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Feature

US TOUR DIARY | Wrexham AFC's first week Stateside

Red Dragons head south to San Diego

24 July 2023

Feature

US TOUR DIARY | Wrexham AFC's first week Stateside

Red Dragons head south to San Diego

24 July 2023

Wrexham AFC players arrived in San Diego this afternoon local time, after a bus journey from Los Angeles, for the third leg of their US Tour.

One week on from departing for the States, the Red Dragons have visited two of their four scheduled bases – Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Los Angeles, California.

On the pitch, the tour opened with a 5-0 loss to a strong Chelsea team before a 4-0 win against a young LA Galaxy II team. Off the pitch, there has been plenty to keep everyone occupied to.

Here’s a catch up of what the 26-man squad and staff have been up so far…

 

Day 1, Sunday July 16

London Heathrow to Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Temperature: 91 degrees Fahrenheit/33 degrees Celsius

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Having travelled down the previous evening, following a behind-closed-doors practice match victory at Colliers Park, it was an early start for Wrexham AFC to kick-off their US Tour with a United Airlines flight out from London Heathrow.

A squad of 26 players travelled out, alongside staff and Club legend Brian Flynn – invited out to America to serve as the Club’s ambassador for the US Tour.

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As part of the Club’s partnership with front-of-shirt sponsors United, players were invited onto the runway for a photoshoot, while Club captain Ben Tozer and first-team captain Luke Young sat in the cockpit of the Boeing 767.

Storms on America’s East Coast extended travel time, but the players arrived safely at Raleigh, Durham, via Washington Dulles before a coach trip to the Siena Hotel. Day 1 was all about settling into their new surroundings, and a quiet night to help adapt to the time difference.

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Day 2, Monday July 17

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Temperature: 90 degrees Fahrenheit/32 degrees Celsius

The Red Dragons headed down to UNC’s training facility for the first time on Monday morning, experiencing the vastness of the famous sporting university’s campus.

Alongside Dorrance Field, where Wrexham trained, UNC has a wealth of sporting facilities – including, famously, basketball with Michael Jordan among their alumni.

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Other facilities include ice baths, which the players sampled for the first time in the afternoon – some for longer than others!

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Afterwards, a group of players headed to UNC Children’s Hospital to visit patients at the Reelin’ For Research Pediatric Hematology Oncology Clinic.

Joined by Phil Parkinson, Humphrey Ker, Fleur Robinson, Shaun Harvey, Brian Flynn and Wrex the Dragon, the players spoke with families on the ward and donated gifts.

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Ever wondered how the players stave off boredom on long trips away from home? Wrexham AFC players passed the time with a mixture of American Football, rounders and cards among other things… with their competitive nature never far away, even off the pitch!

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Day 3, Tuesday July 18

Chapel Hill and Cary, North Carolina

Temperature: 93 degrees Fahrenheit/34 degrees Celsius

With the first match of the US Tour awaiting on the following day, Wrexham had two more training sessions on the Tuesday – including an open training session at the WakeMed Soccer Park. 

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The morning session took place at Dorrance Field, at UNC, before manager Phil Parkinson met the press at the Kenan Memorial Stadium. The players took advantage to visit the basketball court and American Football arena.

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Looking ahead to the Chelsea game, Parkinson said: “For us, it’s about pre-season progression. We’re two and a half weeks away from the season starting and physically it’s a good workout for those who get on the pitch.”

Players Ben Foster, Elliot Lee and Jacob Mendy then took part in an additional press conference back at the Siena Hotel, meeting a mix of UK and American reporters.

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The evening’s open training session meant a return to WakeMed Soccer Park for goalkeeper Mark Howard and first-team coach David Jones – who played at the ground in June for the Wrexham Red Dragons at the TST 7v7 tournament.

It also meant a first chance to meet fans en masse as the scale of support for Wrexham in North Carolina was made clear.

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Wrexham did suffer their first loss of the tour, however, as Paul Mullin suffered defeat in a crossbar challenge organised by FC Sports, with Gary Cahill triumphing.

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Day 4, Wednesday July 19 – MATCH DAY 1

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Temperature: 88 degrees Fahrenheit/31 degrees Celsius

The hot, sunny conditions of the previous days made way for heavy rain in the morning as the players reported for one final training session at UNC’s Dorrance Field. The clouds had already begun to clear by the time the players walked through their formations for the evening kick-off, however, as supporters of both team started to descend on the town.

Wrexham players had a chance to meet some supporters after a quick stop-off for some souvenir hunting at the UNC shop, signing autographs and posing for selfies before the return to the hotel for lunch. With an early flight after the game, the afternoon was occupied by packing.

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At Kenan Memorial Stadium, the fan zone was being set up for the first time with a pop-up Turf among the attractions, and a number of the Club’s sponsors also involved.

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The match itself took place in front of more than 50,000 fans as Wrexham conceded at either end of the first half to trail 2-0 at the break, despite creating a number of opportunities of their own.

Chelsea’s clinical finishing eventually made for a one-sided final scoreline, however, as they took their chances after the break where Wrexham did not – triumphing 5-0.

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Day 5, Thursday July 20

Chapel Hill, North Carolina to Los Angeles, California

Temperature: 88 degrees Fahrenheit/31 degrees Celsius

It was an early start to Thursday morning, as the players headed to Raleigh, Durham to catch their United Airlines flight to Denver, Colorado, before a second flight on to LAX.

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After two flights across the width of the America, from the East Coast to the West Coast, the players took advantage of the Westdrift Manhattan Beach hotel’s facilities for a light recovery session in the pool.

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The hotel welcomes a number of sports teams visiting Los Angeles, with entertainment including a Corn Hole match and a Shuffle Board. Located just a short drive from Manhattan Beach, the players also took advantage of an afternoon off to pay it a visit.

Day 6, Friday July 21

Los Angeles, California

Temperature: 82 degrees Fahrenheit/28 degrees Celsius

The players enjoyed their first tastes of LA Galaxy’s Dignity Health Sports Park facility, with an extended training session on the day before the first game. The Sports Park features not just the main stadium, host of the tour’s second game, but also other sports facilities such as tennis. Tennis stars Gael Monfils and Nick Kyrgios were among the other athletes on site, awaiting a tournament.

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Back at the hotel after lunch, manager Phil Parkinson met with members of the press and re-iterated his desire to ensure the tour does not lead to the players’ being cooped up in hotels for long stretches. As a result, a sightseeing tour to Beverly Hills and Hollywood was organised for the afternoon.

As Parkinson and players Ben Tozer, Aaron Hayden and Will Boyle were performing press duties, Rob Lainton, James Jones and Luke Young were meeting supporters at a Meet-and-Greet in association with Betty Buzz at Total Wine.

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As well as meeting supporters, all three were put behind the counter and tasked with upselling Betty Booze cocktails with Rob Lainton proving the top salesman.

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On the afternoon tour, staff and players are showed the Hollywood Walk of Fame – adding a star for co-chairman Rob McElhenney alongside his fellow co-chairman Ryan Reynolds’ existing star – and see the famous Hollywood sign landmark.

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Day 7, Saturday July 22 – MATCH DAY 2

Los Angeles, California

Temperature: 82 degrees Fahrenheit/28 degrees Celsius

A lighter training session in the morning keeps the players’ legs ticking over ahead of the evening’s fixture against LA Galaxy II.

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As the players return to the hotel for pre-match food and rest, meanwhile, staff members enjoyed a seven-a-side match at the Dignity Health Sports Park.

Kit man Iwan Pugh-Jones scored the goal of the game, with a long-range lob, but Premier League experience pays off for the team in black – first-team coach David Jones leading them to a 7-5 win.

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In the evening, Wrexham enjoyed their first taste of success on the US Tour, with a flurry of second-half goals earning a 4-0 victory against LA Galaxy II. Andy Cannon, Elliot Lee, Paul Mullin and Anthony Forde are all on target as the Red Dragons’ run riot after the break to storm to victory and conclude the first week of the tour with a win.

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