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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!