After two convincing 3-0 victories over Finland and Norway by the U.S. Under-21 Women's National Team to open the 2004 Nordic Cup, forward Manya Makoski checks in from the picturesque, but chilly, Northern Iceland, where she and her teammates are attempting to win the USA's sixth straight Nordic Cup, the top competition in the world for U-21 women. Today in Manya's Musings, she shares some random thoughts, talks about the best assist of the tournament and admits that yes, even she has a "blond" moment once in a while.
In all honestly, I would like to tell you stories of chasing some moose (or is it mooses?) or something else exciting, but we have not done anything too interesting so far here in Akureyri, Iceland, except win our first two games of the Nordic Cup. However, we have spent a good amount of time going to Café Karolina to access the internet, watching the television show "24" and listening to our team Doc tell us over and over again to keep drinking our Gatorade and replenish our energy after playing. I have, however, taken the down time to observe little quirks of my teammates, laugh at hilarious jokes, and put on my "game face" when training and playing. (Since I don't look so tough normally, as you can see by the wonderful logo the boys at U.S. Soccer Communications did up for me, I have to have a pretty mean game face).
Arriving in Akureyri
When the team arrived at the airport in Reykjavik to depart to Akureyri, where our Nordic Cup matches were to be played, we were not surprised to see that the airport was just a petite looking building with a few "puddle jumper" airplanes lined up alongside. Let's just say security wasn't as tight as it is at JFK in New York City. The lack of metal detectors did not help the uneasiness in our stomachs that set in after seeing our aircraft. Sitting on the runway, it looked like a five-year-old's remote control airplane, scared to take off into the rough winds of the Iceland sky. Climbing up the stairs, I did my usual "God, please keep me safe" kiss with my hand on the outside of the doorway of the airplane.
All fears quickly went away though as I was out cold as soon as we were in the air, even though my headphones were blasting Nickleback. I did not want to be awake for the roller coaster ride to Akureyri. As much as I love Six Flags, I was not in the mood to be screaming my head off as I try to keep my hands in the air as we ascend and descend very rapidly every two seconds. When the flight attendant awoke me mid-dream, I was surprised to see that we were in the middle of a lengthy mountain range surrounded by fields of green and wild animals. I immediately turned to Julianne Stich who was sitting behind me, and said, "No internet." I then felt like the biggest nerd with that comment as the first words to come out of my mouth after seeing such a breathtaking view.
Our landing "runway" was a narrow strip of concrete painted with white lines surrounded by water on both sides. After turning around on the runway, we taxied to an even smaller building than in Reykjavik, and got off the airplane to take in our new home for the next ten days. Looking off to the end of the runway, I saw that it stopped very abruptly, giving way to more water. If the brakes did not kick in quick enough, we were sure to be swimming in icy cold water. We then made like dorky tourists as we posed for pictures next to our landed airplane (we were just happy to get off of it) and the shiny blue water reflecting the mountains (we were just happy to avoid landing in it).
Translating Our Translator
So far, we have not had any problems finding anything, translating anything, or getting anything we need. This is thanks to our translator who seems to know everyone and everything in Iceland. We don't really know how to pronounce his real name, so we took it upon ourselves to translate it ourselves to "Brian." His laidback personality, relaxed demeanor, and his famous words of "No problem, I'll just make a phone call," have helped us feel at home here. I really owe him a "shout-out" so thanks "Bri" for all that you have done for us. If you read my journal, you know that Iceland is lacking in points as compared to the USA, but Big Bri makes up for it. Score: Iceland 51-U.S. 101.
We got the victory thanks to a penalty kick from our captain Joanna Lohman, and one goal each from four forwards Tasha Kai and Carli Lloyd. Our plan of playing in the spaces in front and behind their back line worked perfectly. I was glad to be going in as a forward for the second half. As I was warming up on the field during halftime, the song "Toxic" from Britney Spears came on the loudspeaker. I sprinted even harder across the field to get the idea out of my head that they were actually playing that song during the halftime of a soccer game in Iceland. I then stopped to stretch, just in time to catch a peek at our tough security guy Mark Pharris dancing. I do not think he noticed that anyone was watching, but he definitely has some rhythm. During the second half, we created some good chances, but barely missed a bunch and the score could have been higher than 3-0. Our very small fan club consisted of the parents of midfielder Kacey White, who traveled all the way from Texas, and a couple of local kids who took a liking to us.
A few random thoughts from Iceland.
There is nothing more random than.
.seeing a couch and a television sitting on the rocky shore of the water on your way to training (I am pretty sure it was not plugged in)
.walking in on goalkeeper K.J. Spisak and midfielder Nikki Thaden having a dance-off (they were by themselves. Not sure who won).
.having your college coach from the desert of Arizona show up at the same café in a town near the Artic Circle that you are at, using the internet and drinking hot chocolate (there is nothing Ray Leone will not do)
.having lights in the hallway that have sensors to turn on and off (it can be scary the first time the lights suddenly flicker on). However, I guess one point goes to Iceland. The sensors are pretty sweet. Score: Iceland 52, but the U.S. dominating with a whopping 101.)
.having the most satisfying meal so far, and then finding out that what we thought was the steak, was really whale (it's a good thing we didn't ask what we were eating)
.sharing a bus to the field with the team you are playing against (how do you say: extremely awkward?)
.having our goalkeeper coach Big Bill Irwin's surprise birthday bash in the equipment room (he really did bring paper and a pen to take notes for the meeting he thought we were having)
.having to buy plastic bags at the store for your groceries (the idea of preventing environmental problems is a good one, but that is sacrificing hard earned Kroners for something we might really need.like the balloons for the birthday bash)
.the way our Security Officer, Mark Pharris, always wears his lid, but never completely snug over his head (he must be hiding something to protect us).
Add a few Little Known Facts.
-Hawaiian Tasha Kai has never seen snow until this trip; she has yet to touch it.
-Flexible Jill Oakes was captain of her high school cheerleading squad her junior and senior years.
-Massage Therapist Keith Goff had never flown on an airplane prior to this trip (p.s. his real name is Daniel).
-I write with my left hand, which Mark Pharris says it's called "Southpaw"
-Assistant Coach, Karen Ferguson, used to be in a break dancing group called "Crash Crew"
Our second victory of the tournament came courtesy of first half goals by midfielder Sarah Huffman and forward Kelly Wilson, and a second half goal by Wilson. The first goal came from an early serve after many close attempts. The second goal was from defender Linsdey Huie's corner kick that floated across the goalmouth onto the soaring Keeley Dowling. I swear that girl jumps to the moon. She headed the ball down onto the shoulder of Wilson, who redirected it in the opposite direction the 'keeper was diving. Our third goal came from Huffman playing me a ball past the back line on the right side. I then juked two defenders (come on, I had to brag) and layed off the ball to Wilson, who easily put it in the back of the net. The blistering cold and steady wind along with the tall and strong players of Norway could not stop our great playmaking that led us to our second victory.
Guest Writer Lu
As much as I love writing about the dumb things my teammates do, and hiding the ones that happen to me, I am going to let this one slide. I promised the team that I would include this one in the journal. So, here is my guest writer, Julianne "Lu" Stich, to tell the ussoccer.com readers just exactly what happened.
As Manya and I were stretching after our game against Norway and watching the rest of the Germany vs. Finland game that was 0-0, I happened to look up at the scoreboard to see how much time was left. I noticed that there was an "H" and a "G" designating the teams playing. I made the comment to her, "It's cool that they have a 'G' for 'Germany', but why do they have an 'H' for 'Finland'?" Thinking she had a great comeback, Manya answered, "Maybe it's for 'Holland' because isn't Finland also called Holland?" What? I think she was talking about Netherlands and Holland. As we both laughed, we realized that the letters stood for "Home" and "Guest." Tasha Kai, who was stretching next to us, got a great laugh after calling us losers. Minus 100 points for Manya. You are sentenced to a summer school class in geography.
Okay, that's enough writing for Lu. Now that I have lost all respect from my readers, I will go back to watching my favorite television show "24."