Plate has decided to camp out in River City

DEREK VANDIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

River Plate needed to get away.

After a dismal domestic campaign, the giants of Argentine soccer decided to take their show on the road.

Yesterday a delegation arrived from Buenos Aries to tour facilities in Edmonton. Apparently they liked what they saw.

"We've been contracted to play three international exhibition games in Canada," said River Plate's sports director Ricardo Goldenberg.

"And since this is the time of year when we do our pre-season training, we've decided because the best places to practice and the best hospitality is here in Edmonton, to change our original plans and have our pre-season training camp here in Edmonton."

River Plate is scheduled to play Toronto FC in an exhibition game on July 23 at BMO Field. Then they travel back here to face English Premier side Everton in an exhibition match on July 25 at Commonwealth Stadium.

They'll stay here and hold their training camp at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park.

Originally, River Plate was going to hold their training camp in Montreal.

They will go to Montreal for an Aug. 3 game against the Impact the following day and make their way back to Buenos Aires from there.

"We always get offers from different places to hold our pre-season training camp," Goldenberg said. "One of the offers this year was from Canada. We thought this would be a good way to change things a little bit for us.

"It's good for the players to be able to get away and regroup for the upcoming season. Things did not go well for us this (past) season and we had get away from the types of things we were doing traditionally. We got lucky because Edmonton had an excellent practice facility and an exemplary stadium. So we think we're in the ideal location."

River Plate finished eighth in their most recent domestic season. It's a standing that did not sit well for a team that has won a record 33 league championships, two South American Championships, the South American Supercup and an Intercontinental championship.

"It was a tough campaign for us," Goldenberg said. "But because we've basically kept the same players from last year, we think we'll be able to do a lot better in the next championship because the players will have been used to playing with each other for an entire year.

"By holding our training camp here, our players are not going to have a lot of pressure on them during practice, which could be a very good thing.

"They'll also be able to go out and get to know the city without too many issues."

River Plate will bring 30 players to training camp. Among them will be Ariel Ortega and Marcelo Gallardo, who were both long-standing members of the Argentine national team. Ortega, 35, was once touted as a possible successor to the legendary Diego Maradona.

Also among the squad will be up and coming star Diego Buonanotte, 21, who is referred to a Mighty Mouse, due to his five-foot-three stature.

It will be up to head coach Nestor Gorosito to decide which players suit up for the three different exhibition games. The players are due back from holidays today.

"I imagine because we are having our training camp here, that we'll want to put out the best team possible for the game here in Edmonton against Everton," Goldenberg said. "Currently our manager is trying to sign a few new players as well, who may also make the trip."

A team that has never played a soccer game it didn't want to win, River Plate is expected to put up a strong performance in Edmonton. The team is desperate to bring back the winning attitude to the club.

"We want to establish ourselves as one of the best teams in the world again," Goldenberg said. "This exhibition game and this training camp here in Edmonton is part of that process."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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