Pre-season 2014-15: Villa announce exciting two-match USA tour
Paul Lambert and Brad Guzan believe the facilities and environment for Villa's US Tour in July will be first-class after pre-season games were announced against Major League Soccer teams FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo.
Villa are set to play two exhibition games in Texas, facing FC Dallas on July 23 at the Toyota Stadium and Houston Dynamo on July 26 at the BBVA Compass Stadium.
It will be the Club's sixth US visit after a trip to Atlanta more than 30 years ago began the excursions Stateside.
Villa played in San Jose and Los Angeles in 1997, New York in 1999 and Columbus in 2007. In 2012 a three-match tour comprised games in Philadelphia, Chicago and Portland.
"It's a good place to go and play football," the Villa manager declared. "The facilities are really good, the weather will be warm as well and a lot of teams in the Barclays Premier League go to the US now for pre-season, so it will be good for us.
"The Premier League is world-renowned and everywhere you go people know what it's about. They're getting into it now in the US, too, and it's good for us to tap into that interest and to attract new fans to the Club.
"Teams all around are trying to grow and expand their fan-base, whether that's into the US, Asia or wherever. There are good players in these places and, with America involved in the World Cup, interest in the game there is going to be huge come the summer months.
"In terms of their teams and what we might encounter in our games against FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo, you get hard graft always from American players. They're strong characters. For us, Brad is a great example of this. His enthusiasm is fantastic and I'm sure a lot of the players we'll be up against will be similar in that respect.
"It will be tough. When we went there two summers ago every game was hard and this time it will be no different. Pre-season is really important and it's becoming more crucial every single year. For new players, it will help them integrate and for everybody it will be a case of putting the work in. That's what will be needed ahead of the season."
Villa have 26 supporters clubs in the US, including the Dallas Lions.
FC Dallas have competed in Major League Soccer since its inception.
Coached by Colombian Oscar Pareja, their squad includes former Wigan Athletic midfielder Hendry Thomas and ex-Marseille and Athletic Madrid player Peter Luccin.
Houston Dynamo, led by Scottish coach Dominic Kinnear, won back-to-back MLS Cups in 2006 and 2007 and were runners-up to LA Galaxy in 2011 and 2012.
Former West Brom and Derby forward Giles Barnes and Jamaican striker Omar Cummings, who trained with Villa during the 2010-11 campaign, are on their current roster.
USA international Guzan, who played almost four seasons in MLS for Chivas USA, said: "It's exciting. I think last time we were in America the boys really enjoyed their time there. We're looking forward to it again and there won't be much travel between cities so everyone will really enjoy it.
"I still keep up with the teams in MLS and how they're doing and the league in general. It will be nice to see some old friends and some familiar faces when we get over there but, more importantly, it will be a good chance for us to get our pre-season underway and really try to get some quality work done.
"Certainly, it will be hot but that will be fine. They will be in the middle of their season, Dallas and Houston, and they'll be used to the heat and the demands of how the game is played in that type of climate. So for us it will be a real challenge and I think it will be an exciting one. The league is on the rise and the quality of play has got much better since I left and, as always, the physical demand is there.
"Houston have a proven track record of being successful, especially in the playoffs. They're not going to be easy games, they'll be challenges. The manager in Houston always does a good job of preparing his team and Dallas is a team that's on the rise with some young, eager kids that want to prove themselves.
"The hospitality and the stadiums will be first class. Houston has just opened a brand new soccer-specific stadium, so they're no longer at the university. It will be my first time there so that will be exciting, and the same goes for Dallas. They both have a good following in terms of supporters and I'm sure they'll be excited for us to get there as much as we are for to bring the Aston Villa brand.
"Just from the years that I've been here, the amount of Villa fans in America who have reached out to me via social media or letters in the post has been great. Villa has fans everywhere around the world and America is no different. For us to be able to go over there and hopefully put together two good games for our supporters on that side of the pond will be good for everyone."
Villa CEO Paul Faulkner said: "There will be real value in the tour both on and off the pitch with the commercial and marketing side as well as the community aspect very much on our agenda, as they have been during previous pre-season tours.
"Our previous US tours have been exciting and hugely positive experiences for the Club and I'm sure we will work hard to ensure we achieve further development into a country in which the game is increasingly taking root.
"Commercially, we are always looking to grow the Club while remaining true to the values we espouse as Villa people. I see this as a wonderful opportunity and I thank the staff of FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo for the courtesy and welcome they have already shown us in helping to put these games together."
FC Dallas President Dan Hunt said: "We are very excited to be able to bring Aston Villa to Toyota Stadium for a game this summer. They represent a quality English Premier League opponent who has been in very good form of late.
"They are anchored by several players who will represent their respective countries in the 2014 World Cup. Obviously, this will be a very competitive match and we are excited to be able to bring this quality game to our fans."
Houston Dynamo Head Coach Dominic Kinnear: "I think Aston Villa is a great team with a great history and a huge club in England.
"They've done ever so well over the years and I think it shows that we're doing our best every year to bring top-quality teams to Houston for the Charities Cup. I think it is a fantastic opportunity for the players. They will be in preseason, but for us to line up against guys like Benteke, Agbonlahor and Guzan, it is a good team. I think when you get to play against some good, quality players it tests you a little bit and I think it motivates you."
Information on tickets for Villa's US pre-season fixtures, as well as a number of supporter activities, will be released soon on avfc.co.uk
Details of other pre-season games, including a friendly at Villa Park on the weekend of August 9/10 will also be announced soon.