Thursday, July 14, 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen... we are on to the Finals!
Leaving the R.V. park was not a difficult task, we filled our tank (don't ask) and revved up the McRent and headed for MGB. We ended up getting to the stadium early and sat in the cozy R.V. while the wind and the rain settled in. Watching from our windows as the fans strolled in, it was tough to decide which way the crowd would sway. We would see a stream of French flags and blue jerseys and we'd get a bit nervous. The next batch of World Cup groupies would be all USA! There were also plenty of fans from the other World Cup countries that were still sporting their country's jerseys and headed to the game to watch the women's best!
We have completely run out of white face paint, our red is waning and looks a bit pinkish. Our decor has taken a turn for the worse, but not our enthusiasm. Nicholas painted "Solo" on each of our cheeks, with "100" on the other to represent her 100th cap! Congrats Hope....such a great accomplishment.
Borussia-Park in Monchengladbach isn't as "covered" as the other stadiums we've been to and in Row 4 we were right in the "drip line". Seeing as both Amy and Lesle have this exact same set up at Husky Stadium it wasn't a problem. Home sweet home.
The game couldn't have started better...an early goal on a great ball from Hea'O to Lauren Cheney and we're all feeling great. We were ultra-impressed with Becky Sauerbrunn's confidence; first ever World Cup game and it's the semi-final! The game definitely took a turn and the French were outplaying us...hands down. Our possession was poor, the French attack was giving our defenders fits and Hope was called upon to make a few saves. The second half started much like the first ended..big MO swingin' France's way, to the point that they tied the game up early in the second half and it was fingernail biting time yet again. This game did not have a great feel. Enter familiar U-Dub Husky foes: Portland Pilot Megan Rapinoe and Cal Bear Alex Morgan. As is the American way...game on when our backs are against the wall.
Like money, Abby Wambach with a ridiculous backpost header: GOAL! U.S. starts playing more direct, clearly with direction to get the ball over the top or through to Alex Morgan. It worked; she broke clean several times and was rewarded for her efforts with a great goal from the left side, cheekily popping it over the keeper. 3-1: Phew! Into the final.
Hope looked a little "different" after the game. Clearly pumped about being in the final, but maybe bummed about no shut-out and not her "cleanest" game. Great thing about soccer, it's never about one person and in a tournament like the World Cup, each game brings different heroes! She even mentioned on her FB page: "Thanks to my defenders for having my back today." Clearly they had her back for a reason, she has theirs too. Love team sports.
Much has been made about the "benching" of Megan Rapinoe in lieu of Lauren Cheney before the WC kicked off. Quote of the day yesterday from Abby Wambach regarding Megan Rapinoe's great performance in the semi-final: "Pinoe isn't sitting on the bench pouting, she's planning!" I LOVE THAT QUOTE.
This team has a great vibe and they are finally "coming into their own". We haven't been hearing the ESPN broadcasts but have read a lot of commentary on the commentary. Hopefully THIS team, THIS 2011 USWNT will get their due praise and the torch will officially have been passed.
First they must earn it...with the "Brazil" hangover further in the past the U.S. must focus on beating an extremely formidable Japanese opponent. We cannot be fooled by their cuteness, their petite size, their polite habit of bowing in respect. They are tough, disciplined, skillful, and intelligent. They beat Germany. They have the sympathy and empathy of the world post-tsunami and they are on as big a mission as we are; this final is going to be a doozy and we are pumped to see it in person.
Post-France victory Lesle's cell phone rang...Erica Walsh, U.S. Assistant and Penn State Head Coach, calling to hitch a ride to Dusseldorf so that their staff, Marcia McDermott, Hege Riise, and she could catch the bulk of the other semi-final back at their hotel. Well they were in luck! The U.S. Soccer entourage wasn't leaving the stadium anytime soon, and better than a police escort is Amy Griffin at the wheel of McRent! "Boys! Get to the back. Make room for the U.S. Soccer staff...and please keep your game analysis and whom should be playing instead of whom comments to yourselves." Hello Marcia, Erica and Hege. Congrats on your semi-final victory...Amy, let's roll. Lesle served them congratulatory beers and off we went on the Autobahn in the R.V. You think beating Brazil in penalty kicks and beating France to get into the WC final is a thrill; well trying riding in a RV at 120km/hr down the Autobahn for the first time...nothin' like it! So fun to visit with them briefly post-game, hear their take and "pinky swear" that what's said in the RV stays in the RV.
Three days to prep. One night at the Courtyard Marriott helps us prepare, two more nights of camping, then our trusty RV is returned and we go into the U.S. Soccer family hotel in Frankfurt for pre-game night and hopefully WC Championship celebration night before heading back to Seattle.
Thanks for reading.....we have been so blessed to be on this trip, and it's been fun to share it will all of you. Stay tuned.....just a little game on Sunday left..stay tuned!
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