I. Gearin’ up
Today we trained inside the Stade Gerland, which was phenomenal (I didn’t even come close to spelling that right the first time). The field was like carpet, nice and soft - perfect for a soccer game. The stadium is fully enclosed, and holds about 35 to 40 G's I would say. The stadium hosted World cup games back in ’98, so you know it’s nice. We rolled up about fifteen minutes early to the stadium, so we had to wait for Colombia, who were preparing for the tourney opener against France, to finish. A few of the guys hopped out of the bus and did some head juggling and messing around. For training, we did our normal warm up and then got into a possession game that stretched from mid-field to the 18-yard box. At first, you just had to cross the endline with possession in order to score, and later each side had small goals to defend. After that we opened it up to a full field for about ten minutes. But nothing too difficult, as we are toning it down a bit because the game is approaching. We were on our own for about 15 minutes before they rushed us off the field.
II. Cross Colors/Counter Culture
I’m gonna talk a little bit about the food here in France, which is the only time you can use the word ‘little’ on this subject. Can you say ‘home town buffet?’ There is so much food on these tables it’s ridiculous. On the first table is the salad leaves. To go along with that, they have fresh sliced tomatoes, corn, feta cheese, olives, hummus, and some kind of mystery cold slaw I stay away from. That, and like four different dressings. My favorite is a version of Italian. It goes with everything on the tables. You’ve got carrot salad, ham, pickled peppers, olive salad, garbanzo beans - everything you could ask for or imagine. On another tray they put out cold chicken and lamb, plus every cheese you have ever heard of – and many you haven’t. Lots of breads, with a variety of jellies, and even peanut butter if you ask. Of course, they have lots of fresh fruit and it’s some of the best I’ve ever tasted. I really dig the watermelon. On the other table they have a pasta dish of some sort everyday, a different meat, and some kind of a potato, either mashed or little wedges. There are steamed vegetables, and sauces for the pasta and the meats. People get very creative with the meals. Somehow everyday Chris Klein ends up making a sandwich out of something. He’s kind of like the MacGyver of sandwiches; he can make one out of gum and a thumbtack. Today, a few of the guys thought it would be funny to sling grapes and little carrots at other tables, using their spoons as catapults. I won’t say any names - TAYLOR TWELLMAN. Oh, I almost forgot. They have pastries of some sort or cakes for all the fat kids to snack on for dessert. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you all about our breakfast set up, which is my favorite of all the meals, by far.
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 talked to Eddie Lewis and Greg Vanney, two guys who are used to being in Europe playing with their clubs in England and France, respectively. Lewis is a UCLA alum, like myself, but his team wasn't as good our '97 team. The Cerritos, Calif. native plays for North End, is married to Marisol and has a two-year-old girl named Giselle. Vanney is another UCLA alum and hails from Tempe, Ariz, but currently plays for FC Bastia in the French First Division.
What's your favorite thing to do outside of soccer?
Lewis: "I like to get home and surf the net or read. But, what I enjoy the most is spending time and playing with my daughter."
Vanney: "I like to go down to the beach with my wife and my dog. Sometimes we take the ferry over to Italy, which is about a 3-hour ride. When I was in L.A., it was mainly working around the house and golfing."
For you, what are the biggest pros and cons of playing in Europe?
Lewis: "The best part is definitely the soccer. The stuff around it – the media, the crowds, the stadium – is the best part, along with the high level of play. The downsides are probably the weather and not having as many family and friends around. But the positives do outweigh the negatives."
Vanney: "The professionalism, the competition, the players, the stadium and the overall atmosphere is really great. The schedule is great too, because you only play one team twice. So you get to play a lot of different types of players. There really aren’t many cons of playing in Europe, but there are some difficulties living, with the biggest one being the language barrier. The conveniences we are used to in the U.S. aren’t there either – such as grocery stores aren’t open past 7 p.m."
What are your biggest pet peeves? What really pushes your buttons?
Lewis: "I’m pretty punctual, so I really don’t like when people are late."
Vanney: "I hate going into restaurants where people are smoking away. Which is ironic because that’s all people do in Europe is smoke."
What superhero would you compare yourself to and why?
Lewis: "I don’t know if I see myself similar to any superhero, but I’ve always liked Mighty Mouse because he could always overcome anything even though he was so tiny. I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog."
Vanney: "I think the Hulk because generally I think I’m a nice guy, but when I get irritated I can become a little bit vicious."
IV. Quote of the Day
"Pierre and can't do don't go together in the same sentence," U.S. MNT strength and conditioning coach right before he failed his attempt at the "atomic sit-up."
If you have questions or comments, or anything else you would like to be let in on, I would love to hear all about it. Send an e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Until then, I am gonna go fall asleep to German MTV. Later …