Nordic Cup 2005 â€“ Sweden
Well done, Jillian Ellis. No, not because youâ€™re one of the top womenâ€™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. Itâ€™s because you chose midfielder Manya Makoski to the 2005 Nordic Cup Team.
And that means more â€œManyaâ€™s Musings,â€ one of the most popular and well read ussoccer.com journals in U.S. U-21 Womenâ€™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 first entry, Makoski, a rising senior at Arizona State, checks in from New Jersey during the USAâ€™s short pre-trip training camp and from Sweden, where the U.S. team will try to win the top competition in the world for U-21 women for the seventh consecutive time.
Welcome back! After a whole year without Manyaâ€™s Musings, I secretly rejoiced when I was named to the 2005 Nordic Cup team as I knew that would not only give me the chance to win another Nordic Cup, but also to amuse the ussoccer.com readers once again with mishaps, quirks, and random comments from the U.S. Under-21 Womenâ€™s National Team. Read on as we embark on another journey through the Nordic Cup (we are going for our unprecedented seventh straight title!). Wish us luck!
KICKINâ€™ IT IN JERSEY
Our trip started off with a couple of training days from July 12-14, in Somerset, New Jersey. Many people think everything in the northeast is close together, but my one-hour flight from Hartford, Conn. into Newark Liberty, seemed to take forever. Connecticut is big state! (Well, it is to me. I have to represent for my home state at least once, so Iâ€™m glad we got that out of the way early). After walking out to the curb from baggage claim to get picked up, I met our massage therapist, Heather West, from South Carolina. Hoping for a â€œbonus massageâ€ later on in the trip, I tried to make her feel comfortable during her first trip with a Womenâ€™s National Soccer Team by being extra friendly. (Note to Heather: I really am a nice person, even when I am not looking for a â€œbonus massage.â€)
At our first training we did a quick partner warm-up and then amused ourselves (or should I say the coaches) with a couple of games of soccer tennis. Even though my team lost both games, I am proud to say we played with a lot of heart. Thatâ€™s all that matters in soccer tennis, right? On Wednesday, we played the undefeated USL W-League New Jersey Wildcats. It was fun to see the players, the coaches, and staff again as I played for them last year, but it was a little weird playing for the other side. Not that playing for your country is weird or anything, I am just sayingâ€¦oh never mind.
A majority of the first half was evenly played until a breakaway-type goal by forward Lindsay Tarpley gave us a 1-0 lead. I went into the second half as right outside midfield, playing against Kacey White, one of my friends in the U-21 pool. Our second goal came off a rocket of a shot by midfielder Lori Chalupny (a.k.a. Chalupa) into the upper left corner. Wildcats goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, who plays for Canadaâ€™s senior team, was able to get a hand on the shot, but the blast was just too good to be kept out of the net. Later on in the game, I had THE greatest chance to score after following up a shot from forward Heather Oâ€™Reilly near the top of the box. Heatherâ€™s shot pounded off the crossbar and I came flying in to head it. If only I was a couple of inches taller (and granted I do have some pretty good â€œhopsâ€), the ball would have been in the back of the net. â€œJust my luckâ€ is all this short person has to say. The Wildcats were able to put on one the board late in the second half by U-21 pool member Kelly Hammond, but we came out victorious, sending us to Sweden on a positive note.
There was one downer from the game, though, as forward Kelly Schmedes hurt her ankle after going into the game for just a couple of minutes and had to be scratched from the roster for the Nordic Cup. Kelly is nicest girl you will ever meet, and former teammate on the U-19 world championship team, and it was just hard to see her in so much pain. We miss you Kel and wish you could be with us here in Sweden! Keep icing that puppy and make your new husband bring you stuff.
BBQ AND BOARD GAMES
That evening of the game against the Wildcats, the Oâ€™Reilly family, who hail from East Brunswick, N.J., were kind enough to invite us to their home for a team BBQ. It started off as a lazy evening as a bunch of the players sat around throwing a NERF football from our chairs while listening to Heather play the only song she knows on her new keyboard, â€œWhen the Saints Go Marching In.â€ Hopefully, she will learn some new songs in Sweden.
Initially I stayed out of the exciting game of catch (seeing a football brings back bittersweet memories of getting kicked out of my high school Powder Puff game for clothes-lining a girl. Hey, no one told me you couldnâ€™t tackle!). However, after a couple of throws, I was showing off my sweet left-armed spiral. The game ended due to a bad pass that landed just in front of Heatherâ€™s tied up pet dog, a Cock-a-poo named Sugar. Either we were too lazy to get out of our chairs, or we felt bad for Sugar, who was yapping and watching the football as we threw it around. So we let her have the ball.
As soon as the food was brought out, we all sprang up to get in line. Itâ€™s funny what the sight of food will do to a bunch of soccer players who previously looked super-glued to their chairs. After dinner we ate Heatherâ€™s amazing Oreo dessert and ice cream cake while watching Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France. Go Lance! Our evening concluded with a game of Catchphrase, where you have to guess the words your teammates are describing while a timer ticks away. It is high pressure! You are not allowed say any part of the word, point to anything, or say what it rhymes with. It was so funny to see everyoneâ€™s expressions while describing the words. I think defender Kendall Fletcher, who was sitting next to me, was a bit confused or something because she had a little trouble understanding her words, never mind describing them. Our coach Jill Ellis was sitting next to me on the other side and I was surprised to see that she did well at this game. Usually people from England are a little slow.
OFF TO SWEDEN
After a sleepless (at least for meâ€¦I hate airplanes!) seven hour and 10-minute flight from Newark to Stockholm, we took a three-hour bus ride northwest to Karlstad, where we are staying for the rest of entire tournament. Defender Jill Oakes and I sat in the front on the second level of the double-decker bus and reminisced about being on the U-19s together (and our world championship win!) and predicting our futures after college. Weâ€™ve grown up so much!! (Sniffâ€¦sniffâ€¦tearâ€¦) After getting to Karlstad, my roommate Lindsay Tarpley and I were shocked to see how small our hotel room was. Welcome to Europe! Tarp and I looked at each other as we contemplated a new set up. The room looks like it was definitely made for a one-person as the two cot-like beds took up almost the entire floor space. Not only was the room small, there was no AC! Can I complain a little bit more?! Okay, one good thing is the food. The thought of being in another county for two weeks and eating something that you canâ€™t even name could get nauseating, However, the array of normal, U.S.-type food was very satisfying.
Random fact of the day: Massage therapist Heather West and I decided that the classic American â€œUmmmmâ€¦â€ is translated in Europe as â€œEhhhhhâ€¦â€
HIT THE GROUND RUNNING, KIND OF
Training has been good so far although the first session on Friday, July 15 was a bit tough as I trying to get my sleep-deprived body into â€œfull-speed-ahead mode.â€ What might have woken up my body was the fact that the bus had to drive us from the locker room to the field, which was about 30-40 yards away. Is that funny or was I just delirious? Our second session was going to be on Saturday morning, July 16, but our bus driver slept in and was going to be an hour late so Jill Ellis told us that we had to run across the highway to the fields on the other side to train, kind of like Frogger. What? She was just kidding! Our translator led us to a tunnel that goes under the highway. Our third training session was back on our regular training field, where we warmed up with the â€œOlympics,â€ a bunch of rely races within three-player teams. The winners would get movie tickets to the showing of â€œWedding Crashersâ€ down the street from our hotel. And yes it would be in English! Jill Oakes, Chalupa, and I ended up tying with Carli Lloyd, Jessica Maxwell, and Mary Castelanelliâ€™s team, but we were the real winners because our â€œStar Jumpsâ€ were better than theirs.
Oâ€™REILLY ON THE IVORY
Saturday was Carliâ€™s 23rd birthday. I can relate because I have spent my 19th and 20th birthdays while training with the U-21s. We celebrated with ice cream cake and two rounds of â€œHappy Birthday.â€ Heatherâ€™s version on her keyboard was no doubt the moment of the night. I knew she would learn some new songs! We tried to hold back our laughter as she messed up towards the end, but we were able to get out a round of singing while Heather played yet again.
All in all it has been a great trip so far, but we are excited and ready to play. Our first game is Wednesday, July 20, against Iceland. The full team is playing Iceland in Los Angeles next Sunday, July 24, so we are going to have to do our part in this cross-Atlantic, two-leg, different age-group series.
Hope you enjoyed reading this first edition of Manyaâ€™s Musings â€˜05. Keeping checking back on usssoccer.com to read more of the adventures of the U.S. U-21 women as we battle to win our 7th consecutive Nordic Cup title.
Bye for now,