She's back. Everyone's favorite U-21 international Manya Makoski is in Europe with the U.S. U-21s and ready for a few more editions of Manya's Musings, her journals on the travels and tribulations of the U.S. Youth National Teams. This time Manya checks in from Holland where the U-21s have won their second game of the tour, this time impressively over the Dutch National Team, and muses about the dangers of the Dutch bicycle culture, some really, really good ice cream and how smoking and soccer really don’t go well together.
After coming off a 2-1 win over the Dutch club team Seastum, we started to prepare for what would be an intense game against the full Women’s National Team of Holland. We reviewed video, strung together a very productive training session, and set our sights on beating an excellent Holland team who had just recently beaten France, which is a top-10 team in the world.
Tuesday night. 7 p.m. Game-time. It was the Orange vs. Red, White and Blue. It didn’t take us long to get used to the fast-paced artificial turf field (which by the way was covered with annoying tiny little pieces of gray rubber that flung all over the place when you kicked the ball). I started at left back alongside center back Kendall Fletcher. We’ve developed a strong relationship that defenders need to establish. She likes to play the ball to me out wide, and I can feel confident in getting it back to her or looking up the field, and she’s always there behind me in support ready to crush any opponent the moment I get beat (yeah, like that ever happens). To be honest, she pretty much saves me from humiliating myself at my newly-learned position.
We dominated the first half, combining well and tackling hard. We intercepted a bunch of Holland’s attempted through passes and had some good attacks, but we were unable to find the back of the net. The second half was a bit different. Holland changed their game plan by keeping the forward I was marking out wide and their monstrous center-back tried to play long balls over our back line to their forwards.
Despite their attempts to foul us when we got the ball (and even when we didn’t have the ball), we were able to create two beautiful goals. Tiff scored off a free kick from outside the penalty box (off a foul on Danesha Adams…cheaters never prosper), and then Danesha battled with her defender as she fought to get to a through ball that she promptly deposited into the upper left corner.
A strange thing happened to me in the second half. Throughout the whole half, I had to deal with all the spectators on my side smoking cigars and cigarettes. How often does that happen in an international match? Forget about second hand smoke, I actually felt like they were blowing it right down my throat. There’s only so much my little lungs can take. I was so grateful when the game ended, not only because we came out with a 2-0 win, but because I could actually take a deep breathe again.
We were satisfied with the outcome of the game and our effort. We felt we learned from the game and that the experience will help us continue to develop as a team as we prepare for the Nordic Cup in July.
Even though we have some fun excursions on U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team trips (See: Amsterdam and Anne Frank’s house in Part I of Manya’s Musings), I must be honest and say that we spend most of our downtime in our rooms. Most of the time my roommate Bristyn Davis does schoolwork and I study for the GMAT, but some pretty exciting things do happen.
On Wednesday we went shopping in a town called Nijmegen. When we were getting off the bus, Kendall had to go to the bathroom, so she went in the little bathroom on the bus. I guess the bus driver figured we were all off, so he started driving away. Realizing that Kendall was still in the bathroom, we all ran after him, screaming for him to wait. The bus driver slammed on his breaks, and Kendall came flying out of the bathroom. We were scared that she had fallen into the toilet, but to everyone’s relief she was safe, if not a little rattled.
Nijmegen was a cute and dainty little town, but there was a major safety hazard in bicycle riders who might run you over without any warning. I’m serious. It’s dangerous and there’s nothing you can do about it except keep your head on a swivel. Maybe they will ring their little bells, but that’s about it. Not even a “pardon.”
We eventually found an H+M clothing store. It figures. We go to Europe and end up going to a store we can shop at in most American malls. But we found that it’s different because it’s European fashion! My kind of style. I was able to find a couple of things I liked and then decided that they would be my mom’s birthday presents to me. I had just celebrated my 22nd birthday in April and seeing how my mom lives across the country from me, it’s hard for her to find clothing that I will like, so I have to pick it out myself. Satisfied with our purchases, we headed to a sporting goods store where we looked for presents for boyfriends, friends and family. Kendall and I ended up buying these lime green Nike wristbands. Like little children attracted to bright colors, we sported the wristbands for the rest of the day.
Hungry again (typical for a soccer player) we decided to eat at this café that other players had tried. We had the waitress pretty much translate the whole menu for us. Not surprisingly, we all ended up ordering the same thing: the Duco -- a turkey sandwich. Aren’t we adventurous? During our meal, we spotted an ice cream shop across the way and of course we had to get some. The ice cream here is unbelievable. Say it one more time: Unbelievable. I ended up getting this Passion Fruit sorbet that pretty much made my taste buds jump off my tongue it was so sweet. Liz Bogus settled for a more bland tasting Pear sorbet. Kendall went for the vanilla and Belgium chocolate ice cream.
We play our final game of the tour on Thursday night against the German club team Duisberg, which is in their top division. It is about a two-hour bus ride and coming off a good win against Holland, we are looking forward to playing the last game of the tour and ending on a good note. They are a solid team with a couple of players that play for the German Women’s National Team. Those girls are big!
Anyone know how much they smoke in Germany?
Manya out from Holland (and on my way to Germany).