Three local soccer players, club team make trip to Spain

By on August 23, 2017
The Penn Legacy soccer team, which features local players Logan Bitner, Aaron Weitzel and Brandon Yang, poses for a photo on the pitch in Real Madrid’s Stadium in Spain during their recent trip.

The Penn Legacy soccer team, which features local players Logan Bitner, Aaron Weitzel and Brandon Yang, poses for a photo on the pitch in Real Madrid’s Stadium in Spain during their recent trip.

While American Legion baseball players had their sights set on the World Series in Shelby, North Carolina, and Little Leaguers hoped to play in South Williamsport, three local teens made their “Holy Grail” trip to Madrid, Spain. Their Penn Legacy club soccer team left Lancaster on August 4 and returned on August 13.

Ephrata eighth grade midfielder Logan Bitner joined Cocalico ninth graders Aaron Weitzel (striker) and Brandon Yang (center defensive mid) on the trip promoted by Generation Adidas International. All three played for the Landisville based club on U14 and U15 travel teams that included players from Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties.

“It has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of new people,” stated Bitner, after returning from the trip. “I know a lot of people now, because of Penn Legacy.”

“One of the coaches over there taught us ‘The Spanish Way’ of playing,” said Yang. “It was a good way to move the ball through the defense, only taking two touches before distributing the ball.”

“It was a really great experience,” added Weitzel. “We had great teams to play and great teams to watch.”

The Penn Legacy squad played three games in addition to their four training sessions. They dropped the first 5-1 to an older U17 team.

“The older team passed through our lines,” explained Yang. “They also figured out who was good on our team.”

The final two games, against their own age group resulted in wins by scores of 4-1 and 5-0. Overall, Weitzel scored a goal in each of the three games while setting up two others. Bitner and Yang each assisted on a single score.

While nine of the 22 Penn Legacy players made the trip without an escort, the local trio had family support. Brandon’s dad Lue Yang and Aaron’s father Eric Weitzel made the trip while the Bitner’s turned the experience into a family vacation. Mom Jessica, dad Todd and 11-year-old sister Avery accompanied Logan on the trip.

The three also witnessed high level soccer on the same field that three days later would host Real Madrid’s 2-0 clinching victory over Barca (Barcelona) to hoist the Spanish Super Cup.

They also attended La Liga matches featuring the Real Madrid ‘B” team and the Atletico Madrid squad.

“I was really amazed to watch it live,” explained Yang. “How well they communicated, especially when the crowd was quiet and they were getting ready to attack.”

The locals also took in a number of “non-soccer” sights while in Madrid and the surrounding towns of Toledo and Segovia.

“We saw stadiums and a lot of older buildings,” noted Bitner. “We also saw castles and other unusual structures. Most of the people knew and spoke English. They were more forward, though.”

“My dad and I went to see Flamenco dancing at a restaurant,” added Weitzel. “It was really different, one of their traditions.”

After pausing, the 14-year-old admitted that the three parts of guitar, song and dance were “pretty good.”

Yang was impressed by a huge Roman Aqueduct.

“We looked on a 3-D map,” he said. “Saw how long it was. We went to the one corner and it went on forever. They also had different cars. The Audi R8 Sports cars, smaller Mini Coopers…the cars were smaller because the streets were smaller.”

The parents also had the opportunity to share new experiences.

“We’ve been to England, but never to Spain,” related Jessica Bitner. “That’s one of the reasons we all went. We thought our 11-year-old would get a lot out of this. She plays soccer at Penn Legacy as well. We went downtown on our free time. We went to the market and shopped and ate there. They had some exotic foods. We all just loved the architecture. The Juliette balconies were so pretty to look at.”

“It’s a culture shock,” admitted Lue Yang. “You could walk or take public transit anywhere. The food was prepared in different ways, the beef and blood sausage, prosciutto, cheeses and breads. Even the ice cream was so fresh and creamy. The whole trip was rewarding and exciting.”

With the trip behind them, it’s back to soccer 12 months a year. During the fall and winter, there are two nights a week with the Penn Legacy teams. In addition, Weitzel joins the Cocalico High School soccer and tennis teams, while Bitner suits up for the Ephrata junior high soccer squad. He hopes to play volleyball once in ninth grade.

Yang will take a year off from school soccer to get acclimated to the scholastic load.

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