VICTORIA, B.C., Canada (Tuesday, August 13, 2002) - The U.S. Under-19 Women's National Team arrived in Victoria, British Columbia yesterday to set up camp in preparation for its first match in the 2002 FIFA Under-19 Women's World Championship against England on Saturday. The U.S. team left Portland, Oregon, by bus at 10 a.m. on Monday morning for a leisurely 5-hour drive through the lush greenery that is Oregon and Washington before arriving at Port Angeles on the northwestern tip of Washington state. There, the USA waited for the ferry that would take them across the Straight of Juan de Fuca and into Victoria Harbour. The U.S. team watched two movies on the drive. The first was "Hardball," staring Keanu Reeves as a compulsive gambler who resurrects himself through coaching an inner-city baseball team on the south side of Chicago (there was not a dry eye on the bus when the credits rolled). The second half the double-feature was "The Thing That You Do," a lesser-known Tom Hanks classic about the rise and fall of a "one-hit wonder" rock-and-roll band from Erie, Pa. The Americans made one stop for food, spending 45 minutes in Sequim (pronounced sqym), Washington, to gorge on Subway sandwiches and Dairy Queen treats before arriving early at dock in Port Angeles. With some time to kill before the arrival of the ferry, the U.S. players played catch with a small plastic football, with several players showing impressive ability to sling the (plastic) pig skin as well as the speed and strength to play bump-and-run coverage, competed in word games (assistant coach David Smith apparently could not get the hang of it), talked on their cell phones, read books and relaxed in the sunshine.
ALL ABOARD THE COHO: As the ferry docked, the U.S. players re-boarded the bus which, along with at least 100 other cars, trucks, buses and RVs, drove straight onto the ferry, named the Coho, for the 83-minute cruise to Victoria. Some players got a bit queasy on the ride over and choose to relax in one of the ship's many lounges. Others walked around the ship, got snacks at a café in the stern and played hide-and-go-seek, a game at which defender Kendall Fletcher proved lacking in both hiding (they found her in a minute) and seeking (she was looking for Megan Rivera for 20 minutes after everyone else had found her). As the Coho docked in Victoria, the U.S. bus rolled onto Canadian soil, breezed through customs and was at the team hotel, which sits just a few blocks from the Harbour, in about 10 minutes, perhaps setting a U.S. Women's National Team record for least time to the hotel after arriving in a foreign country. The highlight of the trip for the players may have been when they realized that most of their cell phones did in fact work in Victoria. The lowlight was when they were told about the roaming charges.
STROLLING THE HARBOUR: After dinner on Monday night, the U.S. team took a walk around the Inner Harbour, where the city of Victoria was born. Surrounded by museums, shops and restaurants, the wharf area, which is packed with ships large and small, is alive with people, merchants and street performers, several of whom entertained the U.S. team. It was easy to see why Victoria has become one of the top-10 tourists destinations in the world as the area has managed to maintain it's "old-world" charm despite all the visitors. The U.S. team enjoyed the work of a street magician, a folk singer and a reggae singer, but quickly passed by a man in full white makeup playing an accordion that U.S. forward Heather O'Reilly described as "a scary mime."
FIRST TRAININGS IN VICTORIA: The U.S. team practiced for the first time in Victoria on Tuesday, running through a morning and afternoon sessions at Juan de Fuca Recreation Center, a beautiful complex set among soaring pine trees that features three manicured soccer fields, a cycling oval, an outdoor hockey rink, a lawn bowling area, baseball fields and par-3 golf course. The afternoon session was devoted entirely to finishing as the U.S. team fired hundreds of shots at goalkeepers Ashlyn Harris and Megan Rivera, who both got a solid workout. The U.S. team was treated to a real-time episode of National Geographic as perched atop one of the tall light polls was a massive Osprey nest. The two birds, with six-foot wingspans, soared to and from the nest, and one point, the mother flew over the U.S. practice field with a large fish in her beak to feed her hungry chicks.
BEARS FOR EVERYONE: U.S. defender Jessica Ballweg gets a stuffed Teddy Bear from her mom Joan every time she leaves for a national team event. Considering Ballweg has been with the U-19s for two years and also played with the U.S. Under-16 National Team, that adds up to a lot of bears. Mrs. Ballweg topped herself this time however, sending to the team hotel in Victoria a large box of small Teddy Bears, one for each U.S. players, all clothed in knitted USA sweaters, to wish the team good luck in the World Championship.
FOLLOW THE U.S. U-19s LIVE ON MATCHTRACKER PRESENTED BY PHILIPS ELECTRONICS: Fans can follow all the U.S. matches in the 2002 FIFA Women's World Championship live on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics. The USA will open the tournament on Saturday, Aug. 17, against England at 1 p.m. PT. That is also the first match of the tournament. The USA will face Australia in its second opening round game on Monday, Aug. 19 at 7:15 p.m. PT and finish Group C play on Wednesday, Aug. 21 against Chinese Taipei (a.k.a. Taiwan) at 7:15 p.m. PT. All of the USA's first round matches will be played at the 6,000-seat Centennial Stadium in Victoria, B.C. There will also be a special section on ussoccer.com devoted to the U-19 World Championship where fans will be able to get bios of the U.S. players, press releases, notes and standings from the tournament.
STAT OF NOTE: The first 2002 FIFA Under-19 Women's World Championship is a 26-game tournament that will feature 18 first round matches (six in each of the three groups), with the knockouts stages consisting of four quarterfinals, semis, a third-place match and the championship game, which will be played on Sept. 1 in Edmonton.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
U.S. captain Lindsay Tarpley on USA's mindset in the final week before their first match of the World Championship:
"We're very confident. You can feel it on this team. We know we've done our work. We've talked about this for two years now, so everyone is mentally prepared and I think we are peaking at the right time."