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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bring that Trophy back HOME!

I think it’s fair to say, if we are still celebrating the Women’s World Cup Championship, then it’s not too late to write the final chapter.   What a month it was!

The moving puzzle pieces always seemed to fit no matter the guest, the host, the venue, the count, or the mode of transportation.  Meeting places, parking places, sleeping places and fan appreciation places were all discussed and re-hashed over and over, but the momentum of the World Cup threw all the planning, or lack thereof, out the window and made for a surprisingly smooth final.  Let's add to the fact that we added 4 more house guests:  Brian Adler, Cisco Giron, Carol and Terryn Dyche AND decided to attend a Sounders Game the night of July 3rd and reserved a table at The Lodge for a group of 20.
Brian, Cicso and Team Griffin Go Sounders!
Before we crossed the border we were invited to a 4th of July shindig headed up by former US Teammate, Cal Bear and ’91 World Champ Mary Harvey on beautiful Lake Samish hosted by Sandy Hunt; one of the best referees to ever set foot on the pitch.
Parts or all of Aspegren, Hipps, Thomas, Meyer, Roth, Gallimore, Harvey Families

We watched the 3rd place match outdoors on a big screen, dined on ridiculous salmon and other fare and of course hollered at Sandy and her referee buddies after every call!  You can tell she is rarely allowed to enjoy a game if anyone else is in the room because she was prepped and ready.  Only thing missing was a whistle around her neck.

JT, Mary, Lesle, Sandy, Booty :) 
 “What do you think? No way!!!  Would you have called that?!”   Before the interrogation began Sandy was already prepped with her answer and response!  "They are never going to call that in a 3rd place game." or "Watch when they show the is clearly onside." and ... she was, of course, correct!

Flipping a coin as to which border crossing to hit we flew into Canada in record time; with one last ditch effort to try to organize the unorganizable.

“We’ll park the R.V. and then take a bus…” “Well, we are staying in the dorms with Cisco, Brian, the Roths, the Stewarts, and their friends and families… so we will bus in and then….”  “How about if the RV drives to the dorms.. and then we hook up with the ….”  “My friend from Japan wants to meet  near the stadium…” “Anyone want to tackle the Fan Zone?”  
Finally, it came down to the smart people.  “We are staying at the Sandman… it’s a block from the stadium.  See you there pre-and post match. "  Roger that.

The prefunc’ included painted faces, painted nails, listening to “USA!, USA!, USA” every so often as fans traipsed through the streets of Vancouver getting ready for the match. 
The armchair quarterback in all of us (admit it) around Team
 USA had already been hashed and re-hashed.  The semi final that silenced the Germans also silenced the naysayers. This allowed nothing to discuss other than how excited every person we bumped into was excited for kickoff time.   I’m not sure if the fans were 100% confident or all of us had absorbed the enormity of the experience;  we were at a World Cup Final.    Our friend, J.T., got a little teary-eyed as she realized how special it was that all of us old soccer hags actually had our tweeners in attendance! So very, very cool!  Truly, once in a lifetime.  
Our friend Katharin Roth would just begin crying afterwards and STILL hasn't stopped... sitting at home in Utah now watching and re-watching the interviews, the parade and reading articles. What an awesome event to attend.  As a fan, there really is nothing like it.. especially when your team is going to walk out of the tunnel when that FIFA anthem begins.
Sarah, Kate and Lauren to the rescue: photobomber: JACK
Walking thru Vancouver, excitement rose to a crescendo as the clock ticked.  A sea of Red, White and Blue; including a small contingency of Japanese fans, were the only people near the jam packed stadium.  The casual tourist could not be found.  If there was someone dressed as a pedestrian, I missed her as it looked as if only soccer fans were allowed into the city.  

Not sure who the Canadians were disguised as, but to be fair, they were outstanding fans and hosts the entire month.  This wasn't just ANY match we were marching to, it was the rematch of the 2011 WWC shere the USA dominated the first 15 minutes but allowed Japan to pluck the gold medal out of our grip,  because for the first 45 we couldn't finish our chances.  (SEE GERMANY ' 11 Blog!) 

We were there nice and early to watch warm ups, purchase one more bag of mini donuts from the stadium and get our game faces on.  Settling down, we saw red white and blue... and freedom.  You may think I am talking about our national anthem, and the freedom we exercise every day.  But nope, I am talking about the freedom Carli Lloyd had to get forward and score goals.  It happened that quickly. National Anthem. Whistle. Kick Off.  Goal. Goal.  Surreal.  Everyone in our section hugging, screaming and shouting.  "This is awesome! Oh My God!"

 These goals were perfectly planned, executed and played out like a sweet symphony.  So many musicians with different scores, but one clean beautiful sound.  In this case, the sound was the back of the net and the joyful chaos of 53,000 fans not fully understanding what was going on.  There were 53, 400 but I'm not counting a few because so many were still pondering which concession line would be the shortest and missed the moment that was the crux of the entire match.  

Truly, this was the craziest start to a World Cup Final you could imagine.  It took place at the goal directly in front of us and you seriously felt like leaping the wall heading to the corner flag and celebrating with #10 and HER team! 

The momentum of 2 goals allows for a deep breath, some smiles and some very beautiful soccer. Long passing strings where each player wanted a touch of the ball, quick and precise passing and a togetherness that allowed for one team to remind the world why it's called, "The Beautiful Game" .  
I wish the players' bench could have had a seat next to the thousands of fans to feel and see and hear the exuberance they were creating for all of us.
Hey WNT! Look how happy you have made us!
 And then BOOM!  A goal from Lloyd from 54 yards out!  One of my favorite moments was watching Carli sprint to Hope to celebrate.  Maybe it was because sprinting toward the goal she scored on was further away than where Hope was standing; but I think it's because those 2 are tight; respectful of Hope's role, and she knows how much Hope wishes she could dog pile with the group. Her job is to manage the ebbs and flows of the game. She cannot switch off for a second; because she knows a few of her teammates may accidentally lose focus with adrenaline rush;  a GK is not allowed this luxury.  
If you are reading the blog, you saw the game. No need to rehash as there is no possible way anyone can do justice to the party that took place inside that stadium.  But a great quick recap could be found here if ya' like.  

The podium, the trophy, the smiles, the relief, the triumph!  The Triumph!  The L.A. reception, the NY Ticker Tape parade and the homecomings…including being able to welcome Hope and Pinoe back to Seattle.  

 What a tremendous celebration of sport; of our sport; of soccer, of women and the women’s game.  If I were Ann Schatz I might say: It was epic, it was enduring, and it was the epitome of excellence.  Maybe she’ll read this and need to borrow it from me?
HS Buddies; Diane (Gramstrup) Moore flew

UW Alumni:  Smitty, Gina, Malia, Tina, & Cheryl

Hiromi and Amy reunited from U20WWC in Japan

Thanks to everyone whose paths we’ve crossed in the past and then again over the last month. The game of women’s soccer has given us so much!  Once in a lifetime truly never seemed so apropos. 

Bon Voyage! Bon Chance! Merci beaucoups et vous voir en France en 2019!

The 2G Network….which will have grown again by one or more (eek) by then!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

And like that.....the Stars & Stripes are into the Final!

    Off to the stadium to watch Canada / England.  This trip we were down one Jack and one Ben due to baseball.  We pawned one Nick off on the Stewart Family as they headed north to the match and gained a Missy Strasburg. So the Huskies (Amy/Lesle) headed to Canada with the Lobos (Heather/Missy) to meet up with our former UW Sports Psychologist who is now a Canadian citizen, Erin (Dunn) Walden.
Gallimore caught on tv 
The drive was smooth, and the conversation inevitably came back to one topic:  "Who are you going to cheer for?" This was tough.  Canada has always been, and will always be a rival.. and therefore, we assumed we'd be cheering for England.
Heather, Anne Schatz, Lesle, Amy

First we parked in her neighborhood and at E-Dunn's recommendation headed down the road from her house to the St. Augustine for some libations and to watch the Australia/Japan quarter. Australia is another team that has opened some eyes throughout this World Cup, and veteran Lisa De Vanna was as feisty and hardworking as ever.

The Japanese are so entertaining to watch. They are a blue-amoeba that work up and down the field in an almost ballet-like way. Their skill, their mobility, and their PURPOSE is truly fun to watch.

Similar faces + Amanda Vandervort, Andrea Rodebaugh

Go UCF Knights GK's!!! 
They play with a "serious joy" that has you hoping you get to see them again. They kept us on edge...and a little edgy to catch our train to the stadium, as they weren't able to net one until the 87th minute! Some of their other close chances were simply spectacular efforts to watch. Unlike the Penalty-Kick heartbreak for France v. Germany in a quarter we watched on a big screen at 60-acres in Redmond while "recruiting", the better team actually prevailed in this match.  France was left-gutted and many fans gutted too as Les Bleus were also an entertaining and quality side to watch.
UW Alumni: Terry Gleason Richardson

Onward two train-stops in 8 minutes to B.C. Place and  when we walked into  the stadium and heard and felt the vibe that we wanted to be replicated in the World cup for as long as possible, we found ourselves cheering for Canada
... and then they were down 2-0 in 13 minutes.  Hence Lesle being caught on TV yawning. (really, it was just the melatonin taken the night before)

The once animated, John Herdman was now back in his shelter wondering if he was going to get the opportunity to pump his fists at the crowd and attempt to pop each button on his Euro-fit shirt. It must've felt a little like showing up at a sorority mixer wearing the same dress as a woman you don't care for, as he and England manager Mark Sampson looked like twins....a tall and a short twin.

The game was heated and exciting. It wasn't the most fluid match, but it was fun to see former University of Portland Pilots, Christine Sinclair and Sophie Schmidt, do such a fine job of representing their country. We've always had so much respect for both players. They are true pros and the late Clive Charles would be so proud to know how much both have achieved.  Not to be slighted is another former opponent, England's Jodie Taylor, a former Oregon State Beaver, who did very well to pounce on the Lauren Sesselman gaff to finish the games first goal. As mentioned, it was heartbreaking for Canada and their fans, but the better team won on the day.
Canadian soccer icon, Christine Sinclair

Moving into the semi-final versus Japan,  the Lionesses have really staked their claim in world football and opened some gender-centric eyes in their country.  They'll be hard pressed to get past the Japanese, but this is football and nothing comes easy and they'll be up for the test.

We had many more awesome chance meetings: Amanda Vandevort (NSCAA and president to be), Andrea Rodebaugh (former Cal teammate and FIFA course instructor), Karen Richter Hoppa...YET another UCF goalkeeper and current Auburn Coach made the trip up from recruiting and sat with us. Heather and Amy were happy to have a run in with Sports Commentator Anne they are both in a competition to imitate her commentating the best!
Go Bears!

After the match we did our return two-stop awesome train ride back to E-Dunn's to drop off our contraband (she had requested some wine and beer from the States as it's much cheaper than in Canada) and Amy sure did her up right!  Back to the border we went and smooth sailing to rest up for another day recruiting and start to prep our heads for the biggest of biggies, the U.S. versus Germany semi-final Tuesday.  More long hot days at the fields and game day finally arrived.

Ahhhhhh, Vacation 

Amy did an amazing thing....she organized an "impromptu" viewing party at our house and we had an awesome mix of people show that truly could be connected within less than 6 degrees of separation! She ordered up QDoba...lying that we were catering a "work party" and when the guy showed he earned a bigger tip for not griping it was at someone's house. Good work Amy.  We all settled in and finally realized how nervous we all were! Most of those in attendance have tickets for the final and as much as a World Cup Final is awesome regardless, we clearly all would be devastated if the U.S. of A were not participating. So the following group settled in: Lesle, Amy, Jack, Nick and Ben and Nick's buddy Mason ...residence: Jenny Sneeringer (childhood friend and soccer teammate of Lesle) and her soccer-playing daughter, Margaret. Chris Russell (and his wife Allison and son Logan)..Chris being the best-man at Amy and Jack's wedding, along with being an Oregon Duck Tennis coach with Jack, as well as currently a co-worker with Amy and Lesle at UW...his college-teammate, and dad of a current Surf soccer player, Scott Morse was also here, along with Olivia and her friend Annise....we'd all been out watching these girls plays as Heather Dyche, current UNM Head Coach...a program that Amy started, at the place where she met Jack, and her Assistant, Missy Strasburg (our former UW Intern) were here as well recruiting the ECNL tournament.  The best cameos were by:

Cassie (Giles) Hall a former Husky who just happened to be in town from Montana and staying down the street.....she brought her almost 1 year old Annabelle,
who was not only adorable, but very much into the match; our neighbor and Husky Team Doc, Kim Harmon popped up the hill; Kim Wyant and her partner Christa and their two girls were also here...Kim lives in NY but has been vacationing in Vancouver and Seattle...she is a former goalkeeper and teammate of Amy's on both the National Team and at the University of Central Florida; Sue Montagne Patberg, who coaches at Emory University in Georgia, also popped in which prompted jealously from one of our first World Cup guests, Debbie Belkin Rademacher, who is, like Sue, a Umass and National team alum!  SOCCER really is the great connector!

Happy Fans!  Thanks Jen Sneeringer for taking the photo.  Peek! I see you Annabelle!

What a game we were treated to by the U.S. women! Hope played well and was as calm and focused as could be, as she got in Sasic's head when a Julie Johnston foul in the box awarded Germany a PK. A miss wide left and Hope's hand to Julie's shoulder to assure her everything was okay....and a 0-0 draw and blood bath (literally) continued. Morgan Brian, another young superstar along with Johnston, bashed heads with the young German phenom Popp and their was blood everywhere...both players carried on in the match!  A tale of two penalities, Megan Rapinoe drove the box, was fouled and Captain Carli Lloyd was ice and buried her pk in the 67'!  The teams continued to battle and as Tobin Heath bonked physically,  Coach Ellis was reading our minds and in came former Stanford stand out, Kelley O'Hara to replace her. KO had done well in the previous match and earned this first off the bench status! She didn't disappoint.  Carli Lloyd, the player of the match, was unreal and was everywhere on the pitch. Abby Wambach, a late sub for Alex Morgan who is finding her form, ran a ball down deep to keep it alive. Lloyd did some fancy work into the box, beat a few players pulled a ball back that KO beat her defender to in order to put the U.S. up 2-0 and put the nail in the proverbial German coffin! ON TO THE FINALS!
USA! I'm ready. Are you?
     We ate, we drank, played badminton, and did a lot of reminiscing. Our final guests didn't depart until almost 11 pm. The system change to 3 central midfielders and getting Carli Lloyd and Lauren Holiday more "comfortably" into the attack really pleased us as fans, and it was apparent in the U.S. performance that this staff and this team are peaking at the right moment.  What a fun night and even though we didn't want to say it out loud in advance......the U.S. in the final has just made a lot of people's summer.

The next "wave" of guests begin to arrive today and this 4th of July weekend promises to be one to remember: with the U.S. looking to get their 3rd Star and many, many more reunions of friends and family, we are ready for Vancouver and the WWC Final 2015! Oh wait,  need to go to the store, we have to prep for our opponent (we're calling a 2011 Germany rematch of Japan/US) today at 4pm.
Gotta post now as all hell is about to break loose! The CAL crew is arriving soon. What is shocking (NOT) is how many people are suddenly looking for tickets :) GO USA!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Quarter Finals around the Corner

"souvenir" cup... at least it is if you take it

Almost everyone piled in the RV for another trip to Vancouver.  Unfortunately, Jack (on Father’s Day) had to stick with his commitment to coach the ALL-Star Baseball Team.  Fortunately, Nick and Ben played great on Saturday to help their team’s advance and headed to Vancouver to catch another game.  A tough call as both boys truly love baseball, but it makes me smile inside to know the memories from past World Cups and the anticipation of more around the corner is what lures the boys to Vancouver.  

Nick has already discussed multiple times (a) “When we go to France, are we getting an RV?” (b) “Can you believe in the next World Cup Ben will be in High School?"  (c) “Can Zach come to the next one?” and (c) “Will you still be alive in 6 World Cups?”

The border crossing went as slick as a whistle... and then we quickly slowed to a halt in the city.  Lesle was probably the only one annoyed as she was at the wheel.  The rest of us love a little extra time in the RV.  Makes us feel like we are really heading somewhere far.  Snacks, a heated game of Go Fish, good tunes, and lots more leg room then the last trip where we looked like a clown car getting out of the van. 

Pulled in to space 27 just in time to hook up, clean up, make a little dinner and hit the hey.  All of us trying not to notice how close we were to the freeway just pretended the sound of cars zooming by were waves. 

Australia v Brazil in RV 

Next morning, we drove all the way across an intersection to a huge shopping center to grab groceries and on to check the Griffins into their Time Share a mere three blocks from the stadium. Landing in our spot on Canada vs. Switzerland Game day, we couldn't be in a more perfect time or place. 

Parting the Red Sea was impossible as we rolled with the tide to our seats.    We are locals in this spot and anticipate who will do what today.  Will the 3 Irish women with less than remarkable tattoos cheer for Canada or Switzerland?  So far they have belted out cheers for Switzerland (v Japan) and Nigeria (v USA).  Will the extremely nice family in front of us still be there? We hope so.  Will the Seattle Reign fans that recognize Lesle and make sure they rub elbows with her upon each passing,  make sure they bump into her again?  And for the love of Pete! The guys behind us… everyone has a set of them in their section.  You know the ones. The soccer “know it alls” that really do not know it all.  Talking about “Amy Wambatch”  as well as why so many teams play much better with only 10 on the field…. And it just doesn’t stop.  Benjamin rolls his eyes, while Nick smiles… because they really do know the scoop.    
He was cheering for Nigeria at the last match. 
And the answer is Yes! They are all here and even more!  We’ve got crazy fans, happy fans and nervous fans.  We’ve got fans that are trying to sit in our seats, Fans with B.O., first time fans and fans that have been rooting for Canada forever.  These are the fans that realize the Canadian Women’s Soccer team is the only team sport in Canada that has ever won a medal in the summer Olympics or World Championship. The atmosphere is exactly what we hoped for; a loud,  packed house with a game that would certainly be up for grabs; and it didn’t disappoint. 

As a matter of fact the ebb and flow, a couple of special players and a cohesive energy allowed for one of our favorite matches thus far.  Martina Voss (a former German National Team player) had the Swiss team firing on all cylinders.  A couple of athletic, talented players in Dickenmann & Bachmann were crowd pleasers but the team as a whole was composed.  Their team moved the ball fairly well and the captain of the back line, Abbe, had her hands full, but guarded the back 1/3 as well as anyone.  Far less athletic than most teams we have seen, their back line was smart, effective, composed and very tough to crack even for Tancredi, Schmidt and Sinclair. 
Hats off to the person who swam out to dress this statue in a Canadian jersey!

One quality chance converted into a goal allowed the anticipatory stadium to erupt into relief and pandemonium all at once as Canada was on the board 1-0 and that was how it ended.  

Canada's team not as dominating as we would have thought.    As much as we hoped to see Switzerland's Bachmann steal a goal back, Canada moving on, even though they didn't WOW us, makes the crescendo of WWC2015 a bit louder; and now we can put our focus where it needs to be... USA, USA, USA!

A little exercise and sightseeing at Stanley Park.  Our bicycles pedaled us to Coal Harbor where the ice cream and view of a few Orcas (click to see) playing in the Harbor made for a perfect day.
Orca's Spotted in Coal Harbor

Onto view USA v. Columbia. Yes.. originally we planned to drive to Edmonton and then drive back.  As we got out our map, matched it with our clocks and the rational people in our crew, we chose to stay in Vancouver.  Everyone expects a victory, but in the past couple of matches with Columbia we have either struggled to get the first goal and/or there has been blood and bruises.  Getting past Columbia is expected... but it will most likely be unpleasant.

So.. thankfully the friends we bumped into... and the food were spectacular.

 Next think ya' know, it's half time.  We are still 0-0, have missed a p.k. and Rapinoe and Holday are out for the next round.  All of us trying to focus on the 2nd half AND figure out how the USA will morph for the next match with China without 2 of the 4 midfield starters.   As much as Columbia had some players that enjoy their time on the ball... maybe a little too much... the tean didn't give the USA much to worry about. A solid back line, plus Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd getting on the board may prove big dividends later down the road.  It's amazing what a little extra confidence can do for a player (and a fan) when your 'GO TO' players find the net.    Let's hope it's the beginning of many more.  Lots of talk about how we didn't win pretty.. Good for us.  Let's move on. Moving on is the tough part.  Who is our starting 11?  That makes for interesting conversations.  A new system?  :)  A Morgan Brian? Are we going to "press?"  A-rod?  Rampone? Boxx?  Experience over legs? Man I'd love to be a fly on the wall and listen to the conversations ... I take that back, being a bar fly with soccer buddies and our family is even more fun!
Whoever marches out for the national anthem on Friday should out maneuver China's roster and their predictability.  Not looking past China in the least bit, they have had enough success to get this far and have their full roster to boot.  Rapinoe has been one of the better players on our squad and we will miss her presence.  Hey.. By the way Megan.. since you are out for the Quarter Final.. .do you think you can bust it to Seattle to make it to the Seattle Reign game on 27th?  Just checking.

So much fun to be with people who have opinions and have contributed to the game for so long in just about every capacity imaginable; and all of us today filled the role of "FAN" and as much as it's fun to throw out ideas and see what might stick... we all want the same thing: 3 more wins.

USA!  USA!  USA!  
Okay.. was hoping to finish this before our next match, but didn't want to miss out on any fun.  So I will pause just long enough to mention things that maybe should not be mentioned but that keep swirling around in my noggin.
1) Canada's Coach, John Herdman (& a few others)...what's with the tight fitting shirt, hair gel and efforts he's made to get on camera.  Does he get a commission for every time he's on the screen?
2) Lots of tatoos
3) Our uniforms.  Don't get me wrong I think the jerseys look sweet.  It's a World Cup.. and last I checked we were U.S.A.  and our colors are Red, White and Blue.  
4) Youth Girls Soccer and NWSL in action during WWC2015;  as in during France/Germany  USA/China  Seattle Reign FC/ FC Kansas City.    Booo.

Due to some late sleepers our gang split up.  Lesle, Heather and Steph kayaked the day away. While the Griffins hit the Vancouver Aquarium
Nothing like a beautiful place to kayak 10 minutes from the city. 

If there is an animal in sight, Nick and Ben are happy campers.  The aquarium is one of very few that no longer captures animals.  Since 2009, all creatures in the aquarium have been rescued and deemed by either the govt. or the Wildlife Soc. unable to go back into the wild.  The aquarium rehabilitate each animal trying to get them to be able to live in the wild, but often times unable to do so.  Each animal had it's own story of how it ended up at the aquarium; and although the stories were different, the common theme happened to be how people aren't very kind to our environment.  The presentations were heart felt, heart warming and the animals seemed very well cared for.  I thought I'd miss the tricks and shows but actually enjoyed watching the animals seem comfortable and cared for.  A day full of belugas, otters, parrots, bats, dolphins, penguins and some happy, worn out kids.
Beautiful Mammal on a beautiful Day

2 more mammals stuck in an enormous tree trunk.  

I see a 2-toed sloth

A quick rest stop before the long 90 second walk to the stadium for Japan v Nederlands.
Butterflies anyone? 
It seemed as if Japan had the Nintendo joystick controls the entire match.  11 players moving in sync to create and recreate gaps in a Dutch defense that was trying to stay condensed.   To watch Japan live is a treat.  One can gain a better sense for how their technical abilities and cohesion make them special; not strength, speed and a player that is destined to be the recipient of FIFA's Golden Ball (MVP).  The best word to describe their team... EFFICIENT.  Not a ton of wasted movement, technical speed that is beautiful to watch and an attacking style that will put any fan on the edge of their seat.
So much is talked about what they can do when the ball is at their feet, but a huge strength of Japan's is their approach when the ball is not in their control.  Defensively, Japan is just as resourceful.  Baiting opponents to play a ball into what seems like a comfortable space and then, "WHAM!" outa' nowhere the flying Ninjas are on top of you, take the ball and dance down the field.  And, they look like they are having a blast.

A World Cup is grueling.  Seven games in a month at the highest level in the world ... on turf. Win or go home.  Japan's efficiency and their ability to let the ball do the work vs. individual players makes me think while the world cup wears on, the work load these women have put on their bodies isn't as grueling as other teams. Sometimes, it really does look effortless.  With that said, other World Cup Champs including the U.S. have had the strength, power, speed, fortitude, and WOW players to kick efficiency to the curb and steamroll out a victory.  It is why the sport is the world's greatest.  You can be a petite, smiling Japanese player that can slice you to bits with sharp passing, a strong, skillful German that can receive a 45 yard ball on the fly to unbalance your entire back line, or a defensive minded team that has no hope of winning... and waits... just waits for a set piece to bend into the goal and then manage that clock as best you can with no time outs and very few subs.  On any given day.... it is up for grabs.

Yes.. the best team won, although I'd love to see the Dutch at the next World Cup.  Their young team hung with the Japanese, refused to give up and had some quality attacking chances until the final whistle.   Excited to see Japan vs. Australia, but Japan seems to have some GK issues. The GK that opened the World Cup struggled with her distribution, and an ugly goal was given up on a bobbled ball that should have been a routine save in this latest match. Those GK's.. .it's a sucky position.  Like gymnasts in the Olympics.  One little hiccup and all voices are talking about it "Oh my God, did you see that!!?? She flinched on the balance beam and she let the gold medal slip from her grasp!"... It's the same with GK's.  One dipped shoulder and there are gasps throughout the stadium.  And it's warranted.  Keepers are supposed to be solid, no soft goals, no missteps.  But every now and then, when I hear those comments, I cannot help but mutter, "Yeah.. I saw .. did you see the field player bonk a ball off her shin.... 25 times.? "
Okay.. deep breath.   As the WWC2015 marches on, the teams dwindle and the match ups are worthy of watching for everyone who has kicked a ball.  Young or not so young, male or female, fan or naysayer.   Canada/ England     Australia / Japan     USA / China     France / Germany   Lions and tigers and bears, Oh MY!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Happy-Sad Trials & Tribulation of WWC2015

A fan's Bucket List ... waiting on a jersey 
We let Belki enjoy a couple of days with our “Modern Family”….pickle ball, tennis/soccer carpooling, watching youth sports, planning meals, making meals, cleaning up after meals, and the last day of school which included the last day of packing a lunch..hip hip HOORAY! (for Amy)

Heather joined us again from Albuquerque on Monday night, and Amy whipped up her famous Peach BBQ Salmon and we dined on the deck on yet another beautiful PNW evening in Seattle.   We discussed our plans for the next day as it was the eve of the U.S/Nigeria game…the final match of pool play where the USWNT was attempting to #WinTheGroup.  

There has been much talk and banter about the USWNT. Are they playing the best system? Are they playing the right players?  What style are we trying to play? Who is currently playing best for the USWNT? There isn’t much disagreement here, as Julie Johnston and Hope Solo have both been more than solid. The other pieces of the U.S. back line have looked okay most of the time. There is a lack of possession, lack of midfield defending, and lack of chances being created that is more than cause for concern if you’re a U.S. fan. 

We loaded up the Pilot with SEVEN people this time and headed north to Vancouver. We took the
Lynden route this time and made a very important pit stop at Edaleen Dairy for Ice Cream!
YUM!!!! The border crossing wasn’t great but wasn’t awful and we rolled into Vancouver in time to park, get to the stadium and run into SOOOOOOO many people! The most fun was running into all of the Husky Alums that were at the game. G-Brew, Malia, the Bennett sisters Nikki Leith, Cheryl  Hirss, Diana MacMillen, and a host of other local friends that are huge soccer fans.  A bit of pride and nostalgia tends to creep in when we see so many former players continuing to live their passion as well.  Lucky coaches.

Solo never goes Solo on a GAME DAY
The game was okay, not great. The Super Falcons of Nigeria are athletic and feisty and in all honesty had the earliest most dangerous chance on a breakaway that Hope & Julie were able to thwart.  The goal was MORE than timely, as after many short corners (WHY?) a regular corner found Abby Wambach who finished a terrific left-footed volley just prior to the half-time whistle blowing. 

The second-half was okay, as Sydney Leroux came on a wreaked a little havoc.  Coach Ellis made some late game subs that seemed to calm the team with the experience of Boxx and Rampone. Nigeria did manage a few last minute flurries but nothing that panned out. The U.S. closed it out 1-0 and #WonTheGroup. Onto Edmonton where they have arguably the easiest Round of 16 Columbia opponent. Colombia is a fun team to watch and they play with a lot of confidence, with some personality players that are certainly making the most of each touch on the ball.  
On to Edmonton
The trip home was uneventful, but the 90-minute border crossing wasn’t the MOST fun we’ve had. Jack Griffin was patient behind the wheel and we rolled into Seattle before midnight.  Up in the a.m. to get Debbie to the airport for her flight back to Michigan. It was SOOOOO fun having her here. Not much has changed with all of us in 30 years and it’s fun to recollect some of the craziness that was our soccer careers. It’s good to have THREE people to recollect and then discuss: “Did that REALLY happen?” If our players now only knew some of the shenanigans that took place back in the day, they’d be a smidge more grateful.

We hung around Wednesday and played some badminton, corn hole and gardened…and turned the TV on a little late to see our other favorite team, Mexico, already done 3-0! This is the sad part of the story. Despite having 3 very good games, Veronica Perez couldn’t get her team to attack up to their capabilities. After an upset loss to Colombia in their previous match, France came out meaning business! Beating Mexico 5-0 and that is all she wrote for the tricolores. Amanda and V did the Huskies and their country proud and participated in a World Cup!!! Their careers are far from over and we know that will forge ahead to see brighter days. 
The Perez Sisters:  Words cannot express how much we love these 2
Thursday we took a time-out from the beautiful game for America’s favorite past time: Baseball! On a beautiful Northwest evening we took in an M’s game and watch King Felix dispose of the Giants (who outnumbered us in fans it sounded like).  A great night at Safeco where primarily Ben’s friend Ben aka entertained us: Mute. (oxymoron)

Next up is to pick up the R.V. and head off to Vancouver again and then book it to Edmonton. All-Star baseball for Ben and Jack gets juggled in there somewhere, but we’ll make it work. 

The TWO round of 16 games at B.C. place should be good: Canada/Switzerland and Japan/Netherlands! Lots of soccer to be had and oh, we may need to throw some work and recruiting in here eventually! Farwest Regionals begins in Boise and the ECNL Championships in Seattle are around the corner!  Busy and fun times ahead.  
And just for the record, I remember when no one cared a hoot about women's soccer.  I love this photo of the 52,000 fans that paid to watch along with the folks that are cheering, complaining, arguing, discussing the commentary, chalk-talking systems, and having an opinion.  We have a long way to go... but sisters.. we have travelled some distance in our time with the sport! Okay.. enough nostalgia.  On to the next round!

Go USA!  Oh…Sounders/San Jose tomorrow anyone? Germany/Sweden?  The games just keep coming!