Jaded and jet-lagged – just what did Sunderland get out of USA tour?

Toronto's Manuel Aparicio, left, takes down Jermain Defoe
Toronto's Manuel Aparicio, left, takes down Jermain Defoe
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There was one last session at Toronto’s Kia Training Ground for Sunderland’s players yesterday afternoon, before they boarded the bus for Pearson International.

Awaiting them, was yet more travelling; 16 hours-plus of flying and killing time at the airport before finally touching down in Ponteland.

Dick Advocaat’s men will have been salivating over the prospect of 40 winks back in their own beds after a gruelling 12 days in North America.

Players should be exhausted during pre-season, it comes with the territory.

But Sunderland’s squad have been left as jaded by the demands of the coach and air travel, as they have by the daily double training sessions overseen by Advocaat and his backroom team.

That’s an inevitable side effect of going across the Atlantic in attempting to spread the club’s ‘brand’ (and yes, that’s an awful word).

Wes Brown is beaten in the air against Toronto

Wes Brown is beaten in the air against Toronto

It’s the unfortunate tune that Premier League clubs now have to play. Doubtless, if Advocaat had had his way, Sunderland would have spent a week training much closer to home.

But did Sunderland need to head to the west coast, as well as the east?

When they were facing two sides in California who weren’t even MLS outfits, plus the training ground was more than two hours away from the games, that leg of the tour was particularly gruelling.

It was far easier in Canada, when everything was more compact and Sunderland were able to train at Toronto’s sparkling new facility, which is not too dissimilar to the Academy of Light.

Lens has an uncanny air of a Stephane Sessegnon, with a low centre of gravity. By no means, does he appear to be a fickle winger, who will be easily brushed off the ball.

Sunderland, of course, had to fulfil their obligations of a friendly with Toronto too after January’s swap deal involving Jozy Altidore and Jermain Altidore.

Few fans could begrudge that condition of what remains a stunning deal from sporting director Lee Congerton.

Yet Toronto didn’t seem overly concerned by the prospect of facing a Premier League side; using the game as a glorified training exercise with a constant stream of substitutions which saw the club’s academy products introduced.

In truth, there was little to take from any of the three games in North America – Sunderland looked jet-lagged and shattered in the first two, and still looked stodgy going forwards against Toronto.

But what the trip has provided is a sustained opportunity for Advocaat to drill his players, particularly in Toronto after the whole squad was reunited.

On Monday, in particular, the draining double session put on left Advocaat’s men utterly spent.

What can be concluded from the trip though?

Jack Rodwell has flown flashes to indicate that he is determined to disprove the doubters after being given some tough love from Advocaat.

Steven Fletcher and Emanuele Giaccherini have both produced some nice touches, yet still get undermined by their unforced errors.

And Adam Johnson stood out against Toronto – as he did during Sunderland’s opening friendly against Darlington – after producing a magnificent raking pass in the build-up to Jermain Defoe’s second goal against his former club.

It was slightly underwhelming to not see more of the new boys feature in the early hours of Wednesday morning, with Adam Matthews still the only summer signing who has played a part in pre-season so far.

Matthews looks excellent going forward and delivers an exquisite cross, but he has been vulnerable defensively – culpable for at least one of the goals against Club de Futbol Pachuca, and again against Toronto.

The expected inclusion of fellow new signings Jeremain Lens and Younes Kaboul at Doncaster next week should provide some more intrigue and watching the pair in training, both look like fulfilling that brief of adding quality to the squad.

Lens has an uncanny air of a Stephane Sessegnon, with a low centre of gravity. By no means, does he appear to be a fickle winger, who will be easily brushed off the ball.

That will certainly apply to Kaboul, who is a powerful beast of a centre half.

Kaboul’s strength and pace is exactly what Advocaat wants in the heart of his defence. The only question over the ex-Spurs man is his fitness, but he has been in training without problems so far.

The Frenchman will benefit from a run-out against Doncaster on Wednesday though, as Sunderland begin their bid to start making some progress in their performances.

A couple of days rest over the weekend won’t do the players any harm in being ready for that trip to the Keepmoat Stadium though.