Manchester City are back in the U.S. on a preseason tour for the first time since 2018 and the reigning Premier League champions know their time Stateside is important on so many levels.
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Most importantly their training sessions, plus games against Club America in Houston (July 20) and Bayern Munich at Lambeau Field (July 23), will prep them for their title defense and another push for all four trophies in 2022-23.
Having toured the U.S. six times since 2010, Manchester City are also fully focused on continuing to help the game, and their presence, grow in North America.
After not being able to tour over the past two summers due to travel restrictions surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic.
Important role U.S. tour can play
“There will be an energy from the crowd and that will galvanize the players. That is the role of the fans to do that and likewise for the players. It will be exciting and even though it’s a friendly, these teams do not play to not win, which is what we want to see!” Manchester City club legend and ambassador Joleon Lescott chuckled as he spoke to ProSoccerTalk (full interview above) before heading on tour with the team.
Lescott played on several U.S. tours for Manchester City himself and the former England international and PL title winner believes a positive tour of the United States of America in 2011 played a huge part in setting up City’s famous first-ever PL title win in 2011-12.
“Clubs have realized how do we make it [preseason] more enjoyable. When we won our first title in 2011-12 and that was probably the biggest factor and contributed to us having success,” Lescott explained.
“The way you can relax, you have to focus on training obviously, but after that there is downtime and things to do. Players respect what it is and what it means to the season and what it means for preparation but clubs are also realizing that there are things for the players to do as well.”
Growth, progression clear for all to see
City have plenty planned during their U.S. tour, from hanging out at Houston Astros games, to visiting fans in the local community, having signing sessions with players and lots going on at the iconic Lambeau Field as their game vs. Bayern Munich is the first soccer game to ever be played at the home of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.
In terms of soccer in the U.S., how far does Lescott think things have progressed since his playing days when he came on plenty of Stateside preseason tours?
“The gap has got smaller in terms of the level. Not being the nations favorite sport in America has impacted the progression, that would be the natural consensus,” Lescott said. “I remember going to Houston with one my previous clubs [Everton] in 2006 and one of my friends was playing there. There were bleachers, not a stadium, on turf, games couldn’t finish in a draw and there was a penalty shootout like ice hockey where you ran from the edge of D and you had a certain amount of time to score. I was like ‘what is going on!?’ It was surprising to me.
“In regard to the progression [now] they are attracting some of the world’s best talent, they’re producing world-class talent of their own so all of that has an impact. I speak about it often with friends, if America chose to focus on it, then the rest of the world is in trouble because they don’t do things by halves the majority of the time. If they really wanted to go all-in, and I think that will be the case for the next World Cup, I think there will be a different transition because the focus will be on the national team a bit more.”
— Manchester City (@ManCity) July 18, 2022
New stars ready to shine
With Manchester City signing Erling Haaland, Kalvin Phillips, Julian Alvarez and Stefan Ortega this summer, their squad is getting stronger and Pep Guardiola’s side are aiming to add even more additions before the end of the transfer window.
“The squad and club are in great shape. With the players they’ve added, age wise and value wise, it is an exciting time for Man City and it just gets better and better every year,” Lescott said. “With one of the most exciting players of his generation, in Erling Haaland, and one of the Premier League’s brightest talents, in Kalvin Phillips, if they can continue to improve the squad it only bodes well for the future.”
“In terms of [Haaland’s] talent, he is exceptional and this is going to be high praise and high pressure, which I think he can cope with anyway, I don’t see any weaknesses to his game,” Lescott smiled. “I think he enjoys the physical battle which helps when you come to the Premier League. We know he can perform in the Champions League.”
“I was watching when he played for Norway against Sweden this summer and one of the center halves was giving him a bit of stick and he rose to that, he embraces that side of the game. I am looking forward to that. I want to see someone with a belief in his own ability that he is able to expose weaknesses to defenders and apply pressure on himself even before the occasion. He kind of reminds of a Zlatan [Ibrahimovic] in that aspect and he knows what he is capable of.”
That first glimpse of Haaland in a Manchester City shirt will be against Club America in Houston’s NRG Stadium, then against Bayern Munich in Green Bay. Just like in 2011-12, City will be hoping a positive U.S. tour leads to plenty of trophies and success back in the Premier League.
Texas 🇺🇸 👊🏻 pic.twitter.com/LC64fSXV6q
— Erling Haaland (@ErlingHaaland) July 17, 2022