2006 FIFA U-20 WWC Web Log: Farewell From Russia
Follow the U-20 Women's National Team at the 2006 FIFA Women's World Championship in Russia. Be there for each minute of their quest for the world title with ussoccer.com's exclusive behind-the-scenes blog.
Sep. 2, 2006
Follow the U-20 Women's National Team at the 2006 FIFA Women's World Championship in Russia. The U.S. opens the tournament on Aug. 18 vs. DR Congo and faces Argentina and France in Group D play, as well. Be there for each minute of their quest for the world title with ussoccer.com's exclusive behind-the-scenes blog.
Entry #107, Sept. 2, 11:00 p.m. (3:00 p.m. ET)
This will be the final blog entry from the 2006 FIFA Women’s World Championship. If you’ve read it all the way though – all 16,000 words or so! -- you are either a parent, a relative or close friend of one of the players, or you are one of the best women’s soccer fans in the USA. Either way, we thank you for visiting ussoccer.com so regularly and for supporting U.S. Women’s Soccer. We would also like to thank all the local organizers of the tournament and all the fine folks working for FIFA; the press officers, accommodations people, match commissioners, transportation and security. They did a fantastic job in all facets of the competition. From the hotels, to transportation to the training fields, stadiums, game pitches, media facilities and security, everything was top class. Special thanks to the staff of the U.S. hotels, who were so kind, efficient and professional (and sorry about that really loud game of Pictionary and Kelley O’Hara’s broken door frame). Thanks to Sasha, the best driver in Moscow, and if you’ve seen the traffic, you know you need a local to navigate your way around. Thanks to the maids who were so nice every day, even in their broken English and with all the requests for extra towels, and a special thanks to Irena, who was without a doubt one of the best team liaisons in the history of U.S. women’s teams world championships. She was phenomenal. One more game tomorrow and its back to the USA. Hopefully, the players can bring home a bronze medal and make their country proud, but if you’d seen all the games, you’d know they already have. Goodbye from Russia.
Entry #106, Sept. 2, 10:15 p.m. (2:15 p.m. ET)
Members of the FIFA Technical Study Group and the FIFA Women’s Ambassadors were eating dinner at the same restaurant as the U.S. team and the U.S. players got to meet many famous names in women’s soccer. Mary Harvey, the goalkeeper for the USA’s 1991 FIFA Women’s World Cup champions, works for FIFA now as the Director of Development and introduced the players to Italian legend Carolina Morace, one of the world’s all-time leading scorers and the former head coach of Italy, as well as former Norwegian great Heidi Stoere, who held the world caps record before Kristine Lilly, and Nigerian “Marverlous” Mercy Akide, the greatest player in African history. They also met former German head coach Tina Theune-Meyer and former Swedish coach Marika Domanski-Lyfors, who faced each other in the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final, the first women to do so, as well as former South African head coach Fran Hilton-Smith and former Canadian head coach Sylvie Beliveau.
Entry #105, Sept. 2, 10:05 p.m. (2:05 p.m. ET)
Team coordinator Amy Colquhoun and our Russian liaison Irena organized a wonderful dinner for the staff, players and parents at an Italian restaurant tonight. Seriously, it was good stuff. There were amazing appetizers and pizza and desserts, although those took an hour to arrive after the meal was done. Still, no one was in a rush as everyone relaxed, chatted and then walked back to the hotel through a massive street celebration being held to commemorate Moscow’s 859th birthday. 859 years old? That makes New York look like a 2nd grader and Los Angeles still in pre-school. They closed down one of the biggest streets in Moscow, which happens to border the team hotel, and thousands upon thousands of people walked the streets with live music on several stages along the way. The street was lined with overhanging lights and it really was a festive evening in Moscow. The Muscovites were certainly enjoying the perfect evening weather as it will start to get quite chilly, quite soon.
Entry #104, Sept. 2, 4:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m. ET)
Nikki Krzysik and Lauren Cheney did interviews with Futbol Mundial this afternoon. They were kind of nervous when they found out that Futbol Mundial is the most widely distributed soccer show in the world and broadcast more than 20 different languages around the globe. They did a good job in their interviews, though, and were pros in talking about the loss and the performance of the U.S. team in this tournament.
Entry #103, Sept. 2, 1:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. ET)
American referee Jennifer Bennett is doing the World Championship Final. That’s awesome for her as she’s done a great job this tournament, but you wish that the USA was playing for the title so she couldn’t have done it. Oh well, at least one American will be in the Final.
Entry #102, Sept. 2, 1:12 p.m. (5:12 a.m. ET)
The players are starting to wind it up here in Russia. With one more game to play, it’s time to start packing and getting any last stuff signed by your teammates. The big autograph signing yesterday took care of most of the items, but the players are still signing each other’s Russia ’06 Pillowcases that were made for them by Stephanie Logeterman’s mom. Many of the pillow cases are works of art in themselves and a few have very long inscriptions. Since when did the pillowcase become the new Yearbook?
Entry #101, Sept. 2, 11:25 p.m. (3:25 a.m. ET)
Training featured one hour of small-sided play this morning. It was probably the best thing for the U.S. team on the field for the first time since the China loss. Players got to run for an hour, get lots of touches on the ball and work out the frustration of the semifinal. There were plenty of nutmegs, and plenty of good touches and goals. It was the last training session together for this group of players after eight months together, but all endings are also a beginning. Many of these players will see each other with the U.S. U-21s in January, and a few with the full National Team in the months to come.
Entry #100, Sept. 1, 8:45 p.m. (12:45 p.m. ET)
We’ve reached a milestone. The 100th entry of the Russia 2006 Blog. We wish we had some more exciting news to report than the players doing a big autograph signing after dinner and their meeting, where head coach Tim Schulz gave a great speech, and then the squad started focusing on the Brazil match. The players got everything signed -– jerseys, posters, pillowcases, pennants, etc. -- in just about an hour. An excellent effort on behalf of the players, most of whom stuck to the “system” of tables laid out in a hotel ballroom. Some did not quite grasp the assembly line style of signing, but it got done anyway. No training today, but it’s back to the field tomorrow to get ready for Brazil. The 2004 U-19 team that lost to Germany in the semifinals at the world championship rebounded fantastically in the third-place match, beating Brazil, 3-0. The players seemed focused and intent to end this tournament on a high note.
Entry #99, Sept. 1, 4:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m. ET)
An afternoon shopping trip to Arbot Street was a good antidote for the players’ emotional ills. If you’ve been to 3rd Street Prominade in Santa Monica, Calif., that is what Arbot Street is to Moscow. It’s a closed off street lined with shops, restaurants, performers and artisans. There seemed to be at least four creepy wax museums, which was odd, but also some great deals on knick-knacks and souvenirs. You can’t think it’s possible to have this many Russian nesting dolls anywhere in one place in the world. There were thousands of them of all shapes, colors and sizes. You can get a nesting doll of George W. Bush, most famous movie stars, Major League Baseball teams, all sorts of cartoon characters, even U.S. college sports teams. Shopping is great therapy, there is no doubt about that. The team had been trying to go to Arbot all during the trip, but it was cancelled twice due to rain. It was raining this afternoon too, but everyone decided to buck it up. Luckily, the rain had stopped by the time the team got there, but it was still wet and gloomy. We’re sure the atmosphere is much better there when it’s nice out. A few of the parents went shopping with the team. It’s nice to have the parents around when players are coping with a major setback.
Entry #98, Sept. 1, 1:31 p.m. (5:31 a.m. ET)
The day after the loss, the tears turned to anger and frustration at what could have been, but that is the cutting edge of high-level international competition. There was lots of talk and rehash among the players about the game, more therapy for each other than anything else, but hopefully learning great lessons as well. The margin of winning and losing in a world championship is so small, that sometimes you come out on the wrong end. The players know that while they dominated the match, they didn’t get the one goal that would have put away the game. No way China was going to score in regulation or overtime. They stopped trying, to be honest. Still, you can tell that while the faces are still sad, the players are starting to put the game behind them. They have a tough match against Brazil for third place and the Brazilians are certainly smarting as well.
Entry #97, Aug. 31, 11:20 p.m. (3:20 p.m. ET)
Crushing loss. Just crushing. The players were understandably in tears after the match and many were still crying when the team got back to the hotel, through the meal and when they went off to bed. It hurts even more as the USA dominated the match. All the players were sure they were going to win up until the last penalty kick miss. This much is true: soccer can be a cruel game.
Entry #96, Aug. 30, 9:45 p.m. (1:45 p.m. ET)
At some point today, Amy Rodriguez offered to cut team videographer Noey Jouglet’s hair. You’ve probably seen Noey’s excellent work on all_access video. After an afternoon of contemplation, Noey was brave and went for it. A-Rod offered her $20 if she didn’t like it towards a hair cut in the States to “fix the damage” if it came out poorly. Rodriguez even drew a picture of what the haircut would look like and showed it to Jouglet. (We told you the artsy side was coming out of the players). With her trusty assistants Jordan Angeli and Erin Hardy adding commentary, giving suggestions and helping with the parting and combing of the hair…you know what? It came out looking pretty good. It was kind of short, but much better than you would think from the amateur stylist Rodriguez. For all you soccer players back at USC who don’t want to spend $50 on a haircut, talk to A-Rod. She might cut you a deal.
Entry #95, Aug. 30, 9:20 p.m. (1:20 p.m. ET)
The team had a long meeting/video session during and after dinner. They spent about an hour analyzing part of the win over Germany, then watched the last 20 minutes of the senior WNT’s 4-1 win over China (U.S. head coach Greg Ryan brought over the DVD…and great goals Lil!), and then watched some goals from the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Some players watched all 145 goals. Now that’s some motivation for the China match tomorrow.
Entry #95, Aug. 30, 8:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m. ET)
There is a woman in the lobby playing a big harp. You know it’s a nice hotel when there is harp-playing in the lobby. We think she is pretty good. As if we know anything about high-level harp playing? Sometimes there is someone playing in the piano near the bar as well. We know about piano bars, but we’ve never heard of a harp bar.
Entry #94, Aug. 30, 7:05 p.m. (11:05 a.m. ET)
Tobin Heath and Jordan Angeli played about four hours of gin rummy today. We kid you not. They started about 12:30 p.m., broke for lunch and played to about 4:30 p.m. They had rotating players in and out, but suffice it to say, they are now gin rummy sharks. We hope they weren’t playing a dollar per point or the rest of the team’s per diem would be cleaned out.
Entry #93, Aug. 30, 6:50 p.m. (10:50 ET)
Alert! Return snack trunk status to DefCon 5! To the players’ relief, the snack trunk was re-filled after an afternoon trip to the store. There was a heavy emphasis on chocolate, but also some healthy stuff. Unfortunately, it’s almost half empty already as the players descended on the snacks like hyenas on the carcass of a water buffalo. The players also embarked on a long game of Cranium in the hallway of the team floor. When dinner intervened, Nikki Krzysik and Lauren Cheney were ahead in what has been deemed by the team as an “upset.” Especially after some initial friction on the team, in part due to Krzysik’s inability to hum any songs, when they were not friends anymore “for about 10 minutes.” They rallied though to pull ahead of intellectuals Stephanie Logterman and team videographer Noey Jouglet. Said Cheney: “You have to overcome the obstacles to get to the top.”
Entry #92, Aug. 30, 5:02 p.m. (9:02 a.m. ET)
Amanda Poach and Casey Nogueira just got back from an art supply store with tons of string for bracelets, paint, pastels and brushes. We are not sure what has gotten into this team, but perhaps it’s the two world class museums the team visited while in Russia. Needless to say, the artsy side of many of the players is coming out. A few of the players finished their paint-by-numbers projects today. Kelley O’Hara produced “Fish and Coral Reef.” Jordan Angeli completed “Dolphin and Wave.” Joanna Haig’s masterpiece was entitled “Unicorn and Rainbow.”
Entry #91, Aug. 30, 3:19 p.m. (7:19 a.m. ET)
As is their afternoon routine in Russia, a few of the players went to the coffee shop close by the hotel. Joanna Haig ordered what she thought was a hot chocolate, as it said “hot chocolate” next to the Russian words. What she got was an espresso-sized cup of pure melted chocolate. No milk, no water, just thick chocolate. It was more of a fondue than a drink. Seriously, it was as if someone just melted a Hershey bar and poured it into her cup. She was initially embarrassed, but then ordered a latte, mixed the two together and made her hot chocolate. Way to make lemonade out of lemons there, Jo. Or, hot chocolate out of chocolate sauce, as the case may be.
Entry #90, Aug. 30, 3:19 p.m. (7:19 a.m. ET)
For the second time during the World Championship, an excursion to Arbot Street, which has tons of shops, vendors and artisans, was cancelled. Damn this rain! The players are hoping to get there at some point in the tournament because apparently there are some great prices on all sorts of fun items. Instead, the team spent a very re-energizing afternoon napping, playing cards and Cranium and working on the squad’s most recent interest, arts and crafts.
Entry #89, Aug. 30, 12:30 p.m. (4:30 a.m. ET)
The team trained at 10 a.m. It was pretty much the same pre-game training the team has done before all the games. There was some crossing and finishing with the outside mids and the forwards, a bit of 8 v. 11 and definitely some shooting. At this point in the tournament, it’s all about running on all cylinders once the games start and the U.S. team has lots of gas in its tank, with numerous players having sat out games and no one playing major minutes through the first four games except for Nikki Krzysik. It rained again during training. Morning rain seems to be a regular happening in Moscow.
Entry #88, Aug. 29, 9:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m. ET)
U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Greg Ryan arrived in Russia today. He couldn’t make his connection in Frankfurt, but caught the next flight and arrived just in time to catch the tail end of notorious Moscow rush-hour traffic back to the team hotel. Welcome to Moscow, Greg! Ryan came from Chicago, where the senior team put together a great 4-1 win over China on the same day the U-20s beat Germany, 4-1. Ryan will watch the U-20s in their final two matches of this tournament and hopefully get a chance to relax. He’s earned it after leading the U.S. team to a 18-0-4 record in his first 22 games at the helm of the National Team.
Entry #87, Aug. 29, 8:50 p.m. (12:50 p.m. ET)
Many of the players took power naps in the afternoon, but that just made the evening Pictionary Game that much more intense. The players born in 1987 came out on top of the players born in 1986, a victory for the youngsters! As with many off-the-field competitions on the U-20s, this game got a tad out of control. The sketch-fest lasted for about 90 minutes, and included some difficult things to draw, like “Viet-Nam Memorial,” “Chocolate Cake,” “Trap-Door” and “Gallon.” The players got so loud that we think this was the first time in history that hotel security had to break up a Pictionary game. Actually, by the time they were told to “quiet down,” the game was over and the '87s had claimed their title.
Entry #86, Aug. 29, 4:50 p.m. (8:50 a.m. ET)
Signs are starting to emerge that the U.S. team has been in Russia for a long time. To confirm this, we asked the team for its “Top-10 Reasons You Know That You’ve Been in Russia for More Than Two Weeks.” This is what they came up with:
10. You have no idea what the day or date is, just who you are playing next and how many practices you have until the game.
9. You’ve been to Red Square four times.
8. You call Moscow “home” after you’ve been in St. Petersburg for three days. Example: When the U.S. team was getting on the train to travel from St. Pete to Moscow after its win over Germany, several players said, “I can’t wait to go home today.”
7. You have devised a strategy to get M&Ms out of the snack trunk before your teammates can get to them.
6. You get REALLY excited when “Monkey Business” and “Meerkat Manor” come on TV at the hotel on Animal Planet. Note: Animal Planet is one of just five English-language TV stations at the hotel. CNN, Discovery Channel, BBC and Eurosport are the others. Said Sarah Wagenfuhr: “I am bummed that Shark Week is over.”
5. You check your email even though you know it is 2 a.m. in the United States and there is no way anyone emailed you since you last checked your email only one hour ago, yet you are bummed and think no one loves you.
4. You are constantly asking when the next meal is even though you just ate and are not even hungry.
3. You know the maid who cleans your room by name. “Hi Oxana, how are you today?”
2. Your summer tan has totally faded away. Said Allie Long: “I looked in the mirror and saw a five-foot-nine milk bottle.”
1. During your time in Russia, you broke up, and got back together, with your boyfriend.
Entry #85, Aug. 29, 4:50 p.m. (8:50 a.m. ET)
Alert! Alert! The U-20s snack trunk is running low! Brittany Bock says that all that is left is “some granola bars, a bag of cereal, a few pieces of dried mango and a thing of beef jerky. And that will be all gone tomorrow.” Bock was seen 10 minutes later chomping on the dried mango strips. FYI: The U-20 WNT goes through snacks like a 3rd grade class in the snack aisle at COSTCO.
Entry #84, Aug. 29, 4:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. ET)
It was arts and crafts day for the U.S. U-20s. Several players have been painting-by-numbers, but today the bracelet making really kicked into high gear. Brittany Bock and Sarah Wagenfuhr brought bracelet making materials to Russia and the team went to town. They did some really nice and colorful work. Too bad you can’t wear them in games. FIFA has really cracked down on any “accessories.” Allie Long missed the starting XI picture in the first game against DR Congo because they made her take out her very small nose stud. Bock used some plastic lanyard-type material to make small fish for all of her teammates. She admitted that she procrastinated mightily on her homework while creating her works of art. She did do some work on her class on terrorism which she is enjoying, as it apparently is the only class she is taking that is not as dry as a week-old cracker. Filling out her schedule: Accounting, a business class, statistics and micro-economics.
Entry #83, Aug. 29, 1:05 p.m. (5:05 a.m. ET)
Training was intense this morning. Head coach Tim Schulz is not letting a great win over Germany to mentally soften up his team. He will have them primed for China for sure. The team played about 30 minutes of a controlled scrimmage working on attacking runs mostly, as well as defensive positioning. And as always, there was some shooting at the end. Who doesn’t love to shoot? This just in: Casey Nogueira can hit a ball. ACC goalkeepers beware, this kid has an absolute rocket. It’s Shannon MacMillan-esque.
Entry #82, Aug. 29, 9:25 a.m. (1:25 a.m. ET)
What a gorgeous day in Moscow! Blue skies and hot weather with a slight breeze. There are tons of people on the streets and the vibe is good. Moscow has a lot in common with New York City, good and bad, but there is a definite electricity to the capital of Russia. St. Petersburg was much more laid back, and a bit more scenic. Think New York to Chicago. The team trains at 10 a.m. and everyone should get in a good sweat in this weather.
Entry #81, Aug. 28, 9:01 p.m. (1:01 p.m. ET)
Stephanie Logterman’s mom made pillowcases for every player with team pictures on them and “FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship – Russia” on the front. Pretty impressive gift from Mrs. Logs. The players spent most of the night signing the pillowcases for each other. It looked like a yearbook signing on the last day of high school, ‘cept they were signing pillowcases. A few people wrote novels. The emotions of the end of this long journey are starting to set in with just a week left in the tournament. There was no training today, but tomorrow, it’s back to work with a morning practice. China will provide some unique challenges that the U.S. team has not had to deal with so far this tournament, namely, once the Chinese get the ball, it’s very hard to get it back.
Entry #80, Aug. 28, 7:37 p.m. (11:37 a.m. ET)
The team watched the tape of the Germany match during and after dinner. Nothing more fun than watching a great victory the day after. That game will be in the past tomorrow though as the team starts to focus for China. How about the full Women’s National Team beating China 4-1 just two hours after the U-20s also won 4-1? Weird, but cool. The U.S. women win 8-2 on aggregate on Aug. 27! Hopefully the full team’s win over China is some sort of foreshadowing.
Entry #79, Aug. 28, 4:45 p.m. (8:45 a.m. ET)
Where is everyone? Nap time, we think. But a few players went to the Red Square (they love to shop these girls) and a few went across the street to their favorite coffee shop. They are regulars there now. It’s kind of like the “Central Perk” of Moscow. Several of the players were interviewed as “tourists” on the streets of Moscow while they were out. The interviews had nothing to do with them being here for the World Championship. Apparently, Moscow has been getting bad pub outside of Russia and the news reporter wanted to know what the tourists throught of their visit. So…you are saying the U.S. team looks like tourists? Anyway, the players had nothing but nice things to say about the people and the city of Moscow.
Entry #78 Aug. 28, 12:34 (4:34 a.m. ET)
Unlike the last train ride, the players took their personal bags with them and five staff members flew with all the team gear. It was a bit of a walk rolling their personal bags to the train, but once the team got on, and did some serious clean and jerk weightlifting style to get their bags up the overhead storage racks, it was smooth comfort all the way. Most of the players stayed up for 30-45 minutes but then it was snoozeville all the way to Moscow. The team is really glad to be back at their hotel in Moscow. Some of the favorites of this hotel for the players: amazing pillows, plush robes in the closets, amazing ice cream and guacamole and chips at every meal.
Entry #77,Aug. 28, 5:25 a.m. (9:25 p.m.)
Ugh. We now know what St. Petersburg looks like at 5:30 a.m. and it’s very, very quiet. Or maybe it was the team that was very quiet as they grabbed their snacks at 5:15 a.m. (water, very tart grapefruit juice, some yogurt with dried peach chunks in it, some fruit, some sort of sandwich, and the coup de grace, a yummy chocolate croissant), wrestled their bags down to the bus and plopped in their seats.
Entry #76, Aug. 28, 1:15 a.m. (5:15 p.m. ET)
Wow. What a game. Who would have thought the USA could beat Germany, 4-1? Maybe the U.S. players and maybe that’s why it happened. By the way, FIFA and the LOC has rallied on the pre-game music. It is rocking now. Props to Danesha Adams. Two goals in a World Cup quarterfinal match is something to hang your hat on. All the parents came to the team hotel after the game to celebrate and the players mingled and had dessert. It’s going to be a very short night as the team leaves for the train station at 5:30 a.m. No 11-hour overnight train ride this time, though, like the one the team took from Moscow to St. Pete. This is the express bullet train. Four hours to Moscow and then back to the luxury hotel the team stayed out for the first part of the tournament!
Entry #75, Aug. 26, 10:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. ET)
Players are all in the rooms and the hall of the hotel is dead quiet. For most of the players, tomorrow is the most important game they’ve ever played. Amazingly, there is way more excitement than nervousness. It should be a classic.
Entry #74, Aug. 26, 9:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. ET)
Some of the players watched the Brazil-Nigeria game in their hotel rooms and then watched a replay of China-Russia later on that evening. Consensus was that Nigeria could have/should have won, but they couldn’t finish. Brazil won on a dramatic goal in the 96th minute! They celebrated like they’d won the World Cup. This much is clear: Brazilians love soccer. No one thought China wasn’t a deserved winner over Russia as the hosts went down, 4-0. Since the bus tour was cancelled in the afternoon, a handful of players took the rescheduled, but shorter bus trip after dinner. The team saw some great views of the Neva River that runs through St. Petersburg, as well as the St. Nicolas and St. Paul and Peter Cathedrals. They even saw a church built on the site where Alexander II was killed and a World War II Memorial, featuring an eternal flame.
Entry #73, Aug. 26, 7:50 p.m. (11:50 a.m. ET)
Nikki Krzysik, Tina DiMartino, Allie Long and Amanda Poach decided to get some dessert in the hotel restaurant after not being that impressed with the fruit custard pie type offering at the team dinner. The banana-chocolate cake, tiramisu, macaroon cake and three scoops of ice cream (one each of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry) were gone in a matter of minutes. We think the banana-chocolate cake disappeared in 90 seconds, partly because Carrie Dew and Brittany Bock wandered over to the table, grabbed forks and went to town. Amanda Poach might have looked at them like a lioness protecting her downed zebra, but then let Dew and Bock get their fill. Nikki Krzysik then wiped up all of the remaining raspberry sauce off the plate with her fingers like an anteater going after a juicy ant hill. This just in: the U-20 WNT loves their desserts.
Entry #72, Aug. 26, 6:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m. ET)
About half the team got motivated and at 3:45 p.m. they walked about eight blocks to the famous State Hermitage Museum. This place is spectacular! The museum occupies six magnificent buildings along the bank of the Neva Riva. The main building is the has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed Winter Palace, the residence of the Russian Czars that was finished in 1762, that is set off a massive square that you seem to see a lot of in Russia. The players saw original work from Leonardo De Vinci (the Hermitage owns two, Madonna with a Flower and Madonna Litta), van Gogh, Monet, Picasso and Renoir, among others masters. You know, all the biggies. It was so impressive to see famous art like that up close. The Hermitage is so big, and has so many paintings, sculptures, tapestries, weapons, etc., (more than 3,000,000 items from the stone age to 20th century, in fact), that the players were told that if you looked at every piece for one minute, it would take eight years to see them all. The players spent just 90 minutes, but definitely left in awe of the size and scope of the museum. Nikki Krzysik was especially impressed with a huge, solid gold “Peacock Clock” that we can’t even begin to describe but has to the most expensive and elaborate time piece she’d ever seen.
Entry #71, Aug. 26, 5:02 p.m. (9:02 a.m. ET)
Did “Rappers Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang really just come on MTV Russia? It did and it’s doubtful that he players know the song as they were not born when that hit the charts. That video was followed soon after by a video from Africa Bambaataa and the Sonic Force. The Russians do know how to get funky. Amy Rodriguez has reported that she is the “hall ball” champion for today, as she came out on top in a series of hotel hallway soccer games. Casey Nogueira begrudgingly admitted A-Rod was today’s champ, but seemed intent on dethroning her soon.
Entry #70, Aug. 26, 4:10 p.m. (8:10 a.m. ET)
More parents are arriving in Russia, which means the U.S. cheering section is growing. The Dews are here, so are the Davis’, the Heaths, the Bocks, the Hardys, the Angelies and the Cheneys. Sorry if we missed some, but thanks for coming all the way over!
Entry #69, Aug. 26, 2:16 p.m. (6:16 a.m. ET)
The team had a bus tour of St. Petersburg planned for the afternoon. It was supposed to start at 1:30. It did. It ended at 1:35 when a car broadsided the bus. We kid you not. The bus got a block away when a small car ran into the side. Not really much damage to the bus (the players said it sounded like running over a something big and plastic), but the bus was stopped for 40 minutes before the players realized it wasn’t going anywhere. They got out and walked a block back to the hotel. Luckily, the players don’t know any Russia swear words because apparently a few were being tossed around by the bus driver and the driver of the car. After an initial heated exchange, both stopped, got out cigarettes and started smoking. It seems whenever people stop in Russia, they pull out a cigarette.
Entry #68, Aug. 26, 11:45 p.m. (3:45 p.m.)
Apparently Tobin Heath and Amanda Poach couldn’t get to sleep last night (partly because they left their window open after not reading the sign saying not to do so or they would be inundated by mosquitoes, which they were) and Tobin suggested a game of “Q&A” which was really a philosophical discussion on the human condition. Among the questions asked of each other were, “Why do people hide their feelings?,” “Why is it so hard to trust people?” and “Is there one true love out there for you?” We are pretty sure they came to some good conclusions and the two as-yet-undeclared college students might be looking at philosophy majors in the near future. Said Poach of her major: “Oh, I’ve declared. I’ve declared that I’m undeclared.”
Entry #67, Aug. 26, 11:33 p.m. (3:33 p.m.)
The team trained this morning at 10 a.m. It was basically the same training as before the Franc game. They played small-sided to warm-up, then did some 11 v. 8 attacking in formation followed by some functional training based on positions. Short, sweet and the team is ready for Germany! The players enjoyed getting a few touches on the ball after no training on the day before, which was a travel day to St. Petersburg.
Entry #65, Aug. 25, 8:41 p.m. (12:41 a.m.)
The team wasted no time getting a look at St. Petersburg. Several players went for an afternoon walk before dinner in search of a coffee shop, and of course found one, as even in Russia they seem to be everywhere. They call them “coffee houses” in Russia, though. Jordan Angeli asked directions to the coffee house, got them (“take a right, then a right, on the left”), then asked what the name of the establishment was…”coffee house,” said the woman at the front desk. After dinner, the whole team went on a walk to shake out the legs as there was no training today and they got a view of the sites by the hotel. St. Petersburg is a beautiful city which is often called the “Paris of Russia” and sometimes the “Venice of Russia.” The hotel sits near St. Isaac’s Cathedral, which is really one of the most awe-inspiring sites you will see in Eastern Europe. It makes St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square look like a doll house. Casey Nogueira and Amy Rodriguez have started making up games in the hallway again. This one was “keep hitting the Nike mini-ball one-touch as hard as you can until someone misses” but it looked like “try to hit your teammate as hard as you can with the Nike mini-ball.” We’re pretty sure Rodriguez came much closer to breaking a light fixture than Nogueira, which would not surprise you if you’ve seen “Ball Trick Battle” on all_access video on ussoccer.com.
Entry #64, Aug. 25, 3:05 p.m. (7:05 a.m. ET)
Most of the players slept all night on the train as each player had a bed in cramped compartments that were described by Allie Long as “…about as big as Allie Long.” Still, most players snoozed from 2 a.m., when they got on the train, to at least 11 a.m. when they started emerging from their compartments like zombies looking to feed on the flesh of humans, or maybe just in search of some breakfast. Amy Rodriguez described it as a “red-eye train” and it seemed to work for the players who were in good spirits in St. Petersburg. One thing that did surprise the players were the toilets, which when flushed, apparently revealed the rushing tracks beneath the train. You really wouldn’t want to fall in there. Apparently the “food” was a disappointment on the train. The U.S. team, used to excellent food at the team hotel in Moscow, had to make do with what Brittany Bock called, “Bologna spread with a piece of ham on a dry roll.” Yum. No worries. The players had some good lunch when they got to the hotel in St. Petersburg, which, while it is not as nice as in Moscow and is a bit more spread out, is still very nice. The highlight of dinner was dessert when they brought out a huge platter of powdered-sugar dusted apple turnovers. Amanda Poach had four, but you could probably tell that by her face, which was so covered in powdered sugar that she looked like Tony Montana in the final scene of “Scarface.” One bad thing about this hotel…no Animal Planet on the TVs. But there is MTV, so you can be sure that the players took in good helpings of “Making the Band” and “Parental Control” as well as “Next.”
Entry #63, Aug. 25, 2:25 p.m. (6:25 a.m. ET)
It was a bit of a workout for Jason, Amy and Aaron moving all the equipment and personal bags (the players just took back-packs on the train), but they had a lot of help from the FIFA folks, volunteers and porters. Big delay was at the airport where you have to put EVERYTHING through metal detectors when entering the airport. That took 90 minutes as the airport was packed, but once again the FIFA travel folks were on point. The three U.S. staff members and all the equipment flew with the Korean and French teams, who will be playing each other on the 27th before the USA takes on Germany. The two teams did not really look at each other and stayed apart like oil and water. Is it possible that the U.S. team travels with as much gear as the French and Koreans combined? It seemed like it. At the St. Petersburg airport, they unloaded all the gear from all three teams onto a string of at least 15 luggage carts like you see next to the airplanes when you are boarding and de-boarding, then rolled it right up next to luggage trucks at the edge of the tarmac. A small army of volunteers then loaded all the gear up into trucks (the USA needed two as they were not that big) and off to the hotel went a caravan of vans filled with equipment and staff members! It was an excellent job by the police escort and the volunteer drivers to keep everyone together through the busy streets of St. Petersburg. The U.S. staff and bags arrived just 20 minutes after the team, who got in around 2 p.m. The team was eating lunch when their personal bags were being brought up to the team floor. Perfect timing.
Entry #62, Aug. 25, 7:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.)
First travel day of the tournament for the team after playing all three first round games in Moscow. The players left seven and half hours ago, and boarded the train at 2 a.m., but equipment manager Jason Peters, team coordinator Amy Colquhoun and press officer Aaron Heifetz stayed behind to fly with all the equipment on the charter. The train takes 11 hours (this is not the express, it makes plenty of stops), so the equipment and the team should arrive at the hotel right about the same time.
Entry #61, Aug. 24, 11:50 p.m. (3:50 p.m. ET)
Good win over France. The team played its best game of the first round, and good timing it was, as the Germans are next. Jessica Rostedt scored a great goal, her second great goal of the tournament. It was an awesome performance coming off the bench and making a big difference in the game. If Val Henderson hadn’t had such a great game in goal, Rostedt would have been the Sierra Mist Woman of the Match for sure. There was some great atmosphere during the first game of the doubleheader at Dynamo Stadium between Mexico and North Korea. There was a huge group of very loud, boisterous North Koreans cheering their team’s every move. Flags, drums, horns, noisemakers, they had it all. It would have been fun to play the North Koreans just for their fans, but due to the 1-0 win over France, we win the group and we’re off to St. Petersburg to face the Germans. Always the Germans! The full Women’s National Team played Germany at the 1999 Women’s World Cup, the 2003 Women’s World Cup and the 2004 Olympics, as well as the last two Algarve Cup Finals, and the youngsters played them at the 2002 and 2004 U-19 Women’s World Championships and this summer’s Nordic Cup title game! We won four of those games and lost four, so you can see how heated this rivalry is. Our head coach Tim Schulz decided it would better to take an overnight train to St. Petersburg (he had taken it twice on scouting trips so far this tournament), instead of getting up very early and going through all the rigmarole at the airport to take a flight, so the team is headed for the train station around midnight. The players are excited for another adventure.
Entry #60, Aug. 23, 10:05 p.m. (2:05 p.m. ET)
A handful of players and a few staff watched “Man on Fire” tonight. They projected it up on a wall in the lobby of the team floor and the players deployed themselves on couches and the floor and it was like an old-fashioned drive-in movie. Except without the cars and concessions, and it wasn’t outdoors and the screen wasn’t as big (but still pretty big). We’re not sure if they finished the movie, but we do know Mr. Creasy had definitely administered some revenge on La Hermidad before the players all headed for the pillows and a deep slumber.
Entry #59, Aug. 23, 9:10 p.m. (1:10 p.m. ET)
Nigeria just crushed Finland, 8-0. We must say, the Baby Falcons looked impressive and took care of business. They knew they needed at least three goals to try to overcome Canada (provided Canada beat China, 1-0, which they didn’t, they lost, 1-0). They got those three goals within 15 minutes, and then didn’t stop. American referee Jen Bennett was in the middle and she pointed to the center of the field a lot. Brazil plays Nigeria in the quarterfinals. It’s a shame one of those teams has to go home because they are both very entertaining. Most of the U.S. players lost interest in the Nigeria game after the first four goals and ventured into the hallways where the New Zealand and Australia players, both eliminated teams, were visiting with handfuls of clothes to trade. Kelley O’Hara traded a Nike t-shirt for a pair of yellow Australia game shorts and called it, “the best trade ever. It was a steal.” In any case, almost every U.S. player has a piece of Australia or New Zealand gear, and most have both.
Entry #58, Aug. 23, 7:50 p.m. (11: 50 a.m. ET)
Amy Rodriguez finished her paper for her Gender Studies class and emailed it in. What would college-aged WNT players do without email? With that off her plate, she can focus on France. Casey Nogueira and Amanda Poach took a cab to Red Square earlier today. They went to the Nike store at the Gum Mall. Poach bought a cool Nike backpack and Casey bought a Nike mini-ball. You’d think these girls would have enough Nike stuff already? The mini-ball got a good workout in the hallway on the team floor later that evening.
Entry #57, Aug. 23, 6:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m. ET)
A handful of players and a few coaches went to watch the Australia-Russia game in person, but left in the 75th minute when is started raining, hard. They missed both goals and had to be filled in on the drama. A bunch of the player’s parents have started arriving in Russia and the players are certainly excited to see their families, who have done so much to get them where they are today, at a World Championship. We saw the Dews, and the Bocks are somewhere around here. We are pretty sure the Cheneys are in town as well. Val Henderson’s peeps are here too.
Entry #56, Aug. 23, 6:15 p.m. (10:15 a.m. ET)
Most of the team just finished watching Russia vs. Australia in their rooms. The winner would go on, the loser would go home. It was an intense match for sure. Poor Aussies played their hearts out, out-shot Russia 21-9, and tied 1-1. Australia almost won it at the end when a free-kick skidded through the Russian goalkeeper’s arms, then her legs, and rolled toward the goal line! But it was cleared before an Aussie could get to it. The draw sent Russia through to the quarterfinals and Australia back to Sydney. The team was rooting hard for the Aussies because they had made friends with a few of the players in the hotel’s computer room and traded some gear with them as well. The U.S. players said the Aussies were very nice girls. The real highlight of the Russia-Australia game was a “shout-out” from the Eurosport TV announcers for Tobin Heath and Casey Nogueira’s “Ball Trick Battle” on all_access video on ussoccer.com. The announcers said they had watched it, were very, very impressed, compared the two to a young Ronaldinho or something like that, and even gave a plug for ussoccer.com. This went to all of Europe. The “Ball Trick Battle” is getting legs. We could be going global here.
Entry #55, Aug. 23, 2:00 p.m. (4:00 a.m. ET)
The trip to street market for souvenir shopping was cancelled. Still raining in Moscow. Kind of gloomy, to be honest. Perfect weather for some players to head to a coffee shop. Jordan Angeli, Sarah Wagenfuhr and Jessica Rostedt and a few others headed across the street for a cup of Joe, but rumor is that there were Gingerbread and Banana flavored lattes to be had. Yum.
Entry #54, Aug. 23, 10:45 a.m. (2:45 a.m. ET)
It poured rain at training this morning. But that might have been a good thing as the players were groggy and the biting drops woke everyone up quickly and practice started with an excellent small-sided game. Then the team did some attacking in formation and finished with some clearing for the defenders and some finishing for the attackers and midfielders. It was wet, sloppy and cold, making for some drenched and muddy goalkeepers. But doesn’t if feel good to put in the work in the morning, come back to the hotel, take a shower, eat a good lunch and you have the rest of the day to relax? Welcome to the life of a U-20 WNT player.
Entry #53, Aug. 21, 9:45 p.m. (1:45 p.m. ET)
Several of the players are putting together their own video on Carrie Dew’s computer. She’s got a Mac that has a built-in camera. Pretty cool. Anyway, they are trying to re-create some supposedly funny video they saw on one of those video sharing web sites. It stars Casey Nogueira, Tobin Heath, Jordan Angeli and Sarah Wagenfuhr. Dew is producing. Not a bad effort, but it won’t likely make it onto ussoccer.com’s all_access video. (Nor would they want it too).
Entry #52, Aug. 21, 9:22 p.m. (1:22 p.m. ET)
The team went to see a ballet tonight at the New Opera House (the famous Bolshoy Theatre is under construction). They saw “The Nutcracker.” A classic. It gave the players a chance to dress up in the nicest clothes they brought and that was certainly fun for the team. We know nothing about ballet, but how could a ballet in Russia be bad? ussoccer.com’s review: The sets were elegant in their simplicity, the costumes were colorful and modern, the dancers, of course, were powerful and graceful and the orchestra was commanding yet versatile. In short, bravo to the Nutcracker in Moscow. Equally as good as the ballet may have been the team’s rendition of N’SYNC’s “Bye, Bye, Bye” on the way back to the hotel on the team bus. Can girls start a Boy Band?
Entry #51, Aug. 21, 9:19 p.m. (1:19 p.m. ET)
Amy Rodriguez is working on a paper for school at USC. It has to do with Gender Studies. She’s writing about how in scrimmaging against boys with the U.S. Women’s National Teams, she is seeing a change in the young American males’ perceptions of female athletes, and women in general, due to the WNT on occasion taking the young kids to the cleaners, or at least often playing even with them on the athletic field. We think she’s getting an “A” on this one.
Entry #50, Aug. 21, 5:50 p.m. (9:50 a.m. ET)
There was coconut ice cream at dinner. We only mention this because Nikki Krzysik was really excited about it. Ever noticed that the few people who actually like coconut ice cream REALLY like coconut ice cream?
Entry #49, Aug. 21, 5:35 p.m. (9:35 a.m. ET)
We just realized that we haven’t really mentioned Erin Hardy in this blog. We were wondering why, so we asked her. We know that she is kind of quiet, but it’s probably more that most of the players on the team are so loud and demand attention. Erin is content to sit back and observe the action. So we asked her what she’s been up to the last few days. She said that she, Amy Rodriguez, Casey Nogueira and Tobin Heath made up a cool game in the hotel hallway yesterday. It was sort of an indoor soccer game played with four doorways to rooms as the goals, with two doorways facing each other. You defended your own room, and shot on the rooms on the opposite side, but you couldn’t take your hands off the door frame and the ball had to be below the waist. According to Erin, she and Amy won everything there was to win, and more. Casey and Tobin had no chance, although apparently they are pretty good with the ball if you watch “Ball Trick Battle” on all_access video on ussoccer.com. There was an injury during the game. Amy forgot about the “below the waist” rule and hit Casey pretty hard right in the nose. We think there was no blood and that’s she’s okay. Speaking of blood, Stephanie Lopez got a good one on Hardy yesterday. Hardy admits that she likes to pretend that she’s actually an intimidating character (and if you’ve ever seen her, you know how much of a stretch that is). She then pretends to bully Lopez and says that she is going to beat her up and throw her in a trash can. (We REALLY need to hang out with Hardy some more). Anyway, Hardy was passing Lopez in the hallway while Lopez was sitting on the floor and Hardy pretended to grab her hair. Lopez thought she was really going to grab her hair, and kicked Hardy in the leg. She fell hard against the wall and seriously hit the ground with a thud. Hardy says she’s definitely putting Lopez in a garbage can now.
Entry #48, Aug. 21, 4:55 p.m. (8:55 a.m. ET)
The team just got back from a visit to an orphanage about 40 minutes from the hotel. They took over a huge stack of toys and soccer gear that they had brought to Russia. One of the people that helped organize the visit is the son of Djalma Santos, the famous Brazilian outside back who played on four Brazilian World Cup Teams (1954, ’58, ’62 and ’66). Most of the kids were teenagers, and the U.S. players played 6 v. 6 soccer with them for almost the entire time. The few girls that were there didn’t want to play and just watched. Most of youngsters seemed to be kids who’d had hard-scrabble lives. One kid had “anarchy” tattooed on his arm along with “Punk’s Not Dead.” All-in-all, the U.S. players and their gifts were very well received and appreciated by the kids and staff at the orphanage.
Entry #47, Aug. 21, 12:15 p.m. (4:15 a.m. ET)
This just in: Kelley O’Hara fixed the door frame molding on the team floor that she pulled down the other day. That’s some pretty impressive follow-up by this Georgia peach. She asked team liaison Irena and her boyfriend to get some industrial strength carpenter glue (by the way, that is excellent liaison-ing) and just glued that big piece back above the door. She actually had to hold it in place for 30 minutes while standing on a chair. An odd site for someone walking down the hallway, for sure. It was still a little loose so the team doc helped her anchor it with some athletic tape. It’s as good as new, at least until someone else tries to do pull-ups on it. Props to Kelley for getting that done. We guess it’s that the “stick-to-it-iveness” (pun intended) that that got her into Stanford. The U.S. team wants to leave Russia they way they found it, that’s why they make sure to pick up all their trash and water bottles whenever they leave a training field. Good kids, this bunch.
Entry #46, Aug. 21, 10:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m. ET)
Big news from Russia. The team meal room at the hotel got changed (a wedding needed the other room). This might not seem like such a big deal, but when you go to the same place three times a day for a week straight, habits form. You have to take a whole other elevator to get to the new meal room, even though it is on the same floor as the old one. Good news on the change, the new meal room is bigger than the old one and doesn’t seem quite as cold. The team watched the game tape of the win over Argentina after breakfast. Team consensus was that it was a better performance than they thought, but still not good enough. Does it seem that games always look a bit better on tape than you felt when you walked off the field? By the way, no training today. It’s the first day off from playing or practicing since the team has been in Russia, and well deserved, after qualifying for the quarterfinals.
Entry #45, Aug. 21, 9:53 p.m. (1:53 p.m. ET)
As we have said, game days are odd days. Two hours of game frenzy slotted in between many hours of calm. The players wake up, eat, nap, eat, get ready for the game, drive to stadium, play, come back, eat, shower and unwind, hopefully with a win and lots of good memories of goals and nice plays. But little did the U.S. players know, there was still some excitement to be had this evening as Tobin Heath just started a trading frenzy with the Brazilian team. The Brazilians were the craziest traders of any team in Thailand in 2004 when they walked off with a boatload of U.S. gear. But that was after the tournament was over! The Brazilians just arrived at the team hotel from St. Petersburg where they played their first two matches, and face New Zealand at the Shchelkovo venue on the outskirts of Moscow on the 23rd. Heath leaned out her window of the hotel, saw some Brazilians leaning out of their rooms, pointed to her shirt and said “oi, trade?” Pretty soon the entire U.S. floor was filled with Brazilians and their wares. It was like a Sao Paulo street market in the hallway. A few of the players got some nice training shirts and a few got some shorts, bracelets and hats. Luckily, everything is Nike. Some players traded shirts with the New Zealand team as well. They really didn’t have as much stuff as the Brazilians, just t-shirts that said, “New Zealand Soccer,” but that’s still pretty cool. They Kiwis are headed home after their match with Brazil so we guess they were ready to give up their gear. We're not sure what the Brazilians are going to do. Hopefully, they won’t get in trouble with their team manager. We found out later that this was only a part of a huge trading bonanza going on with all the teams in the hotel. The Germans had some sort of a rope that they would attach an item to trade, then they would drop it down to the window of the next floor, and the team on that floor would take off the item and tie something else on the rope for the Germans to pull up. With the tournament still going on, we can’t imagine the trading that might happen when teams are actually knocked out?
Entry #44, Aug. 20, 10:15 p.m. (2:15 p.m. ET)
We just had an “incident” in the hallway. Kelley O’Hara was trying to show everyone how Casey Nogueira did pull-ups on the door and she pulled the entire molding off the top of the door frame. The piece of wood was almost as tall as her. She’s either really strong or it was only glued on lightly because she only weighs like a buck twenty. The training room was packed with people and almost everyone saw her crash to the floor with a big door molding in her arms. Only Kelley could have pulled this one off. She is going to get glue tomorrow and try to glue it back. No one will ever know, unless as she says, “the hotel staff reads the blog.” But we don’t think they can read English. Since Kelley has been a major contributor to the blog (mostly accidentally), she has promised to be a “guest blogger” at some point during the tournament when she is not fixing door frames.
Entry, #43, Aug. 20, 9:10 p.m. (1:10 p.m. ET)
Almost the whole team watched the Russia-New Zealand game from Group A on TV in their hotel rooms. What a game! Russia went up 2-0 after just 15 minutes, but the Kiwis stormed back to tie it and looked like they were going to get a winner as they were attacking relentlessly and the Russians were holding on, but then Russia struck for a great winning goal with just 15 seconds left in the third and final minute of stoppage time. Most of the poor Kiwis were crying, but you have to love their effort. It’s good for the tournament if Russia goes on as well. Kelley O’Hara was cheering for one of her future Stanford teammates, Ali Riley (her dad is from New Zealand), who grew up in Southern California and played club soccer with U.S. goalkeeper Kelsey Davis at So. Cal. United.
Entry, #42, Aug. 20, 8:30 p.m. (12:30 a.m. ET)
The games have escalated. Now the team is playing “who can hold water in their mouth the longest while someone is trying to make you laugh.” They also played, “who can do the best handstand” and “who can do the most pull-ups.” Apparently, Casey Nogueira won that one. She does have some pipes.
Entry #41, Aug. 20 7:40 p.m. (11:40 a.m. ET)
Kelley O’Hara and Casey Nogueira just tried to play a trick on Stephanie Lopez. They lured Lopez out of her room with the intent of O’Hara hiding next to her bed and jumping out and scaring her when she came back in. This one was ill-conceived from the beginning. First, Lopez stayed in Tobin Heath’s room for an extended period, leaving O’Hara crouched behind the bed for a good 10 minutes. Then Casey had Jordan Angeli tell Lopez she had a phone call. Lopez went sprinting back into her room, picked up the phone and said, “hello?” O’Hara then popped up from behind her bed, but was laughing too much to scream or say “boo.” Lopez just looked at her with a slightly irritated look and said, “I don’t have a phone call, do I?”
Entry, #40, Aug. 20, 7:20 p.m. (11:20 a.m. ET)
The players are definitely starting to get a bit stir-crazy. At dinner, they spent a good 20 minutes seriously discussing which animals the players most resembled. Allie Long apparently is a polar fox. Jordan Angeli is an ostrich and Erin Hardy is a raccoon. Amy Rodriguez is an eagle and Tina DiMartino is a prairie dog. The list goes on. They took the discussion upstairs to the team floor and it moved to celebrity look-alikes. Apparently, Kelly O’Hara resembles Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Rostedt is Halle Berry and Nikki Krzysik is Julia Stiles. Athletic trainer Sean McNeil is Zinedine Zidane or the lead singer of Live. Brittany Bock is Beyonce? That one was a stretch.
Entry #39, Aug. 20, 5:20 p.m. (9:20 a.m. ET)
A few players went to McDonalds. It was inevitable. After any extended period in any foreign country for a U.S. Soccer team, a trip to McDonalds just sounds good. For some reason, much better than it does back in the states. Maybe it’s just the longing for something familiar? Anyway, Danesha Adams can tell you the McDonald prices in several different countries. She was bitter than a Big Mac meal in Finland cost her about $11. In Moscow, it was more like 130 rubles (about five bucks). Many of the players took power-naps after training. Nothing like a good nap after training and before dinner.
Entry, #38, Aug. 20, 4:13 p.m. (7:13 a.m. ET)
With head coach Tim Schulz again in St. Petersburg to scout matches, the players had their marching orders for training and executed a crisp practice under GK coach Steve Branz and assistant coach Steve Rammel. Training consisted of a small-sided game to start things off and then some crossing and finishing for the attacking players. The defenders also hit some long balls. It was only about an hour and 15 minutes.
Entry #37, Aug. 20, 9:25 a.m. (1:35 a.m. ET)
A bunch of players went to church this morning, but it was really more going to services since it wasn’t really in a church, just a room at a big building. The players got a chance to wear the nicest clothes they brought, and they said everyone at the services were really nice to them. The services were in English and Russian, so the players didn’t feel left out. Jordan Angeli was hoping for one of those giant, ornate churches that they have seen around Moscow, but the services probably aren’t in English at those places.
Entry #36, Aug. 19, 11:05 p.m. (3:05 p.m. ET)
Forgot to mention this yesterday. FIFA and the local organizing committee have done a wonderful job of putting on this youth world championship, and everything has been first-rate. Uh, everything except the pre-game music at the stadium before the Congo game. Wow. It was a strange choice for getting everyone into the atmosphere of a FIFA World Championship. The music was some kind of combination of Russian jazz fusion / elevator / Russian ballet music. Seriously, no one would have been surprised if a couple players had fallen asleep during warm-ups.
Entry #35, 9:36 p.m. (1:36 p.m. ET)
This team takes card games seriously. The marathon Spades game is finally over and Assistant Coach Steve Rammel and Equipment Manager Jason Peters rallied from some early “tactical disagreements” to defeat Jordan Angeli and Danesha Adams, 536-339. Well done, boys. They switched partners for another game with Angeli paring with Rammel. The curly-haired U.S. defender pulled out the match at the last moment with some deft bidding decisions that left the Adams-Peters team stunned and on the losing end.
Entry #34, Aug. 19, 7:10 p.m. (11:10 a.m. ET)
So, for some reason Tobin Heath thought her hair was too long and it was bugging her, so Amanda Poach offered to cut it. Risky? We think so, but as it turned out, Poach did a fine job, trimming Heath’s locks by three inches. The 18-year-old Heath had an excellent game against the Congo, but she might be even faster against Argentina without the extra hair weight holding her back. We are beginning to think Poach is a sort of “Renaissance Woman.” She has a great singing voice, can dance, draw, play soccer, is one of the team comedians and she can cut hair. “I can’t hit a golf ball, though,” said Poach.
Entry #33, Aug. 19, 5:55 p.m. (9:55 a.m. ET)
Just got back from a boat ride on the Moscow River. It really was impossible to get sea sick on this trip as the boat went real slow and the river was almost as smooth as glass. The sight-seeing trip takes you past dozens of fantastic architectural achievements, massive buildings and several meadows on which Muscovites were sun-bathing. Some guys just shouldn’t be wearing bikini briefs, you know what we mean? The boat was kind of crowded, but the U.S. players pushed on early so they could get some good seats on top to see the sights. About 10 players parked it on the bottom and played a mean game of Catch Phrase for the entire trip. The players’ ages become very apparent when a few of them had never heard of Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald or Weird Al Yankovic. It started pouring rain at the end of the journey, which made for some choppy seas, but the mist rising from the Moscow River also made for some interesting visuals.
Entry #32, Aug. 19, 12:40 p.m. (4:40 a.m. ET)
Did we mention that the team hotel is fantastic? Tremendously helpful and accommodating hotel workers, beautiful rooms, amazing pillows, great showers, fancy elevators, a very tasteful if not glamorous lobby, a wonderful workout facility and pretty much anything else you would want. The food has also been very good, but like any hotel food, after a week or so, the players start to tire of it. Solution? Numerous players broke out the Top Ramen noodles and hit the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches pretty hard. Do you think these players are college students? After the luxury of this five-star hotel during the tournament, it’s back to pizza, toast, dorm food and the Chinese take-out back at the college dorms and apartments.
Entry #31, Aug. 19, 11:41 p.m. (3:41 a.m. ET)
Training was pretty intense today. It seems the players want no repeat of their 22 shot, four hit crossbar and just two goal (one from the penalty spot) performance against the Congo. The team worked mostly on – surprise – attacking and finishing, but the defenders got a good dose of one-on-one defending as well.
Entry #30, Aug. 18, 8:31 p.m. (12:31 p.m. ET)
A lot of frustrated faces on the bus ride back from the stadium. Seriously, the game could have been seven or eight to nothing, but Congo certainly had some very talented players and their goal was a nice finish. But you are going to be frustrated when you put four balls off the crossbar! They might have to re-paint that thing for the next game. The players got some food after the game and most of them watched France pound their next opponent Argentina, 5-0, on TV in their hotel rooms. The French looked really good and they have several players from their full National Team on the squad. Even after showers and food, the players are still peeved, but they all have great attitudes and are even now starting to put the game behind them and focus on Argentina.
Entry #29, Aug. 18, 3:15 p.m. (7:15 a.m. ET)
The team arrived at the stadium two hours before kickoff and had a lot of time to relax and gear up. JP, the equipment guy, did a nice job of setting up the locker room and each player had a comfy lounge chair at her spot. Never seen that before. The stadium looks great. FIFA really did a fine job of sprucing up the old park, but the crowd is looking to be really small. There is a boisterous section of Congolese supporters though. They should add some noise to the game.
Entry #28, Aug. 18, 10:45 a.m. (2:45 a.m.)
Games days are not good for blogging. The players eat breakfast, relax in their rooms, pick up their gear, eat lunch, gear up and head to the bus. There’s not too much talking and a lot of music listening. There was a mean game of gin rummy in the hallway, though. That’s about as exciting as it gets on game day. Every player has a different way of getting ready for a game, but for almost all of them it includes a lot of quiet time. The team is a bit nervous, but everyone is committed to the goal of getting a big win the first game against DR Congo.
Entry #27, Aug. 17, 10:18 p.m. (2:18 p.m. ET)
The halls of the team floor are really quiet. Unusual for this group. You can tell the mood is changing and it’s game time.
“It was the night before Congo, and all through the halls,
not a creature was stirring, there were no bouncing balls.
The players were tucked, all warm in their beds,
With dreams of goals, running through their heads.”
Entry #26, Aug. 17, 9:17 p.m. (1:17 p.m. ET)
Most of the players watched Brazil vs. Russia from Group A on Eurosport in their hotel rooms. The game ended 0-0, but you could tell by the hoots and hollers from the rooms that the players enjoyed the match which was entertaining for its combativeness, if not for its attacking play. Russia had more control of the game in the first half, but the Brazilians took it to them in the second. Neither team created too many dangerous chances, but the Brazilians did have a few nasty free kicks and Russian goalkeeper Elvira Todua (who took four against the USA in Thailand in 2004) made a few great saves. Russian star Elena Danilova was all that she was billed to be, running at the Brazilian back line all game, but with the Brazilians slamming her to the ground repeatedly, and almost zero support from her midfield, she couldn’t punch one in. Big story of the U-20 WC so far on the first day: Brazilian star Marta, who finished in the top three in the voting for FIFA Player of the Year in the past two years and won the Golden Ball in Thailand, is not here. Her Swedish club would not release her! A huge blow for Brazil, as she can change a game in an instant, but they looked pretty good without her and really gave a physical pounding to the Russians, who got in a few good body shots of their own.
Entry #25, Aug. 17, 6:35 p.m. (10:35 p.m. ET)
Tonight was the official training at Torpedo Stadium. All the players were pretty excited to be at the game field. It is an old, old stadium, but certainly has character. The field is in pristine condition, but the players said it was kind of soft and a few took out some major divots. The players felt bad that they put a few scars on the field because it was so nice. It is flat and wide though, which should benefit the U.S. team. FIFA allows the team only 45 minutes on the game pitch and as soon as that first player hits the field, the clock starts. Every player was off at the stroke of 45 minutes. That should be good for some Fair Play Points! The lights for the stadium are on four massive towers that look like old oil derricks. Even more oddly, they all sit outside the stadium and rise up over it. Still, FIFA has done a fine job getting the stadium ready and it should make for a fantastic atmosphere tomorrow. There is a chance of rain, but a small one. As the team was leaving the stadium, they were bubbling with anticipation. You could tell it was almost time to get this thing underway.
Entry #24, Aug. 17, 3:30 p.m. (7:30 a.m. ET)
Big dance party in Tina DiMartino and Nikki Krzysik’s room before training. Apparently they listened to “Gallery” by Mario Vasquez over and over and over again. Stephanie Logterman and Jordan Angeli entertained the team for a good 25 minutes with their dance moves. Rumor was that Logterman “really broke it down.” Said Krzysik: “Logs tore it up.” You can count on another dance party before the game tomorrow. Sort of a team tradition.
Entry #23, Aug. 17, 10:10 a.m. (2:10 a.m.)
Slow morning for the U.S. U-20s. Some players that may not play tomorrow had a short training in the morning, but with the official stadium practice at 5 p.m., for most of the team it was serious lounge time. Tobin Heath and Amanda Poach decided to sketch each other. Neither would say either sketch looked like the real thing, but they weren’t bad. Poach may even have what some would call “artistic talent.” She might want to think about an art major at Santa Clara. Apparently the U.S. players hogged all the computers in the computer room FIFA set up for the competing teams, but they didn’t get too many dirty looks from opposing players. One controversy occurred when several U.S. players left their IM boxes on the screens after they logged off and the players from the other teams were reading them. Hopefully, there was nothing too personal in there! Note to U.S. players: close your IMs boxes when done on the computer. A bunch of players watched “The Girl Next Door” in one of the rooms. No better way to pass the time than a DVD.
Entry #22, Aug. 16, 9:05 p.m. (1:05 p.m. ET)
We just finished a major all_access video shoot in the big courtyard inside the hotel. Many of the rooms of the hotel look down on it. Part of the shoot was a “Ball Trick Contest” between Tobin Heath and Casey Nogueira. We kid you not when we say those two are “mad good” with the soccer ball. They must sleep with Ronaldinho videos on in their bedrooms. So, as they showed their stuff, going back and forth in a sort of “Eminem-8 Mile-style, ball trick battle,” heads started popping out all of the windows. Pretty soon players from Germany, Switzerland, France and Argentina were watching the show. The Mexicans were watching through the glass on the same floor. The French even came down to the courtyard to take in the action. It was almost like word spread all around the hotel: “Hey, the U.S. girls are in the courtyard and you’re not going to believe what they are doing with the ball.” If ball tricks determined soccer games, we’re pretty sure they would have thrown in the towel right there, but at the least, you could tell they were very impressed. The Argentineans even clapped at the end. Look for the video on usssoccer.com real soon.
Entry #21, Aug. 16, 5:47 p.m. (9:47 a.m. ET)
The team was supposed to go on a boat ride today but it started pouring rain on the bus ride back from practice and it was cancelled. The team opted instead for a trip to the State Tretyakov Art Gallery, one of the world’s greatest art museums featuring over 130 thousands works in its collection. Ironically, the sun came out on the way there. After the bus let the players off, they had to walk over a wonderful bridge with huge fountains spouting water from the underlying river. The team went to the side of the bridge to take a team picture and apparently Kelley O’Hara and Kelsey Davis don’t know Russian for “Wet Paint” as they put their hands right on the railing. Black paint everywhere! O’Hara, unbowed, wiped the paint all over her shirt and when the players entered the gallery, she looked like an artist at work. The gallery was spectacular if you have a taste for 17th, 18th, 19th and early 20th century Russian art, or even if you don’t. There were sculptures, embroidery, jewelry and many, many paintings, from the tiniest 12-incher to massive works that stretched 30 yards across a whole wall. You thought the U.S. team were just soccer players? They are cultured too. The outing definitely could help these college students who may take art history this fall. Cameras were not allowed (apparently flashes damage the art works) so there will be no pics from inside the gallery on ussoccer.com. The players wanting extra credit for the excursion from their art history professors will have rely on their word alone.
Entry #20, Aug. 16, Noon (4 a.m. ET)
Training is at Torpedo Stadium tomorrow, site of the USA’s opener against the Congo, as Team USA gets its walk through on the game pitch. You can see the players are starting to get a bit restless in anticipation of the game, but we think the real excitement will begin when they walk into Torpedo tomorrow. The stadium holds almost 14,000 and is home to FC Moscow. The tournament officially starts tomorrow as well with games in Group A and Group B! The Russia-Brazil clash, which could be one of the best games of the first round, is on TV at the hotel so the players should get to watch it. In a strange twist, Australia, which used to be in the Oceania Confederation, faces long-time nemesis New Zealand, who was basically gifted a place in the tournament after the Aussies bolted to the Asian Confederation. Should be a great Down Under tussle! China will face Finland and Canada has a tough opener against the Baby Falcons of Nigeria, who almost beat eventual champions Germany two years ago in Thailand.
Entry #19, Aug. 16, 11:45 p.m. (3:45 a.m. ET)
Really light training this morning. Just some juggling competitions and soccer tennis, which is supposed to be light and fun, but which inevitably ends with several players kicking soccer balls the length of the field in anger and having pouty faces for a few minutes. Still, you have to love the competitive spirit. The team of Sarah Wagenfuhr, Danesha Adams and Nikki Krzysik (dubbed The Cobras, we don’t know why) won the overall competition that was based on points for juggling and soccer tennis victories. They edged Team Guarana (Amanda Poach, Steph Lopez and Casey Nogueira) by just one point! The practice also featured an exhibition soccer tennis match between head coach Tim Schulz and press officer Aaron Heifetz against the “The Steves,” assistant coaches Steve Rammel and Steve Branz. After some controversial line calls and some admirable gamesmanship from Rammel, a former MLS star for D.C. United, the crafty Schulz and the veteran Heifetz came out on top. The practice was at a different training site than the one the USA had been at previously. It was on a beat down Field Turf field situated in a “questionable” neighborhood with rows and rows of block apartments that looked to have been built in the 1960s and definitely evoked images of Communist Russia. The field, which was boxed in by apartments, was surrounded by a massive net 360 degrees around the field that could have kept King Kong penned in. No balls came close to going over it, which was great for equipment manager Jason Peters, who had to fish through a trash dump the day before to retrieve balls.
Entry #18, Aug. 16, 9:40 a.m. (1:40 a.m. ET)
First Blackberry blog entry. Moscow traffic is a nightmare! This makes driving in Manhattan seem easy. Why do they bother painting lines for the lanes? No one seems to pay any attention to them. And could they have more construction right in the middle of the road? Luckily, our police escort is not to be messed with. Still, you can only do so much with flashing lights and siren with six lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic, all trying to avoid the huge, gaping holes in the street. Wonder what the heck they are doing down there?
Entry #17, Aug. 16, 8:45 a.m. (12:45 a.m. ET)
The skies opened up last night and dumped some rain on Moscow. For those who didn’t sleep through it, there was some amazing thunder and lightning, but by the time the team woke up for breakfast, all that was left were puddles and the skies are clearing up for training.
Entry # 16, Aug. 15 11:25 p.m. (3:25 ET)
Our team administrator Amy Colquhoun went to the opening FIFA Banquet tonight. She said it was very nice. She sat with representatives from Canada, Germany and Finland. They had real grass in the center-pieces on the tables with a round bouquet of carnations painted to look like a soccer ball on grass. A great idea for the next Women’s National Team player who is getting married! Tina Frimpong or Aly Wagner, are you reading this? After a sumptuous five-course meal, there was entertainment, but Amy said the first two people on stage reminded her of the “The Wedding Singer.” Then they had some more singers and dancers to Russian music and that was pretty cool. The desert was what Amy described as “an ice cream fruit cake” with cherry sauce on the side. Apparently, cherry sauce was the theme of the night, as it was also the side of the main course, which was roast beef with warm pineapple chunks. With the excellent food at the team hotel as well, eating has not been an issue at all, unless you count eating too much as an issue. At team dinner earlier in the evening, our team liaison Irena asked the players, “Ladies, we would like to know if you would like ice cream at every meal?” Would a cheetah like a three-legged antelope? The players burst out in cheers, then lined up for vanilla, strawberry and some sort of almond flavor that we couldn’t quite pin down.
Entry #15, Aug. 15 9:45 p.m. (1:45 p.m. ET)
There is a heated game of Spades going on in the lobby on the team’s floor as Jordan Angeli and Danesha Adams take on assistant coach Steve Rammel and equipment manager Jason Peters. Rammel and Peters apparently were having some “tactical disagreements” and “strategic faux pas” but we think they sorted it out and were just a little bit ahead when Angeli called for a truce because she was too tired and didn’t want do jeopardize her point total due to jet lag. Stay tuned for the completion of the battle.
Entry #14, Aug. 15 9:35 p.m. (1:35 p.m ET)
Just saw Sarah Wagenfuhr and Brittany Bock passing out the official tournament credentials to the players. Pretty exciting as it means the start of the competition is close at hand, but almost every player hated her picture. Truth be told, they were a bit “stretched” out, making a few of the photos look like they were taken in a house or mirrors.
Entry #13, Aug. 15 8:30 p.m. (12:30 a.m. ET)
The snack trunk in the training room, like always, has been very popular with the U.S. players, but Kelley O’Hara was bemoaning the lack of “good chips” and said there was way too much beef jerky in there. She also said she was going to break open the peanut butter and jelly and even threatened to eat Oreo cookies dipped in peanut butter. We think she might have already eaten all her favorite snacks.
Entry #12, Aug. 15 2:15 p.m. (4:15 a.m. ET)
Training was on grass today (it was a bit thick, but a decent surface) and the team played three, 15-minute periods, 10 v. 10 on a 60-yard field, but it was basically a set-play training session as the whistle blew every minute or so, deserved or not. The team then did some finishing and some work for the goalkeepers. Behind one of the goals was the strangest thing, especially in the large, beautiful park that is also a sports center that surrounds Torpedo Stadium. It was a big junk yard of some sort, with trash and other debris piled so high that you could even see it over the 20-foot wall. It did not smell nice. There was a huge bull dozer inside moving it all around. They had a massive net behind the goal, but a couple of balls made it over. Our poor equipment manager Jason Peters had to first traverse the wall like a Marine at basic training, and then drop down into what looked like something out of Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome in order to get the balls. It was definitely one of “the top-five most difficult ball retrieval sites” in U.S. Soccer history. JP got it done, though. As he always does. No junk-clearing bull dozer is going to take one of his soccer balls.
Entry #11 Aug. 15, 10:13 a.m. (2:13 a.m. ET)
The team just met with American referee Sandy Hunt, who is retired from running the center, but is working for FIFA at this tournament. She showed a video to the team about what will and will not be called at this competition. It was the same one that was shown to the referees at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Excellent video and you can see why so many cards were given. FIFA is really clamping down hard on dangerous tackles and un-sportsman like conduct. But we don’t think you’ll be seeing any U.S. players’ rip off their jerseys after goals…Brandi might have been the last. Sandy did an excellent job with the presentation, as always, but she warned that the tournament will be called tightly, much like in Germany.
Entry #10 Aug. 14, 9:35 p.m. (1:35 p.m.)
Is it possible to stuff an entire Crunch Bar into your mouth at once? Apparently so, as Tina DiMartino accomplished the feat in the training room tonight. She chased it down with some M&Ms. No wonder she runs so fast…sugar powered. The U.S. team is considering entering the 5-foot-2 midfielder in some eating contests.
Entry #9 Aug. 14, 8:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m. ET)
The team went on a great excursion to famous Red Square, home to the Kremlin, the seat of the Russia government. It was only two hours, but they got to see all the famous landmarks and take a bunch of pictures. Several players also went to a beautiful mall named “Gum” (pronounced “Goom”) which looked like a museum, except for all the stores. No one bought anything as it was like shopping in Beverly Hills, but the players did partake in the souvenirs outside, with Jordan Angeli, Sarah Wagenfuhr, Brittany Bock and Carrie Dew buying big black, Russian fur hats. They should come in handy for Dew and Bock in South Bend, Ind., when they go back to Notre Dame, but Angeli (Santa Clara) and Wagengfurh (Florida State) will likely have to wait until they go back to their native Colorado for Christmas to don them. Outside the stunning St. Basil’s Cathedral, an American came up to the group and asked which team this was. When told it was the U.S. U-20s in town for the world championship, he said, “You have a few Notre Dame players on the team, don’t you?” Bock and Dew stepped forward to meet the Notre Dame grad, who knew who they were. It really is a small world, after all.
Entry #8 Aug. 14, 2:45 p.m. (6:45 a.m. ET)
The team met with the FIFA General Coordinator after lunch to get their passports checked, sign the FIFA Fair Play Charter and get their pictures taken for their credential. It couldn’t have gone smoother. Everyone was in and out in about 30 minutes. The only hiccups were the players keeping a straight face for their pictures and the round of applause from the team after each name was called, which inspired Allie Long to break into her Irish River Dance before presenting her passport. The FIFA folks seemed to like it.
Entry #7 Aug. 14, 1:37 p.m. (5:37 a.m. ET)
Got a police escort to training. Pretty sweet, especially as the traffic in Moscow can be horrific. Sometimes it just makes you feel important to have a police officer walk out into the middle of a five-lane road and strop traffic just so you can take a right turn. The first training was on FieldTurf, but it was about the most accommodating FieldTurf you can imagine. Really, the closest you’ll ever feel to grass while playing on plastic. Before training in the hotel, Stephanie Logterman tried to speak German with a few of the German players. She’s not bad (Logs won the Texas State German Competition when she was a senior in high school), but as soon as she starts speaking German, they start speaking English, so that’s the end of that. Head coach Tim Schulz has been the master of diplomacy in the first few days, introducing himself to all the opposing coaches when they meet in the lobby. After the tournament, they should assign him to the United Nations. We think several coaches were surprised by his friendliness, but they all warmed up after a few minutes.
Entry #6 Aug. 13 10:10 p.m. (2:10 ET)
After lunch, the players tried to stay up to adjust quickly to the time change as they open the tournament in just five days on Aug. 18 against DR Congo. Some made it to the team walk at 7:30 p.m. without snoozing, some didn’t. Amanda Poach mistakenly entrusted Casey Nogueira to wake up her and her roomie Tobin Heath after a 30 minute “cat-nap.” Two hours later, Poach snapped awake, thinking she missed the team walk and dinner, only to see Nogueria passed out next to Heath. The team walk was quick, up and down the huge boulevard that borders the hotel, passing many expensive shops and stores that just might be out of the players’ socio-economic range, but maybe not. Stay tuned…there is a shopping trip planned for tomorrow. After dinner and a meeting, where U.S. head coach Tim Schulz went over the team goals for the tournament, the players finally hit the sack for the evening. FYI: The FIFA team liaison, Irena, seems like a sharp cookie, which will be a big help during the tournament. She speaks excellent English and has even mastered the art of diplomacy. When asked by Schulz who she would root for if the USA met Russia in the tournament, she answered, with a smile, “We’ll see.”
Entry #5 Aug. 13, 3:00 p.m. (7 a.m. ET)
The first lunch! The hotel is spectacular and food is excellent! Only problem is FIFA has set up just seven computers for the four or five teams staying at the hotel. There is wireless in the hotel, but it costs $35 a day! Do you get someone to come up to your room, do your Google searches, print them out and type up your term papers for that? Needless to say, most of the U.S. players/college students will be using the free FIFA computers. Mexico is at the hotel, so is France and Argentina. Congo has yet to arrive as far as we can tell. The Germans arrived in the afternoon. This just in: Germans are tall. Very tall. Even the U-20s. At the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup in Thailand, Kelsey Davis decided that the official mascot, a female elephant with long eyelashes, most resembled midfielder Stephanie Kron of all the players on the U.S. team. Kron was not amused. This world championship, Davis has been charged with deciding which U.S. players looks most like this year’s mascot, a little fox with a ponytail named Alissa. Davis says the early front-runner is 5-foot-2 midfielder Tina DiMartino, who didn’t seem at all bothered with the comparison. Granted, it’s very difficult to ruffle Tina’s fur….hmmm, much like a fox?
Entry #4: Aug. 13, 12:15 p.m. (4:15 a.m. ET)
The flight landed just one hour late! Well done Mr. Pilot! Way to put the pedal to medal! (Do planes have pedals?) After the 8 hour and 55 minute flight, the weather is perfect in Moscow. It is a bit on the chilly side, but perfect for soccer if it holds. The FIFA folks were super organized and the players and staff quickly loaded all the gear and equipment, rolled it out to the bus where a big equipment truck was waiting. The staff loaded it up onto the truck with equipment manager Jason Peters looking like an ant (lifting bags twice his size) and the team was on its way to the hotel. The freeway to the hotel rolled past the Dynamo Stadium where the team will be playing its third group match against France. The players snapped pictures and you could feel the aura of the World Championship building! By they way, they told us it would be “20 minutes to two hours” to get to the hotel. Huh? Traffic was not that bad and it only took 30 minutes.
Entry #3: Aug. 12, 1:45 a.m. (5:45 p.m. ET)
The flight was already supposed to be in the air, but the pilot announced that “Ladies and gentlemen, due to a large amount of baggage on this flight, we had to remove some cargo so all that baggage would fit. We wish we would have done that before, but once we get that cargo off and all the bags on, we’ll be headed to Moscow. Thanks for your patience.” Whoops! Sorry, fellow passengers. After the announcement, Kelsey Davis yelled, “That’s our fault!” Is she trying to get us lynched by angry Russians? People were already in testy enough moods after the packed airports! Because of that stupid team with all their baggage, and because of packed runways at JFK, the flight actually left two hours late.
Entry #2: Aug. 12, 11:45 p.m. (3:45 p.m. ET )
When planning a major international trip like this one, which involves a traveling party of more than 30 people, numerous domestic flights, a massive amount of baggage, travel visas for everyone and numerous other hiccups that can occur in a flash, the U.S. Soccer Team Administrators do many great things to keep everyone organized. Getting ready for a World Championship is one of the most difficult jobs around and it’s nearly impossible to account for every detail. A misplaced passport is the peril of any traveling team. Forward Amy Rodriguez left on her red-eye from California without her passport on Friday night thinking that Amy Colquhoun, the team administrator, had it when, in fact, it had been overnighted. But with some quick thinking by Manager of Youth National Teams Bill Ferguson, U-21 WNT coordinator Brittany Braun and Colquhoun, the situation was saved. MAJOR props go out to Braun, recently back from the Nordic Cup in Norway, who hopped on a plane to JFK with A-Rod’s passport, delivered it, and hopped back on a plane to Los Angeles. (Brittany now gets an assist for every goal A-Rod gets). And it all happened the day AFTER the new tighter traveling regulations! But that’s how the TAs roll at U.S. Soccer. Job well done, all. On the plane, Casey Noegueira and Tobin Heath broke out some gifts they made for the team during their few days of preseason training at UNC…Tie-dye t-shirts! While perhaps more appropriate at a Grateful Dead show than a World Championship, the hand-made shirts were definitely well done, extremely detailed and labor intensive, and were certainly appreciated by all the players.
Entry #1: Aug. 12, 9:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m. ET )
The players are arriving separately into JFK Airport for the direct flight to Moscow and we must say it’s a bit nerve-wracking with all the new airline security. Some players came from California and took red-eyes, others flew in the same day and a few drove in. Will everyone make the team flight? Amazingly, there are no issues. And team coordinator Amy Colquhoun was as cool as the other side of the pillow despite the madness at the Delta terminal. In fact, midfielder Allie Long who lives the closest to JKF (on Long Island) was the last to arrive (her mom dropped her off), along with goalkeeper Joanna Haig, who was coming in from Minnesota. The only real issue was the “misplacement” of the bags of Brittany Bock and Kelley O’Hara, who were connected through Atlanta. Eventually, they found the bags in time to get them checked to Moscow, but O’Hara’s bag had a little accident. She had stuffed snacks and Easy Mac into the bag and apparently the Nike soccer duffle had not been handled with “TLC.” Almost every packet of Easy Mac burst open, covering her clothes with a fine cheese dust and what seemed liked thousands of kernels of hard macaroni pasta. To top it off, her chips broke as well, creating a sort of strange “dried snack buffet” inside her bag. She cleaned it out the best she could and checked it through to Moscow. Kelley will be without Easy Mac during the World Championship. Maybe Mom and Dad can bring her some more? Many of the players had a “last meal” at Chili’s at JFK. It looked scrumptious. Brittany Bock didn’t order anything, but walked up during the meal and ate half of someone’s cheeseburger and a whole bunch of fries. She was happy.