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U.S. U-19 WNT Prep for First Game, Experience a Taste of Thai Culture

Monday, November 8, 2004
U.S. Under-19 Women’s National Team
Notes from Phuket, Thailand

COUNTDOWN TO OPENING MATCH BEGINS FOR U.S. U-19 WOMEN: The U.S. Under-19 National Team began game week with a spirited afternoon training session on Monday that featured some possession in tight space, a few long balls and then a half-field scrimmage. The scrimmage ended dramatically on a picture-perfect header from forward Jessica Rostedt, who met a far post cross and lofted a delicate shot over the ‘keeper and into the far corner.  The USA opens the U-19 FIFA World Championship 2004 on Thursday, Nov. 11 at 5 p.m. local (5 a.m. ET) against Asian champions South Korea.  It will mark the first-ever meeting with the Koreans for the U.S. U-19s.  The U.S. team had last Sunday off after having two trainings on Saturday, the first being a light and quick one-hour session at 8 a.m. (set in the morning to help the USA players adapt to the Thailand time zone). The afternoon training featured a high-quality 60-minute scrimmage despite a pitch made soggy by the evening rains that seem to soak Phuket almost every night.  The U.S. team opens Group C play the day after Groups A and B, which play in Bangkok and Chiang Mai on Nov. 10.  Host Thailand has a huge challenge in the opening match of the tournament, taking on title favorite Germany.  On Thursday, the Americans will play the first match of the evening at Sarakul Stadium, followed by Russia vs. European champion Spain.  Following is the schedule for the first round of group play:

Date                   Match                             Local Time ET (City)                        Venue
Wed., Nov. 10   Thailand vs. Germany  5 p.m. 5 a.m. (Bangkok)                  Rachamangala Stadium
Wed., Nov. 10   Australia vs. Canada   7:45 p.m. 7:45 a.m. (Bangkok)       Rachamangala Stadium
Wed., Nov. 10   Nigeria vs. China PR   5 p.m. 5 a.m. (Chiang Mai)             700th Anniversary Stadium
Wed., Nov. 10   Italy vs. Brazil                7:45 p.m. 7:45 a.m. (Chiang Mai)  700th Anniversary Stadium
Thurs., Nov. 11  Korea Rep. vs. USA    5 p.m. 5 a.m. (Phuket)                     Sarakul Stadium
Thurs., Nov. 11  Russia vs. Spain          7:45 p.m. 7:45 a.m. (Phuket)          Sarakul Stadium

FIRST 11 QUESTIONS WITH ALEXA ORAND: U.S. Under-19 Midfielder Alexa Orand, a junior at El Modena High School in Orange, Calif., is the youngest player on the world championship squad at 17.  She took some time out from homework, e-mailing her mom and munching on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to answer a few questions for Link

FROM AUSTIN TO PASADENA TO PHUKET: U.S. Under-19 Women’s National midfielder Stephanie Logterman is in Phuket, Thailand, with her teammates preparing to open the 2004 FIFA Under-19 Women’s World Championship on Nov. 11 against Asian champions South Korea. It has been a long journey for the 18-year-old Austin, Texas, native, with one life-changing stop at the Rose Bowl for the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final. Link

LOTS OF BHAT: Although Sunday was an off day from training, the U.S. players kept busy with shopping excursions assisted by their local Thai translator known as Gong, who speaks little English but somehow has had little trouble communicating with the U.S. players as to where the best deals are to be found.  Several players journeyed a short walking distance while others bravely took a short cab ride as seven piled into a Sawngthaew, a sort of mini truck-like covered taxi with rows of seats on both sides of the bed.  Cab fare for the seven? Two dollars American.  That morning, the players had their passports and birth certificates checked with the FIFA venue coordinator, and received their $100 per diem, which transferred into about 4000 Thai baht, a virtual shopping fortune in Thailand where prices for goods are cheap, and even cheaper if you are willing to bargain. Sheree Gray and Megan Rapinoe bought small drums (proving quite musical as they “jammed” together later that afternoon), while others purchased sandals and t-shirts.  The most popular item, however, were leather and woven bracelets as each U.S. player seemed to be sporting some sort of local wrist accessory.  While most players have done quite a bit of perusing through the local shops and markets, midfielder Jen Redmond has not caught the shopping bug.  Instead, she has spent most of the past two days relaxing in her room watching her favorite movie, “Sleepless in Seattle,” as well as tons of “Friends” episodes.

LOCAL FLAVOR: In the afternoon on Sunday, the U.S. players got a special treat as the entire team enjoyed a unique cultural experience, going to the home of a local woman who gives Thai cooking classes to foreigners.   In groups of threes and fours in a large kitchen that looked somewhat similar to a high school chemistry classroom with eight cooking stations, the U.S. team prepared four Thai dishes in large woks.  While some U.S. players showed more aptitude for cooking than others, in the end, the dishes came out tasty.  The U.S. team prepared four dishes: Poh Pjah Thod (Spring Rolls), Kaeng Khjao Wan Kai (Chicken with Green Curry) Pad Thai Kung Sod (Fried Noodles) and Pad Pk Roun (a mixed vegetable dish).  After enjoying a fine meal of those dishes along with steamed rice, the players were served Kloy Blood Shee (Bananas in coconut milk) for desert.

ACCIDENTAL TRANSLATION: The local organizers have graciously and conveniently provided four computers with high-speed Internet access in the room where the U.S. team has its meetings and meals. The four seats seem to be full of U.S. players the entire day, with a line waiting to use the makeshift internet café.  Forward Kerri Hanks was typing an email to her mom at the same time she was sending her instant messages, and inadvertently pressed a button that somehow translated her entire e-mail into Thai.  Perturbed at not being able to change it back, she didn’t realize that the messages she was sending to her mom were also being translated into Thai.  Unable to communicate with her mom in English, and unable to change it back, Hanks signed off and went to the pay phones in the hotel to call her mom in Allen, Texas.  

ANKLE DEEP: Right after training, the U.S. players have been taking dips to rejuvenate their legs in the amazingly warm waters of the Andaman Sea right next to the hotel.  For goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, a former aspiring pro surfer, the practice has been a bit disconcerting due to a “close encounter” with a shark at the Sebastian Inlet in her home state of Florida.  While surfing breaks at the opening of a channel where two water sources meet to form some tasty waves, Harris was paddling out when a six-foot beast (probably a Tiger shark) surfaced right in front of her.  Harris quickly pulled her arms and legs out of the water and teetered perilously on her board for what seemed like forever (but in reality was about 45 seconds) before paddling like crazy back to the boat where her boyfriend yanked her out of the water.  Harris, who sold her surfboard soon after, had not been back in the water in six months before joining her teammates for their post-practice soaks, and is only slightly placated by the fact that there are no sharks off Kata Beach in Phuket.  Still, she is only going in up to her thighs in the clear water where she can see anything coming at her.  “For me, the beach is now for laying out,” said Harris, who is now an aspiring skim-boarder, which takes her into two inches of water before she scampers back to the shore.

MASCOT MYSTERY SOLVED: On Monday, the U.S. players learned the name of the official mascot for the FIFA U-19 Women’s World Championship 2004.  The soccer-playing female elephant who has a bow on her head and big, curly eyelashes is named Chang.  Working elephants played a huge part in Thai culture until severe cutbacks on the logging industry put many out of work.  Now, many of those elephants are having much easier lives, giving rides to tourists and providing excellent transportation on jungle tours.  

Quote of the Day:

U.S. defender Meagan Holmes, who may have put just a tad too much brown sugar in her Pad Thai noodles at the USA’s Thai cooking class:

“Do any of you guys’ noodles taste like candy?”