Every so often when a U.S. Women’s National Team plays out of the country, a player will write an e-postcard, filling in the fans back home on the happenings of the team, off-field activities, and anything else on their mind. Today, 18-year-old midfielder Sheree Gray checks in from Phuket, Thailand, where the USA is preparing to finish Group C play on Thursday, Nov. 18, against reigning European champion Spain (5 p.m. local / 5 a.m. ET) at the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship 2004. Gray, whose parents where both born in Kingston, Jamaica, has terrorized the USA’s first two opponents with her speed down the right wing and played a part in all three goals in the USA’s opening game win over South Korea. Today, the Penn State-bound flank midfielder shares her thoughts on the USA’s first two games, hungry monkeys and her lyrical prowess.
So far, so good from Thailand for the U.S. U-19s. We have played twice and come away with two good wins, but not without a tough fight from both South Korea and Russia. I know I can speak for the whole team when I say we were a bit overwhelmed to walk out onto the field before the first game and see the thousands of kids all dressed in their colorful school uniforms. We did struggle a bit in the first few minutes, but once we found the game, it was just so much fun. Hearing the crowd scream and feeling the drums of the crazy Korean fans that cheered for their team non-stop just made the experience even more exciting.
We were up 2-0 in the second half and we really needed a goal to put the game away. Believe it or not, I scored it. I think I was super excited because it was my first goal in any kind of tournament for the U-19s. I almost missed it because I saw the ball coming across the goal and got way too excited and kind of lost concentration. It hit the roof of the net but, luckily, I was so close that it looked like a great goal. If I was five yards further back, it might have gone over.
The Russia game was a lot more physical than the game against the Koreans. I got hit in the face and scratched on my chest by number seven. She bloodied my lip. I did not appreciate that. In the days before the game, she kind of smiled at me and we said, “Hi,” in the hallways of the hotel. She was actually one of the more friendly Russians. Well, I thought we were friends, but I guess not. One bad part of the game happened when I tried to block the shot on their goal, and it hit off my foot and skidded past Ashlyn Harris. I hate when that happens. Luckily, Jessica Rostedt was pretty much unstoppable during the game. She scored two goals and had great celebrations after each. On the second one, she grabbed the bottom of her shirt and it looked she was going to pull it over her head! Our coaches had strictly warned us not to do anything like that or we would get a yellow card. Luckily, she was just pointing to her number and didn’t pull it up.
Today (Monday) we got the day off from training and took a wonderful trip to the small Phi Phi Island, which is off the Eastern coast of Phuket, the biggest island in Thailand where we are based for the first round of games. The speedboat trip was amazing and beautiful, but it did not do good things to my hair. When I got off the boat, I looked like a baby lion. We cruised by one small island and saw a bunch of small monkeys who seemed excited to see us, or maybe just excited about the bananas we threw on shore for them. We also stopped in a couple of spots where we saw some bright, colorful fish and our guides gave us some bread to feed them. Amy Rodriguez threw them an Oreo cookie, which I don’t think she was supposed to do, but I will tell you this: Thai tropical fish love Oreo cookies.
My roommate Yael Averbuch and I are having a great time on this trip. In the last few days, we have taken to playing a singing game, where we wait for someone to say something then we take the last word and make up a rhyming song with it. For example, someone will say something like, “This boat trip is so fun,” and we immediately start to sing, “Fun as in sun…as in bun…as in nun,” and then to end it we make up a word: “...as in bluuuuuun.” Okay, it may not seem funny in my postcard, but trust me, we have hours of laughs with our singing game. You should try it sometime.
We feel great about taking care of business in our first two games and qualifying for the quarterfinals, but we know we still have work to do in the group. We play Spain on Thursday, and we know it will probably be the toughest game so far, because Spain is playing to stay in the tournament. Our team loves a challenge though, and we like playing good teams, so the match against the European champions is something we are all looking forward to.
Well, thanks for reading my Postcard and for cheering on the U-19s from the States!
P.S.: I have to give a shout out to my Reggae Boyz against the USA this Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio. I love the U.S. men’s team, but they are already through to the next round. I need Jamaica to make it or my dad will be really depressed.