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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!

Sunday, June 14, 2015


A lot has transpired in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup since our first blog installment Tuesday!  After returning home late from Vancouver we lounged around the house waiting for the Mexico/Colombia game to see our Dawgs, Veronica and Amanda Perez, represent the Tricolores! 

It was a match Mexico really needed three points from to be confident moving through their very tough group (England and France are the other two teams in Group F).  Veronica was unbelievable and scored Mexico’s first, and only thus far, goal of the tournament. 

It was historical also in that it was the Women’s World Cup’s first use of goal-line technology! Check it out!   Sadly, Mexico couldn’t hold the lead and were also the victims of subpar officiating and had a goal called back. The 1-1 draw gave them a point and hope.

Mexico’s 2nd game of group play versus England yesterday had it’s moments…my personal and extremely biased feeling is that Veronica needs to see the ball more; Mexico is as talented a team as they’ve had but they need to stick with playing TEAM soccer and moving the ball amongst players in the attack as opposed to becoming direct or playing too individually. They wore down late and lost 2-0.
This was doubly disappointing because Colombia shocked the world in the first match of the day in Group F by beating France 2-0!   Let’s see if Mexico rebounds in game 3 and puts the nail in the French coffin, mais non?  Either way, we’re so proud of Veronica and Amanda…..and so happy their family was able to make the trip to see the games live!

After a lot of SMACK talk from former U.S. coach and current Sweden coach, Pia Sundhage,  electricity was in the air for game 2  in Winnipeg.  With UW graduation and Benny G.’s 5th grade promotion, Winnipeg wasn’t in the cards for us, so we brought Winnipeg to us by hosting a 100+ person viewing party at Husky Stadium! It was so great to see so many friends and their families.  The game was more of a “tussle” tha
Former US Teammates Amy Griffin
n a game.  Megan Klingenberg’s header off the line to preserve the U.S. a point in the 0-0 draw was about the biggest highlight.  I don’t think a lot of U.S. fans foresaw Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan as being late game substitutes in this World Cup, but there are so many factors in play with this team (age, injury, a system with only 2 forwards) that has made for two somewhat disjointed performances for the U.S.  
3 UW Alums; Terry, Erin and Sarah

For more photos of party, click here: WWC Viewing Party Photos 

Summer for the boys is ALMOST here and their LAST day of school will be spent driving to Vancouver to see the U.S. play Nigeria in their final group game. The U.S. is atop their group, so things look good. If they come first in Group D we’ll consider the trek to Edmonton (14 hour drive) to see their Round of 16 match. Otherwise we’ll be glued to Vancouver, B.C. and blogging more adventures from there.
Lesle, Debbie & Amy ditching our Red White and Blue for some Rave Green

Amy’s 91’ legend teammate, Debbie Belkin Rademacher, arrived from Michigan yesterday and we treated her to soccer Seattle style with a Sounders Match which ended in a 3-0 win! Great way to start the soccer trip and visit! So fun to have her here and reminisce about the good ol’ days. A phrase I love: “The older we get the better we were!”  So excited to see the Red, White and Blue take on the Super Falcons of Nigeria! Promises to be entertaining and to borrow a line from “Boys in the Boat”, here’s to hoping the U.S.A. finds their swing just in time to advance in this World Cup!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

WWC 2015.

You've heard the saying, "Act like you've been there before."  Not us.  It's about the fun! ... Except the teenager to our right named Nick Griffin.  Cooless 

Okay, so a few games have already kicked off and we are just turning on the ignition to the blog for WWC 2015.  Timing of this World Cup has unfortunately left our gang still in school, at work and racing around wearing too many hats to get this party started in true World Cup fashion.
HOWEVER... the World Cup kicked off in dramatic style with a late (and I mean late) penalty kick for the host country and has rolled right along with FIFA in jail, more countries represented, 130 degree bouncing balls on synthetic turf fields,  and the usual controversy.  Yes!!!!

So... we will try to set the scene in this first blog knowing full well the anticipation, drama, gut wrenching missed opportunities, dramatic finishes, bone crushing tackles at the highest level of the worlds most popular game will crescendo as the month of soccer kicks on.

While the news of WWC2015 sounded fantastic because it was in the back yard of our neighbors to the north , Canada is, in a word, HUGE. Canada is 3.9 million square miles vs. Germany's 358,000 square miles so bouncing back and forth from venue to venue with family & friends in tow was not in the cards.
Peace Arch at the Border!  

Our gang of 6, missing a Zach and gaining a Heather,  headed out early to get to Vancouver in time to watch USA/Australia on TV & be near the stadium for the Japan / Switzerland game. (No RV yet, stay tuned) The border line at the Peace-Arch with idling cars allowed us to stretch our legs (aka sprint out of the car before it moves!)  and of course bump into old experienced soccer teammates, snap some groupies, high 5 and get pumped for the ensuing match.  Our pre-func was near the stadium where we were able to watch Nigeria come from behind to tie a Swedish team that we're hoping shows up vs. the U.S. on the 12th still depressed from giving up a 2 goal lead.

Nigeria is a team which has had quite a bit of success internationally and always gain momentum as the tournament moves on.  Without much $ for programming compared to USA, Sweden, or Australia,  Nigeria usually learns on the fly, starting a bit rusty and unorganized and becoming more synchronized with each day spent together.  Their first game showed the athleticism that makes them special, but also a much more unified team than we've seen in the past.  Oshoala and Okobi are a handful and their goalkeeper Precious, which means "Very Valuable", must treat that ball as if it were gold.  She has been between the sticks FOREVER and I still gasp every time that ball is in the air heading perilously to the goal.  It's a crap shoot whether she will go for the ones that are in her range or freeze and let mayhem ensue right before her eyes.  A crowd pleaser at times, she is sure to keep things interesting.

.... and while we are on the topic of GK's.  Wearing our Red, White and Blue seemed to communicate:  "It's open season to join our group and talk about the U.S.A."  We had complete strangers walk up to us and say some pretty forward and abrupt things about our U.S. goalkeeper. We've never felt the need to defend her as she's clearly been surrounded by controversy and been the center of some deserved and some undeserved negative attention. However, we HAVE always contended that she's the best goalkeeper in the world and that on the biggest of soccer stages she will perform and help her team. She did not disappoint yesterday versus Australia. The U.S. still has Hope.

Today we'll watch proudly as THREE of our Husky alums take center stage in group play.  Dr. Clare Rustad,  former Canadian National Team player and Olympian, will commentate on the CBC during the Colombia-Mexico game in which our Perez hermanas will don the tricolores for Mexico....perhaps the only "sister" pair in the World Cup (we'll have to look that up).
UW's Amanda Perez!

 Friday won't take us BACK to Canada as instead we'll head to Husky Stadium to host a U.S.A./Sweden viewing party with some of our best soccer friends, donors, and fans.
 Then it's back to Vancouver for U.S./Nigeria on June 16th....this time with friend, and Amy's '91 World Cup teammate, Debbie Belkin Rademacher in tow! She hasn't seen the U.S. women play live since '99 and she leaving the menfolk behind in Michigan and visiting with us for a few days and to trek north to the match! So excited to have her and it begins the parade of family and friends that we'll see this summer because of the game we love!!!!

So installment one of the 2G network is in the books, right along with U.S.A.'s first victory of this World Cup. Thanks for tuning in!