club's arrival and documented the experience

Far from home, but not from the flag

Dining Benihana-style at the hotel. In frame: Adam Jahn (@PillowFeet14), Steven Beitashour, Jordan Stewart (@JordanStewart3) and Alan Gordon

Buschy made a friend aka part of the club's security detail

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2:20 p.m. PT - After successfully navigating airport security, the boys have nestled in around our gate. Surprisingly, I haven't seen any games of Super Stickman Golf 2 being played (easily the most popular app among players). The team arrives in Guatemala City tonight so stay tuned for a more thorough report.