Today I'll bring you up to speed with a double dose of "OFF THE BALL". Happy Father's Day to everyone – especially my dad, who has had to deal with me for 24 years....
I. From Grueling to Relaxing
We started practice yesterday with a decent warm-up, which isn't too challenging since the weather is still pretty hot. After that we played a possession game in a decent-sized grid, which turned into a version of a four-goal game using poles as goals. When we finished with that, we opened it up into a 9 v 9, almost full-field game with some of the outside players lined up in "channels", which means they can't enter the field until the ball is played to them and crosses over the side line. The game had a pretty good pace, a couple good goals, and a couple of fouls - notably from the Bill Laimbeer of soccer (a.k.a. Gregg Berhalter), who landed a kick to the throat on Beasley on a 50-50 challenge. Beas was OK, and so was Greg. No one's feelings got hurt. And for the grand finale, we had some gnarly fitness.
Today's practice was optional, so a few of the guys exercised that option and caught up on some sleep. Others who wanted to get out for a little jog, work on some individual things, or just get a sun tan, headed out to the beautiful training facility to get a little run in. There were some fierce games of soccer tennis, that included a couple of shady calls and a bit of tampering with the lines, but at the end the team of Greg Vanney and Eddie Lewis (two UCLA alums) came out on top and claimed the championship.
II. Cross Colors/Counter Culture
If I were to ever torture a person, I would put them in an enclosed room with no air conditioning. I may be hammering this subject, but damn, invest some money in an AC unit or somethin’! It's not that bad, but when you have five guys in the same room playing cards and sucking up all the fresh air it tends to get muggy. The French have been very helpful and supportive, which is nice in a foreign place. The tournament is getting closer, and the papers and TV are starting to hype it up - not like I can understand it, but I see a lot of pictures. With the weather being so hot, some guys are still gettin' out of the hotel to check out the city, but a lot are stayin' in, pullin' the blinds shut, and gettin' some sleep. Jovan is the king of this. He even covers up the little red light on the TV; a masterful job of creating complete darkness. It's still tough to adjust to the time change, but guys are starting to get through it.
I want you to put 23 young men in a hotel for a couple weeks and see if they don't become creative with their time. Last night, an unbelievable game of Mini-Golf developed in the hotel. Let me break it down for you. Our hotel is a big rectangle with continuous carpeted hallways. If we needed to do some fitness in the hotel, we could do laps on the giant rectangular track, which is our hallway. The veterans, who have been on many trips, took it upon themselves to change it up a little bit. Each person got to design an individual hole using trash cans, ash trays, room service trays, chairs, or anything else they could get their hands on as obstacles. Pablo Mastroeni patented the actual hole, which was a partially cut Gatorade cup (that’s one of our sponsors, isn’t it?). The cup was moved hole to hole. We employed a skins game format, and used little pieces of tissue as ball markers. Most of the holes consisted of a dogleg left, down one hallway into the next. Chris Klein took it upon himself to construct a par-six, double dogleg left that ended up at the doors of the elevator, which was by far the most difficult hole on the course. We had to institute a shot clock on Chris Armas because he would size up his shots and try to get the perfect angle each time. Having only one club and several golfers, we got impatient. Competitive nature once again led to arguments and footwedges, and a few hours later I believe the eventual champion was Armas.
III. Holla Back
I'm going to talk to a different set of roommates every day, getting their responses to four questions. We'll see how the answers differ from room to room. Today I interviewed DaMarcus Beasley, a teammate of mine in Chicago, and Kyle Martino, who plays for the Columbus Crew. Beas is from Fort Wayne, Ind., and turned pro right out of high school from the U.S. Soccer residency program in Bradenton, Fla. Kyle’s hometown is Atlanta, Ga., and he has by far the most beautiful hair on the team.
What's your favorite thing to do outside of soccer?
DaMarcus: I enjoy just chillin', listening to music and buyin' ICE.
Kyle: I like listening to music and going to concerts. I really enjoyed the Phish concert at Madison Square Garden.
For you, what are the biggest pros and cons of playing in Europe?
DaMarcus: It's different in that it’s quiet and more of an easy-going lifestyle. Soccer is their life. They live, eat and breathe soccer. I like that about Europe. I think it could get boring a lot quicker in Europe than the States. You don't have as many friends outside of soccer.
Kyle: It's cool to live in someone else's culture, eat the food, see their social environment and walk their streets. On the down side, I've watched the Simpsons in French, and Homer is not nearly as funny.
What are your biggest pet peeves? What really pushes your buttons?
DaMarcus: When the women don’t be speakin' my language – ebonics.
Kyle: When people talk during movies or when their phone goes off in the theatre. I just want to take it out of their hand and smash it on the ground.
What superhero would you compare yourself to and why?
DaMarcus: The Invisible Man because when I’m slicin' through the defense its like they can't even see me. All they get is vapors.
Kyle: Skeletor, because I’ve got his physique.
IV. Quote of the Day
"In all fairness to myself, I was in the middle more than I should have been today." Jovan Kirovski, when asked ‘who had the season tickets?’ after he spent long stretches in the middle in the of a 5v2 keep-away game
Check out photos of the boys getting after it in France in the 'Sights and Sounds" section at ussoccer.com.
Four days and counting …