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Manya's Musing From Brazil (Part 3)

The U.S. Under-21 Women’s National Team finished its four-game trip to Brazil with a 2-1-1 record, a busy schedule indeed, but not too busy for forward Manya Makoski to check in with the final installment of her journals from Brazil.  In Part 3 of Manya’s Musings, she talks about “taking one for the team,” huge furry rats, the delicacy of fried bananas and the goal that got away.

Friday, May 28 
Sao Paulo, Brazil
We did some partner juggling competitions at training this morning and Lu (Julianne Sitch) and I did a pretty good job of not winning any of them. As is tradition on the day before a game, we played the Shooting Game.  We usually divide the teams into West Coast vs. East Coast and most of the time I’m on the West Coast ‘cause I am attending Arizona State, but this time I featured for the East Coast because we split the teams by where each player is originally from (Trumbull, Connecticut representin’). It’s so hard being popular on both coasts.  I don’t want to go into much detail because of the devastation of the loss, but we did lose, sending us to the goal line for “Butts-Up.” The winning team gets to take shots from the 18-yard line, whipping balls at our back sides. Of course, I got nailed by the first player who shot (although I won’t mention any names…Kelly Wilson). It’s amazing that I got hit because I am really not that big of a target. After Tara Hurless got pegged and discovered a pain so much deeper than losing, and defender Carmen Watley got nailed twice, I got hit another time. I didn’t feel it though, because my leg was still numb from the first shot.  After training, we all had to go into the pool at least waist deep to rejuvenate our tired bodies. It was colder than standing barefoot at the North Pole in the middle of winter. I think my lips turned bright blue. Chris had us swim around, as players dunked each other underwater. We planned to get the coaches wet, but that proved to be Mission: Impossible.  They were too slick for us.

After nearly escaping hypothermia, a bunch of us took a jeep tour. Our crazy driver took us around town, and then we were on our way up to Naked Mountain. As we were speeding along the twists and turns on the dirt road, Lu, Nikki Thaden and I held onto one of the cage bars for dear life. The driver pointed out a couple of Capibaras, which Korina our translator explained were the biggest nibblers in the world, in other words, big hairy rats. After some staling and gas problems, we finally made it up to the top of Naked Mountain. Much to our relief, there were no naked people up there, but we did get a breathtaking view of the surrounding cities.  We were even able to see our hotel, the Oscar Inn, and the soccer fields. On the way back, we stopped at a petting-zoo style farm. Some of us went fishing, fed and pet the animals, while others just sat and enjoyed some sweet drinks in the warm sun. I got to hold a cute baby lamb. We eventually journeyed on home where I watched “Super Troopers” and packed my bag for home.

Saturday, May 29 
Final Game Day in Sao Paulo, Brazil
Our last game of the tour was an extremely hard fought battle with Brazil’s Olympic Team. We outplayed them most of the first half, but they were able to break us down two times and they went into halftime with a 2-0 lead. My best chance to score came within the final seconds of the first half when I ran onto a great ball from Amy LePeilbet, but I barely missed the goal on a semi-breakaway as a defender was closing on me. That moment will definitely haunt my dreams for a long time as I should have scored.  At halftime we got pumped up and it helped us score our lone goal. Kelly sent in a nice cross to Tasha Kai, who threw herself and pulled of a diving header past the flying Brazilian ‘keeper.  We were able to dominate the rest of the second half, but we weren’t able to finish any of the chances we created. Our back four did extremely well winning the ball, and sending our midfielders and forwards off to attack. We played low pressure with our forwards and our midfielders were easily able to figure out where the Brazilians wanted to play the ball.  But while we were upset with the final score, we were able to say that we gave it our best against one of the best teams in the world. That night we went to watch the professional team Ponte Preta play Juventude. It was interesting to see their fans get so excited and then disappointed so quickly. Even an agitated old lady said something to Chris in Portuguese, but not knowing what she had said, Chris just shook his head in agreement. We had dinner at a pizzeria, but the unsatisfying meal sent us to the neighboring McDonalds. That night we checked into our new hotel, the Premium Inn, which put us about an hour and a half away from the airport.

Sunday, May 30 
Sao Paulo, Brazil
We left shortly after breakfast at nine for a handcraft market that was very popular in that area, because if you have a few hours to shop before leaving, you have to take it. Amy, Lu, and I walked around to each stand in search of the perfect necklaces. A couple of purchases left us unsatisfied, bringing us to a stand with different types of wooden massagers. Lu and I each bought one as a soccer player needs a little spa treatment once in a while. We had lunch at a Churrascaria, a place where they brought out different meats on long skewers. I wasn’t too excited about the Alligator, Capibara (yes, that big rat) that midfielder Kacey White almost ate, and frog legs. However, the chicken (at least I hope it was), ham, and the filet mignon were definitely exquisite. The grilled pineapple with cinnamon won first prize on Manya’s Best Taste-O-Meter, and the fried banana came in a close second. When we got back to the hotel, we had time to change into our U.S. Soccer polo shirts and khakis and then Chris had a meeting with us before we boarded the bus. He emphasized how important it was for us to be in a daily training environment to keep us in shape and ready for the next training camp at the end of June and the Nordic Cup coming up in July.  

When we got the airport, we were able to thoroughly confuse the Continental Airlines staff with our bazillion equipment bags. After a long check-in, some of us got McDonalds while the others went for the Pizza Hut. Nothing like a great Brazilian meal, right? We met up as a group to walked to the gate together where Karen Ferguson, our assistant coach, wondered out loud where her backpack went while then picking up a back pack near her feet and asking who left their backpack? Wow. That definitely showed it was time to return to the United States.

Thank you for reading my journal about our trip to Brazil.  The journey started off a bit rough, but ended on a high note, even though we lost the last game.  It was an unforgettable experience and we grew even closer as a team as we move towards the Nordic Cup.  I hope you got some insight into the games and what’s its like to travel to another country with while representing your national team.
Take Care,