Saturday, January 12, 2008

Morning Soccer, Afternoon Weights

The weather has cooled down a bit in Guangzhou, which is good because the USA has two practices today. The morning will be on the field at the Guangdong Olympic Training Center and the afternoon inside at the very nice weight room at the stadium. The team is actually doing quite well on its jet lag recovery, which shouldn’t be a big surprise as many of the players have had plenty of opportunities to learn how to adjust to China time. Stephanie Lopez and Heather O’Reilly admitted to the Blog that they don’t really have problems sleeping, no matter where they are. In fact, O’Reilly said she sometimes feels guilty that her roommate gets up early (it’s usually difficult to sleep through the night when first arriving in China) and she just keeps snoozing away.


Body and Mind

Most people know that Abby Wambach takes good care of her body. You have to when you are getting pounded on every game, from every angle, and getting very little compassion from referees or opponents. But it’s just not soccer training for Abby, yesterday she did yoga AND Pilates. That’s right, she’s a holistic soccer player for sure. Said Wambach: “Us yoga and Pilates people are hardcore about our yoga and Pilates.” She was, of course, joking, but anything that helps her avoid and/or get up after the next kick to the back of the leg is alright with us.


Hall Soccer Returns!

We just saw Tobin Heath and Amy Rodriguez playing some Hall Soccer, reprising their epic battles in Moscow at the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Championship. The China version is a pretty simple game. (In Russia it was a bit more complicated, but we won’t get into that here). You stand about 20 yards away from each other and try to blast a mini-soccer ball by your opponent. If you get it by the player below knee height, it’s a goal. When we left, Tobin was ahead, but Rodriguez looked bent on making a comeback. Oh, and those loose light fixtures in the hallway? We know nothing about them.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Favre Fan in China

One drawback for Americans about spending a few weeks of January in China is that you won't be watching the NFL playoffs live on TV. (Although, you won't be missing any Houston Rockets games, that's for sure). Two U.S. players will be following online though as Seattle resident Hope Solo roots for her Seahawks and Wisconsin native Leslie Osborne backs the Green Bay Packers. There has been no friendly wager as of yet, but it's possible before kickoff that the two players may put their money where their mouths are. Both told the WNT Blog why their teams would win.

Said Osborne:

"I'm confident that the Packers come out on top because Brett Favre comes through in big games and they don't get much bigger than this. The Packers already got the big loss out of their system a few weeks ago (35-7 to the Bears) and they are playing at home. We all know the power of Lambeau and the Packers fans."

Said Solo:

"The Seahawks are going to win because of Maurice Morris, the most underrated running back in NFL and because Holmgren knows Favre and the Packers offense very well. Also, it's Seattle's time. The city is starving for a championship."

If It's a Mall, We're There

If there is one constant for the U.S. WNT from city to city and country to country, is that the players are always up for a trip to the mall. The top-end Chinese malls are not much different than American ones in layout and vibe, and some of the stores are the same as in the USA, but many would not be recognizable to Westerners. About half the U.S. team went a large mall in Guangzhou this afternoon, getting that chance to stretch their legs. It was also important to get out of the hotel and keep their bodies moving as they continue to adjust to Chinese time. Some of the afternoon highlights:


  • The American tradition of relaxing in a coffee shop. In fact, it was a main motivation for several players, who didn’t buy anything except for those cafĂ© lattes. (Note: There are more than 400 Starbucks in China).
  • There was an arcade at the mall with all the high-tech video games and several players passed some time in there. Heather O’Reilly drew quite a crowd with her “unorthodox body movements” (her words) during her performance on Dance, Dance, Revolution, which was surely a big hit for the Chinese who stopped to watch.
  • Some of the players decided to hop in some bumper cars, which turned out not to be such a good idea. The Chinese ganged up on the U.S. players, creating what Tobin Heath called, “the most violent bumper car experience I’ve ever had”…and she’s from New Jersey. With three important games coming up, the players vowed that they would not return to the bumper cars.


For the players that chose to stay back at the hotel, there was rest, relaxation, studying and arts and crafts…well, crafts. Some highlights:

  • Cat Whitehill finished Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy’s book titled “Quiet Strength.” She highly recommends it, giving it five Cat stars out of five.
  • UCLA college students Tina DiMartino and Lauren Cheney studied for their “History of the Middle East from 1700-Present” class. That sound difficult, so it’s good they are studying. If anyone knows their professor, please tell them how conscientious the pair is being over here in China. I mean, they gave up a mall trip to study! That is impressive. DiMartino says she’s really enjoying the class.
  • Amy Rodriguez made string bracelets. Apparently, she’s quite talented at it. She’s even teaching her roommate Abby Wambach how to make them.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sunscreen in January?

The weather for USA’s second training in China was actually hot and muggy, a rarity in Guangzhou in January. It’s supposed to cool down tomorrow, but the warm sun was certainly nice. As they USA arrived at the training field at the Guangdong Olympic Training Center, the Chinese team was finishing up and U.S. head coach Pia Sundhage, who was an assistant coach for China during the 2007 Women’s World Cup, had a chance to chat briefly with current China head coach Elizabeth Loisel, who formerly coached the French National Team. Sundhage has been bombarded with questions from the Chinese media about the Chinese team, the Chinese players, the Women’s World Cup in China, why she left China, coming back to China, etc. We’re waiting for a few questions on the U.S. team sometime here soon.

A is for Apple...

The U.S. team always brings a nice selection of snacks on international trips, but players often bring their own stash as well. Still, it was a bit surprising to see Tobin Heath walk off the plane with a full box of Apple Jacks cereal under her arm. It wasn’t your usual carry on item, but we guess the kid loves Apple Jacks. She says she’s going to bring them to breakfast tomorrow.

Getting Adjusted

The first day in China is in the books and it was a good first day. The U.S. team usually arrives during the evening on its trips to China, meaning the players just have to stay up a few hours before crashing. As the team arrived in the morning this time, it meant an entire day fighting to stay awake so that the process of adjusting to the massive time difference from Los Angeles goes as smoothly as possible. Eating three meals and a 5 p.m. training session certainly helped, and most players got some good sleep during the night despite the inevitable 3, 4 and 5 a.m. wakeups that are a part of the jet lag process. The team did not practice at the Guangdong Olympic Center as China was having a scrimmage there against the Guangdong Province team, but went to a smaller stadium close by where the USA has played several closed door scrimmages in the past. Today’s training will be at the Olympic Center. Most of the players seem to be energetic after a quality breakfast at the team hotel (This just in: there is really good watermelon in Guangzhou) and eager to get their legs under them in preparation for facing Canada on Jan. 16. A couple players have some minor strains and aches, but overall the team is healthy and excited to get ready for the first match of 2008.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Gooooooood Morning, China

The U.S. Women’s National Team touched down at 7:42 a.m. China time in Guangzhou on January 10 to the normal January gloom in southern China, but a nice surprise was temperatures in the low 70s! Still, a funny thing happened on the way to China for the U.S. team…the city (and of course it would follow, the stadium) for the tournament got changed. We can’t recall an international trip for the U.S. WNT where they didn’t exactly know where they were going as the plane lifted off, but the story unfolded something like this. Months ago, rumors abounded that the Four Nations Tournament was going to be held in Macau, the former Portuguese colony off the coast of China that is known in some circles as “The Vegas of the East.” The tournament was finally schedule for Kunming in the deep south of China, but then not long ago confirmed for Foshan, just south of Guangzhou and also in southern China (but not as southern as Kunming).

Right before the team left Los Angeles, U.S. general manager Cheryl Bailey got an email from the organizers giving her new hotel information, and it wasn’t in Foshan, it was in Guangzhou. The email also said that the training and stadium was six minutes from the hotel. Foshan is at least 18 miles south of Guangzhou. The musical chairs of venues was being explained to midfielder Angela Woznuk on the flight and the Chinese fellow sitting next year her overhead the conversation. He was readying a Chinese paper which had a short story confirming that the tournament had indeed been moved to Guangzhou due to “sponsorship issues” thus becoming the first time ever that a Chinese guy on an airplane has informed the U.S. Women’s National Team exactly where it would be playing. So, long story short, it looks as if the games are at the spectacular Guangdong Olympic Stadium (where they were the past two years…remember Heather O’Reilly’s all_access video tour of the facilities last year?), but instead of staying at a hotel attached to the stadium, the team is in a very nice hotel not far away. It actually turned out well for the U.S. team, as they did not have to drive to Foshan from the Guangzhou airport.

It looks like the games schedule and kickoff times will remain the same, but we’ll confirm that on shortly. Just be aware, if you live in China and were planning on going to the games, don’t show up in Foshan.

There is training this afternoon, in part to get the legs moving and the blood flowing after the long trip and in part to keep the players awake after the 16-hour flight. Yes, 16 hours. Blame those damn head winds.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Departure Day, Well Night

Today was all about putting the finishing touches on travel preparation to China. Nowadays in China, you can pretty much get anything an American might need abroad, but when you are traveling so far away, you feel like you haveto bring everything you might need just in case. So after morning weightlifting sessions (no on-field practice today), the players used the afternoon to pack, pick up a few items at the drugstore, stock up on snacks and steel themselves for a long, long flight. How long? We'd rather not think about it, but when you were told as a kid that if you kept digging that hole you'd "get all the way to China" pretty much says that it's on the other side of the world. The team has a late flight out of Los Angeles, so getting the whole day to prepare and have a final American meal was certainly nice.

China Temps

The Four Nations Tournaments have often featured some cold, biting and dark weather in China in January, but this year could be different. Foshan is in the south of China and the forecast calls for some rain early in the USA's trip, but with temperatures in the 70s! It could cool down once the games start, which is why the U.S. Soccer equipment guys are taking no chances. When we walked by the equipment room today, we saw them sorting, counting and packing the long sleeve jerseys, which are not only pretty sweet looking, but help keep the players warm and toasty on those cold, rainy China nights.

Monday, January 7, 2008

See you in China

The WNT Blog may not be able to post tomorrow due to a hectic schedule getting ready to leave for the Far East. If not, then we’ll check in after the team arrives in Foshan.

Roll Tigers

Cat Whitehill is a happy camper. Because LSU pounded Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game. You see, Cat is a monster SEC football fan, and if her beloved Georgia Bulldogs or Florida Gators can’t win it all, she’ll take any SEC team over any Big-10 team. Still, Cat thinks there should a playoff system. She’s was also pretty happy that the team is leaving for China the day after the championship game.

Cave Like

Some folks can’t sleep unless the room is totally dark. Defender India Trotter is one of those people. The WNT Blog has learned (from her roommate Carli Lloyd and then confirmed by Ms. Trotter herself) that India has no patience for any light impacting her much loved sleep. Apparently, in hotel rooms, not only does she pull the drapes tightly closed, but puts a book in front of the alarm clock and covers the phone with a towel should the message light go on. We’re thinking that Trotter will never go to Sweden or any Scandinavian country to play, where summertime can see 20 hours of sunlight!

Full Field Tussle

The U.S. team ended the on-field portion of training camp this morning with an 11 v. 11 full-field match (the team will hit the weight room tomorrow morning before departing for China tomorrow night) with players battling for roster spots during the intense 90-minute tussle. Due to the heavy overnight rains, practice was pushed to the Field Turf pitch at The Home Depot Center, which didn’t help the player’s heavy legs. In a match that featured some big-time collisions (mostly involving Abby Wambach), the blue team beat the yellow team, 2-0, on goals from Carli Lloyd (off a nice assist from Tina DiMartino) and Lindsay Tarpley. The players go at it for real on Jan. 16 when they open the year against a familiar foe in Canada and the team will have about five days to adjust to the time change in China before hitting the field for the first match of the year.

1000 Words is Worth A…

The WNT Blog would like to apologize for no photos during training camp, but the Blog’s camera is broken. We will attempt to have that issue resolved by the time the team touches down in China.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Why No Wii?

Defender Keeley Dowling was a bit bummed tonight (ok, a lot bummed) when told she could not hook up her brand new Nintendo Wii because the hotel TVs were for some reason not compatible. The WNT Blog is not familiar with the game Zelda (we’re too busy writing this blog every day), but apparently it is very popular with “the kids” and involves a virtual sword and virtual nunchucks, which apparently Dowling was ready to brandish to explore dungeons, find treasure, kill monsters and basically discover all the hidden secrets the game has to offer. Said Dowling: “It’s great because it’s a problem-solving game.” And Dowling, who was regularly on the academic honor roll at the University of Tennessee, is good at solving problems.


After two days of double-day trainings and six total practices during the camp, the U.S. team got the afternoon off today, a welcome respite for the players’ fatigued legs. The 26 players in camp have been working extremely hard as the U.S. team kicks off 2008 and tomorrow morning will play the first 11 v. 11 full field scrimmage of the camp as the players compete for spots on the 20-player roster for the Four Nations Tournament. The players did a whole lot of nothing this afternoon, partly due to the steady rain outside, but also to get rested and reenergized for the scrimmage tomorrow. Meanwhile, U.S. team General Manager Cheryl Bailey used the afternoon for a MASSIVE shopping run to stock up on snacks for the China trip. The U.S. team usually has a great supply of snacks on the road, but the trip to China necessitates several large trunks of yummy and nutritious treats just in case the food in China is not to some players’ likings.

O'Reilly Dedicated to Fitness

The U.S. team trained with heart rate monitors during the morning training and forward Heather O’Reilly forgot to take hers off, remembering she had it on during lunch, perhaps giving the USA’s new Sports Science/Fitness coach Helena Andersson some valuable information on heart rate levels while eating salad, BBQ chicken and vanilla yogurt with sliced bananas.

Go Green or Go Home

Those who know Heather O’Reilly know her to be an insightful and thoughtful young lady. O’Reilly was thinking about the gallons of water and Gatorade consumed every day by the U.S. players (they are excellent hydrators) and decided that the piles of empty bottles where not helping the environment. After watching an episode of Oprah where the TV host encouraged viewers to “do the small things to make a positive impact on the environment,” she got an epiphany. After making an announcement of the team bus that the Women’s National Team was now “going green,” O’Reilly got a big garbage bag to put in the hall of the team floor of the hotel and encouraged all the players to put their empties in the bag to be recycled. What she didn’t know, but found out by talking to one of the housekeepers cleaning the rooms, is that the maids actually take all the empty bottles and recycle them anyway. But hey, it’s the thought and action that counts, right? Said O’Reilly: “Well, that’s fine as long as they are getting recycled.” O’Reilly’s partner in conservation was 19-year-old Tobin Heath, who summed it all up by stating, “Go Green or Go Home.” Add note: O’Reilly also asked the players to turn off the lights and TVs when they leave their hotel rooms. Note to Al Gore’s administrative staff: Let us know when you’d like to take a meeting with Heather to discuss other initiatives.