Nordic Cup 2005 – Sweden
Well done, Jillian Ellis. No, not because you’re one of the top women’s soccer coaches in the country, with a 2000 Nordic Cup title on your resume and several trips to the NCAA Final Four with UCLA. It’s because you chose midfielder Manya Makoski to the 2005 Nordic Cup Team.
And that means more “Manya’s Musings,” one of the most popular and well read ussoccer.com journals in U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team history (along with legendary journal writer Jena Kluegel, whose current job at a high-powered New York City investment banking firm, we feel, can be traced directly back to her work on ussoccer.com). In this final entry, Makoski, a rising senior at Arizona State, wraps things up after the USA’s dominating 4-1 victory over Norway in the Nordic Cup championship game while musing on team unity, the closing ceremony skits, and why there may be some reasons to like the German team after all.
Welcome to the last Manya’s Musings of 2005! It was a great trip, filled with all the fun little things we do to keep ourselves entertained. The trip came to an end as we defeated Germany in our final group game and claimed yet another Nordic Cup by beating Norway in the championship game. I was so proud of our team. We played games with style, dedication and pride and certainly represented our country well.
WE BROUGHT IT
Any game against Germany is going to feature 90-minutes of relentless battling. This game against the Germans was extra-special, because the winner would go on to the Nordic Cup championship game. If we tied, we were out! We had to win. We started off so well, I think Germany wanted hoist a white flag late in the first half, but we came to play and finished off the game like pros. If you want to read about what happened in the game, you can go to the match report on ussoccer.com, but I think what happens on the sideline is just as interesting. The reserves on the bench, goalkeeper Erika Bohn, defenders Jessica Maxwell and Mary Castelanelli, midfielder Sarah Huffman, forwards Megan Rapinoe and Amy Rodriguez, and I spent our time together screaming our heads off when someone laid down nasty tackle and holding onto each others’ arms and then jumping up and down when a wicked shot was taken and we saw it sail into the goal. (But encouraging our teammates is not all that happens on the bench. Commenting on the referees and the other team is a big responsibility that we take seriously). So, we stood in front of our bench yelling support to our teammates on the field:
“Lopez you look so hot right now.”
“Beuhler, you’re a beast.”
“Take her head off Cheney.”
Okay fine, these may not be the most appropriate comments, but “Go USA” can get a little boring after the first 25 times. After about twenty minutes of screaming while standing in front of the bench, the Swedish sideline referee turned around and yelled at us, “There is no standing on the side unless you are coaching a team.” We kind of half-sat down thinking she was joking. Then she turned around again and gave us the evil eye. She was not kidding around! Either she took that twenty minutes to translate what she wanted to say to us in English or she got sick of our antics. Either way, there was no stopping our cheering, even while seated.
TROPHIES AND BALLERINAS
We were excited to be playing in the Final against a great team and an energy-filled warm-up set the tone for the rest of the game. Despite being the smaller side, we won almost every head ball, and our back line was almost unbeatable. After figuring out Norway’s attacking style, we were able to neutralize their game and came out with a 4-1 victory. After the celebratory hugs and shaking hands with the Norwegians, we lined up behind our respective flags out on the field for the post-game ceremony. We stared in wonder as a ballerina dressed in white walked out on the field and knelt over a soccer ball. What was she doing? As music started to play, she gracefully came upright into a full stance. After doing a couple of dance moves, she was joined by a bunch of other ballerinas. Then all of a sudden even more came out! This time they were younger and had colorful outfits. Then even more came out! This time they were a bit older and had the same colorful outfits. I thought this was a Nordic Cup Final not front row seats for the Karlskoga Ballet. Confused as we were, we still clapped along to the music and enjoyed the show. Finally, the awards ceremony took place. We received our first place trophies and posed for some pictures. There’s nothing like being the center of attention! And on top of it all, we had just won the seventh consecutive Nordic Cup title for the United States.
MAGIC AND DANCE FEVER
The closing ceremony took place outside in the back of our hotel, complete with barbeque style food, entertainment from those same ballerinas, and of course some of our own entertainment. Every team was required to do a five-minute skit. Of course we didn’t plan one, but that didn’t matter. We thought back to our days on the U.S. U-19 team when we would we did skits all the time and quickly cooked up a few things. After laughing at the other countries’ skits, it was finally our turn to face the pressure and deliver. And deliver we did!
We decided to show the other teams a cool game. Kendall Fletcher explained the game while demonstrating on Heather O’Reilly. Kendall was going to press a Kroner (a Swedish dollar coin) on Heather’s forehead. Heather had to hit the back of her head until the Kroner came flying off. The hard part was that you had to catch the Kroner in your hands. Heather managed the trick on the third try. The audience politely clapped. I just think they thought us Americans were a little strange for wanting to hit ourselves in the back of the head. We then called up a volunteer from the audience to try it out. A reluctant English player came up and sat on stage. Kendall went to go press the Kroner on her forehead, but secretly slipped the coin into her other hand. Kendall pressed her thumb hard into the English player’s forehead. As she hit the back of her head and quickly brought her hands to the front to catch the Kroner, the audience erupted in laughter. The more she hit her head, the more we all laughed. (We are all so cruel!). Eventually the poor English girl figured it out, touched her forehead and felt nothing but skin. She jumped up and laughed at herself. Yes, we felt bad, but that’s the way it goes with our little tricks. The second part of our skit was demonstrating our dance game, called “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” We called up a volunteer from each country, asking for their best dancer, who joined our whole team. We explained the game to the volunteers. As everyone sang the beat of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (which is pretty easy to dance to) the leader of the game, Kendall, did one dance move that everyone had to mimic all the way down the line of girls, all the while keeping the beat. As soon as Kendall passed the dance move on, she would do another, so in an ideal world, everyone in the line is doing a different move. The sight of a well-done complete game can be pretty funny. Eventually the game ends because someone can’t keep up or forgets a move. That definitely happened in our case. The volunteers were clueless, especially when I tried to explain to the Danish girl next to me what to do. However, it was still fun to show off our dance moves. Finally, we performed the last part of our skit; a tribute to those who had a birthday during the two weeks of the trip. All the birthday celebrants from all countries came up on stage. I am sure you can never guess what happened next. Yes, we sang “Happy Birthday!” But how did we get wonderful music to sing to? Yes, famous keyboard virtuoso in-training Heather O’Reilly played the tune! We had proved our worth in entertainment and in soccer skills. We were crowned champions of the Nordic Cup and there was no doubt we also took the gold in Skit Performance.
YOU CRAZY GERMANS
Like I said before, any game against Germany is going to be a tough battle. That’s why it’s so hard to like the Germans off of the field. However, their carefree attitude and never-ending energy will make you laugh and you can’t help but smile and shake your head. The fact that they also had a karaoke machine might have been factor in why they were so much fun. The evening after the championship game, a German player came up to every one of our rooms while we were trying to pack (we left for the airport at 3 a.m. after the game for gosh sakes!) saying, “You sing. You dance?” Now how do you say no to that? The Germans and the Americans crowded into the conference room, bunched around a TV and a microphone, and screamed the words to different songs, both in English and German.
We got tired quickly and I retired to my room to finish packing. When 2:45 a.m. came around, my roommate Lindsay Tarpley and I dragged our bags to outside the lobby. Surprised to hear loud voices coming from the conference room, we looked to see that the Germans still dancing and singing their songs. We scrambled onto the bus anxious to get home. There is only so much of energetic Germans we can take.
THE MUSINGS, THE END
In the end, the trip was a great success. We had won our seventh consecutive Nordic Cup title, playing some great soccer and made some new friends. And yes, we had a lot of fun. Because after all, isn’t fun what soccer is all about?
I will be facing many of my U-21 teammates this fall during the college season, and while we’ll definitely hold nothing back while wearing our college colors, I know that after the games we will hug and share all the great memories we experienced over the past few years and this summer. Finally, thanks very much for reading about our trip to the Nordic Cup and supporting U.S. Women’s Soccer. All the players truly appreciate it!
I am all Mused out.