Saturday, January 5, 2008

Perfect Training Weather

A major storm hit southern California last night, dumping multiple inches of rain on the Los Angeles area, and putting the USA’s morning training in jeopardy. But when the players awoke, while the skies were still overcast, the rain and stopped, and in fact, the weather for the both of the USA’s training today was perfect. It was a little chilly, but not too to cold, the perfect temperature for hard running. Kudos also to The Home Depot Center grounds crew. The fields were in great condition, soft, but not too soft, a little slick so the ball could get pinged around, but not too slippery. The team worked on some one-v-one play and had some small-side games on big goals in the morning and did some technical work in the evening. In the morning, a rarity occurred as the Women’s National Team and Bob Bradley’s Men’s National trained on adjacent fields, with a gaggle of coaches involved in the U.S. Soccer “A” License audit coaching course at The HDC watching from in between the fields, giving them a virtual smorgasbord of National Team soccer.

Four Nations Roster Named on Monday

The U.S. players’ legs are getting a bit tired after two straight days of double-trainings, but the team has been working extremely hard and the camp is now half-over as the team leaves for China next Tuesday. U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage should name her 20-player roster for the Four Nations Tournament on Monday afternoon.

Playoffs? You’re Talking About Playoffs?

Although the U.S. team had two trainings today, the team got the chance to watch parts of both NFL playoff games. The Seattle Seahawks were leading 13-0 when the USA left for its afternoon training, only to hear before training started that the Washington Redskins had stormed back to take the lead. Alas, after training, Seattle resident Hope Solo was stoked for her team's victory, while suburban Washington, D.C. native Joanna Lohman (she’s from Maryland) was a bit bummed as her team's season came to an end. The U.S. players got back to the hotel in time to watch the entire second half of the second game, but apparently there are no Pittsburgh or Jacksonville fans on the team. Said resident team football expert Cat Whitehill (who admittedly follows the college game much for fervently): “I felt bad for the Redskins. I’m a big Joe Gibbs fan and after winning four in a row, and playing with such emotion after the passing of Sean Taylor, it would have been nice to see them win.”

Pink Wozzy

U.S. midfielder Angie “Wozzy” Woznuk finally got her wish this week. You see, since camp began, she has been pining for some Pinkberry. She’s been sort of a Pinkberry parrot, asking for Pinkberry every night. You know Pinkberry, that new extremely healthy frozen yogurt place that has just two flavors, vanilla and green tea, which at first glance, seems ridiculous. Don’t you at least need a chocolate? Or some sort of mocha peanut butter? But truth be told, throw on some fruit toppings and it is in fact a bowl of “swirly goodness.” So tonight after dinner, Woznuk went and got her “usual”…vanilla with chocolate chips and blueberries. Forward Amy Rodriguez went along and got just a bit daring, going for the green tea with some mango and strawberries. A bit lighter snack than In-N-Out for sure.

Training Routine

We have to be honest. On days when the U.S. team has two trainings, nothing to exciting goes on at all, making the WNT blog a bit boring. This is basically the schedule on double-days:

Wake Up7:15 am
Breakfast7:30 am
Gear up, taping, treatment8-9 am
Drive to training9:30 am
Training10 am
Drive back from trainingNoon
Showers12:30 pm
Lunch1 pm
Massages and treatment1-3:30 pm
Nap, read, TV, meetings1-3:30 pm
Gear up, taping3:30 pm
Leave for training4:00 pm
Training4:30 pm
Drive back from training6:00 pm
Showers6:30 pm
Dinner7:00 pm
Meeting7:30 pm
Massages and treatment8-10 pm
Bed time10:01 pm

Thus the myth that life on the road with the Women’s National Team is all glitz and glamour is now officially dispelled. But hey, no one’s complaining. As former U.S. Men’s National Team head coach and soccer philosopher Bora Miluntinovich once said of the international soccer players’ lifestyle, “such is the life…but it’s a good life.”

I’ll Have a Double-Double

Although this happened during the USA’s December mini-camp, it’s worth telling, especially considering the slow news day (which often happens when the team has two trainings). It seems that young Tobin Heath, the 19-year-old midfielder who is the youngest player in camp, got a hankering for the famous California fast food staple of In-N-Out Burger. You see, they don’t have In-N-Out in Basking Ridge, N.J. (her hometown) or Chapel Hill, N.C. (where she goes to school). But Heath had a problem. No wheels to get from the hotel to burger heaven. So, she took a cab. She hopped out of the cab, got a cheeseburger, some fries and a shake (and got a chocolate shake for the cab driver…now that’s a nice tip!) as well as an In-N-Out t-shirt for herself, then returned the team hotel with a full stomach and wearing her t-shirt. Now that’s burger dedication. Extra Note: Heath got an excellent score in the fitness test during this training camp (her third with the full National Team), perhaps indicating that a burger every now and then might be good for your aerobic fitness. (Disclaimer: The WNT Blog is not a licensed nutritionist).

Friday, January 4, 2008

Delayed Scoreification

You can watch all the matches of the 2008 Four Nations Tournament on television…if you happen to live in China. As usual, there is no U.S. TV for the Four Nations Tournament, and because the matches take place in the wee hours of the morning for those in the USA, no Matchtracker either. That means fans will have to wait until the result is posted on, followed soon after by a complete match report. Following the Algarve Cup in March and a hopefully successful run at CONCACAF Olympic qualifying in Mexico in April, the U.S. team will start playing domestic matches this spring. Fans will then be able to see the team in person and on TV, hopefully cheering the team on during its run to the Beijing Olympics and pursuit of the gold medal.

When it rains, it pours

It really doesn’t rain much in Southern California, but this evening the skies seemingly tried to make up for all the dry days, pelting the players with sheets of cold rain during the USA’s second training. But hey, when you’ve got cool Nike rain gear and you're running around to keep warm (and you're not in snow and sleet like much of the country), life is good. Rainy practices are often fun, and the players seemed to be enjoying it. The team was split into two groups for the afternoon training, with one group lifting weights and the others doing technical work on the field before flip-flopping venues halfway through, with the soggy players heading into the gym and the weightlifters putting on their cleats for the field workout. The USA’s morning session consisted of only a fitness test (but don’t use the word “only” to the U.S. players, who have to undergo the often painful “beep” test). As usual, everyone made it through without passing out and the diminutive Tina DiMartino, a midfielder from UCLA, had the best score. That kid can run, and run, and run some more. Tomorrow the USA has another double day, which could be on field turf if the rain persists through the night, which is what the experts are forecasting.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Candy and Pandas

First off, thanks to all the fans that voted for the WNT Blog in the 2007 U.S. Soccer Best Of Awards, finishing third behind two actual legitimate journalists in Steve Goff, one of the best soccer writers in the United States (nay, the English speaking world?) and Ives Galarcep, who always writes insightfully and entertainingly about Major League Soccer and the game around the world. Secondly, to all those bloggers out there whining that their blog didn’t finish ahead of the WNT Blog, well, in the words of Steve Martin…excuuuuuuuuussssse me! Ha, we're just joking, and we definitely think any of the other nominated blogs could have earned the bronze (and almost did, was close!), but our loyal and dedicated WNT fans showed their appreciation for our hard work. We like to think even though we're writing just about the Women's National Team, we do a pretty darn good job (yes, we're patting ourselves on the back right now...literally...which makes it hrd t o tpe). I guess in the end, if people felt the voting was rigged...well, it wasn't. We figure fans like our blog because it's like candy for the soccer brain. Oh, and who doesn’t love Pandas? Candy and pandas, that’s our motto for the day. But seriously, to all those who voted for the WNT Blog, a deep heartfelt thanks for taking the time to read about the U.S. women as well as continuing to support the team.

And They're Off...

The U.S. team held its first training of 2008 at The Home Depot Center today and it was an energetic 90-minute session, although some players were admittedly shaking off some rust and holiday malaise. The team will undergo double sessions for most of the next four days before leaving for China on the evening of January 8. U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage has 26 players in camp and will choose 20 for the roster to travel to China. Forward Natasha Kai, who was called into the camp, will not be taking part in the training or the Four Nations tournament as she was hit with a case of bronchitis and needs a few weeks to recover before taking the field again. (Hey, that’s some real news! Although we wish Tash a quick recovery and some warm Hawaiian soup).

Eye on the Peak

After the third-place finish at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the USA tumbled out of the top spot in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings, dropping all the way down…to number two. The USA is currently just 20 points behind Women’s World Cup Champion Germany and 100 points ahead of third-place Sweden. Brazil and Norway round out the top-five. Whether or not one puts much stock into rankings (and don’t get us started on the BCS), it would be nice if people would remember that one loss does not a loser make. We’re not sure quite sure what that actually means, but it sounds pretty philosophical or perhaps something that Yoda or a Hobbit would say. In any event, the U.S. team is dedicated to putting in the work and passion necessary to regain (not a spot among the world’s elite as they are already there), but a spot atop the world, a place that, as we know, is very difficult to reach.

Don’t Call it a Blogback…

We’ve been here for years…Well, part of one year. But suffice it to say, the Women’s National Team Blog is back.

Last time you heard from us, we were in China. In five days, we head to China again. It seems the WNT is in China so often, the team could apply for dual citizenship, but since we have no desire to see Abby Wambach playing next to Han Duan, we’ll table that idea for now. The WNT Blog left off at the end of the 2007 Women’s World Cup, but now picks back up in a new year and with a new goal…the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The USA will have to qualify for the Olympics in April in Mexico, but for now, the focus is on the 2008 Four Nations Tournament where the USA will face challenging games against Canada, Finland and China in head coach Pia Sundhage’s first matches at the helm.

As always, we’ll be reporting (almost) daily on the goings on with the U.S. women, fun facts, wacky experiences, amusing anecdotes and perhaps even some legitimate news. While the USA did not get the ultimate result they wanted at the Women’s World Cup, the great thing about soccer (and sports) is that there is always another game, a new challenge, a new year and the next world championship. So with the sting of defeat sparking the fuel of motivation…here we go.