Saturday, January 19, 2008

Pizza, Pizza, Pizza

The team got out of the hotel today for dinner, going to pizza at an American fast-food joint. The players definitely enjoyed getting out of the hotel, and partaking of the cheesy stuff, downing quite a few plain cheese, Hawaiian, veggie and a pie they called, “The American,” which of course, was cheese and pepperoni. After returning to the hotel, the team had its pre-game meeting and the mood on the team heading into the China game is one of anticipation and excitement. Tournament finals are a rarity in international soccer, so any chance to play in a match with first place on the line is one to be cherished. While the crowds have been small, the games have generated much media interest in China, especially considering Pia Sundhage’s job as an asst. coach for China. Sundhage held an informal press conference with nine Chinese journalists for 45 minutes in the lobby of the team hotel today. She spoke on a wide variety of topics, including her adjustment to the Chinese and American cultures, her experience with the Chinese team and players, the growing number of female coaches in the international game, and the upcoming clash with China, among others. Abby Wambach, who made a name for herself in China with a six-goal performance at the Women’s World Cup, spent about 15 minutes chatting with the media as well.

A-Rod and A-Dub

On the surface, Amy Rodriguez and Abby Wambach couldn’t be more different. One is a blond 5-foot-4 20-year-old from Orange County, Calif. (that’s right, the O.C.) and one is a brown-haired 5-foot-11 27-year-old from upstate New York (that’s right, the M.C…well, no one’s made a reality show about Monroe County, but we digress). However, they have been rooming together in China and sharing quite a few jokes and laughs in their downtime. On the field, the two have been working on developing a chemistry as well, starting together in the 4-4-2 formation in both games. Like Mia Hamm mentored Wambach on the National Team and with the Washington Freedom, Wambach is working to help A-Rod (as well as Lauren Cheney, the USA’s other young striker) with her transition to the highest level of women’s soccer in the world. Tonight, they were playing a mean round of the two-person card game “War,” where each person throws down a card and the one with the higher rank wins both cards with the object of winning all of your opponent’s cards. According to Rodriguez, the game was going “back and forth” which is not a surprise in a game where both participants have the same chance of winning. On the field, Wambach and Rodriguez are working hard to make sure exactly the opposite happens.

Scavenger Hunt

With no training today, the U.S. team did another pool workout in the late morning (quite freezing again, but with less wind today, it was apparently bearable), then had lunch. In the afternoon, to get out of the hotel and get the legs moving, U.S. asst. coach Erica Walsh designed an ingenious scavenger hunt, except instead of collecting things, the players had to take pictures of about 40 items or tasks that they could find or accomplish in and around the team hotel. (Almost every U.S. player has a digital camera). Needless to say, in China this hunt turned out to be an adventure.

A few examples of the pictures needed:

Take a picture the Olympic rings a teammates doing headstands in front of it
Take a picture of someone squatting on the ground eating lunchMake a cab driver laugh with one teammate.Take a picture three women smoking
Take a picture with a security guardGet them to give you their hat, put it on and take a picture with it
Take a picture in a Chinese garden
Take a picture of a street-side aquarium with fish in it

It took most of the four-person teams about two hours to polish as many items off the list as they could, and amazingly, most groups got almost all of them done. (Although several groups stumbled into a local meat market where they saw some things they wish they hadn’t). Leslie Osborne reports that her group which included Cat Whitehill, Carli Lloyd and Stephanie Lopez thinks they won, but as of post time, the final results had not yet been tallied.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Firsts Against Finland

It was a night of firsts for the U.S. WNT against Finland in many ways. First caps for Tobin Heath and Tina DiMartino, first-ever assist for Tina, first goal for Angie Woznuk. There were some seconds too. Second win for Pia Sundhage, second cap for Woznuk and Ali Krieger, second goal for Lauren Cheney, second two-goal game in a row for Lindsay Tarpley. The younger players, and the U.S. veterans, will be stretched even further on Sunday against a highly motivated China team, but the vibe is very good on the U.S. team right now even if their legs are a bit tired. There is no training tomorrow, just another pool workout, and rumor is that the team will be going out for pizza tomorrow night. It just goes to show you, you don’t have to be playing Under-12 soccer to have a pizza party.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Late Show

So, several folks out there did manage to watch the USA-Canada online with video streaming from the CCTV website.

Disclaimer: Once again, the WNT Blog will not be held responsible for any technical issues that may arise due from human error or faulty installation, hardware, software, kitchenware, flatware or any other kind of ware, as well as anyone who is woozy trying to figure this out at 3 a.m.

Instructions to view Four Nations matches:
1. Go to www.sopcast.com
2. Click the 'Downloads' link at the top of the page
3. Download 'SopCast for Windows 2.0.4 (All in One)
4. Save the download to your computer
5. Shut down all other programs and run the SopCast download
6. Allow the program to reconnect to the internet
7. A small window will appear -- sign in as an anonymous guest
8. Click the 'Channels' option from the top of this small window, not the 'Live Channels' option, just 'Channels'
9. A new full size window will appear with a list of channels on the right and a small media player on the left. CCTV 5 and CCTV Football should be options in the channel list on the right. The Finland game should be on CCTV Football and USA-China should be on CCTV 5.

Good luck.

Word of the Day: Chilly

The weather turned cold and a bit rainy today in Guangzhou, so it probably wasn’t the best day for a pool workout, but with three games in five days, the players have to take care of their legs, so they made like polar bears and took the plunge. While the air temperatures were cold, we’re not sure why they keep the hotel pool a few degrees above what would make it a hockey rink. Still, the players braved some mild hypothermia and got in a good soak right before lunch. Training this afternoon was relatively light, with some finishing and a tactical walk-through. It was cold as well, but the players were bundled up and it’s a lot easier to stay warm when you’re running as opposed to floating in an ice bath. Midfielder Tina DiMartino did have some concerns with the pool workout, wondering aloud what the depth of the shallow end of the pool was, seeing as she stands just 5-foot-2 and was worried about being totally submerged. Fortunately, she was able to hang on the edge of the pool and no CPR was needed.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Off Broadway

The rumor going around team is that the young players – Angie Woznuk, Amy Rodriguez, Lauren Cheney, Becky Sauerbrunn, Ali Krieger, Tobin Heath and Tina DiMartino – will have to put together some sort of dance routine or song, or both, to perform for the veterans the day before the China match. There was some trepidation on behalf of the youngsters, none of whom will be winning “American Idol” or “So You Think You Can Dance” anytime soon, but they do have an ace in the hole. It seems that young Cheney is a “fly girl” and may be counted on to choreograph a funky routine. If anyone has seen her “Walk it Out” do the “Pancake” or “Pop, Lock and Dropt It,” you’ll know that the players are in good hands.

And We're Off.

Great result for the USA tonight in the first game of 2008. There is a long way to go for this team, and a challenging Olympic qualification tournament looms in April, but it's always nice to start on a high note. Two goals from a 20-year-old in her sixth cap and two goals from a player coming off the bench is always a good thing. Tomorrow, the team will have a recovery workout in the pool (we hear it's quite cold, so that will be good for the legs) as well as a training in the afternoon, mostly for the players who didn't play today. After the game, head coach Pia Sundhage was swarmed on the field by the media in a frenzy not seen on the U.S. team since Mia Hamm hung up the boots. The Chinese media seem fascinated by Sundhage's stint as an assistant coach for China during the 2007 Women's World Cup followed by her appointment as head coach of the U.S. team. Seems some are miffed that China let her get away. The fans and media should be pretty happy with their own team, though, after a convincing 2-0 win over Finland that featured a handful of excellent saves from the Finnish 'keeper.

Ouch

Becky Sauerbrunn suffered a broken nose while defending a set piece against Canada, getting sandwiched between Abby Wambach and a Canadian player. Becky is not the first player, nor probably the last, to fall victim to a Wambach sandwich, but this story has a happy ending. While there was much blood initially, after Sauerbrunn came out, the crack U.S. medical staff of team
doctor Christine Allen, and athletic trainers Michele Gould and Gigi Garcia, took her to the locker room to re-set the nasal bone. (Is it just me, or does the phrase "re-set the nasal bone" make your eyes water?) It seems she had a slight "deformity" (that's a medical term folks) with her nasal bone deviated to the left. Dr. Allen re-set the nose with one maneuver that Sauerbrunn took like a champ. The blood flow stopped and if you were to look at Becky during dinner, there is no way you would know that she broke her nose just hours earlier. Kudos to Dr. Allen, Michele and Gigi for excellent in-game triage! We can re-assure Becky's parents and boyfriend that her nose is very, very straight.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

CCTV

While the Four Nations matches are not on TV in the USA, for those willing to stay up in the wee hours of the morning, the WNT Blog has learned that there is a way to watch the games. Becky Sauerbrunn's boyfriend Zola, a former UVA soccer player, did some internet research and found a CCTV 5 (Chinese Central Television's sports channel) site that had the USA-Canada game live. Apparently, it took him an hour to get it working, but being the tech savvy guy that he is, he worked it out and watched the whole game from Charlottesville, Va., (that's midnight to 2 a.m. ET) even after Becky left the game. Now that's a good boyfriend. We'll try to get some more info on the site and post it on the Blog for those who are big enough WNT fans (or have enough coffee) to stay up and watch. Just make sure you don't log onto CCTV Channel 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 or 9. It's CCTV 5. It's sort of the ESPN of China, except with much more table tennis, badminton and snooker.

If you can't stay up, but still want to see the goals, there will be highlights of all three matches on ussoccer.com as soon as we get them cut and edited.

Get to Know Ya

With so many young and new players on this trip, the players have been getting to know each other better and better as the days have passed in China. This evening, a bunch of players sat in the hall of the hotel on the team floor for quite a while, chatting, laughing, snacking and telling funny stories. Who says summer soccer camp ever has to end?

Fore!!!

As part of what is a pretty good fitness center at the hotel, there is a rooftop tennis court (oddly, artificial turf with sand) and a rooftop pitch and putt course (also artificula turf, with a sand bunker) on the fourth floor. This afternoon Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath decided to play a bit of golf. Lloyd is perhaps the best golfer currently on the National Team (her boyfriend is a golf pro), but Heath is still learning the game, which became apparent when she struck a ball over the fence and over the side of the building. As no one complained to the hotel staff about flying golf balls or broken windows, we think disaster was averted, but it might be wise for Heath to stick to soccer for the rest of the trip. The pair did, however, prove talented a bouncing a golf ball off the face of their clubs, Tiger Woods-style. Yes, there is a lot of downtime on a National Team trip to China.

I Guess That's a Seafood Pasta

Food has often been an issue on the USA’s trip to China, but fortunately the food at the team hotel this time around is quite good. There are still some items however that may be delicacies in China, but do not sit that well with the U.S. players.

Said Tobin Heath about a dish at dinner tonight:

“The spaghetti looked really good until I saw the tentacles in it.”

Monday, January 14, 2008

Will You Win?

There is one question that U.S. coaches and players get from the media every single time they visit China. It’s quite perplexing. The question: “Will you win?” It could be the language barrier, it could be that the Chinese reporters enjoy bulletin board material or it could be that they just like to ask direct questions. The question can take many forms, for example:

“Will you win the game?”

“Will you win the tournament?

“How many goals will you score against China?”

“Who will win between you and China?”

“How can China win against you?”

“Is your goal to win the tournament?”

“You win all the time. Will you win this year?”


Needless to say, the U.S. players and coaches always answer with the proper diplomacy and professionalism, but for the record, we want to win, it is our goal to win, we will try our best to win, but in the game of soccer, you never know who will win. So, let’s please come up with some new questions.

Lost in Translation

It’s no secret that Chinese is a difficult language for Westerners. Often, things get lost in translation, but what can be quite amusing are the English translations you’ll see written. Some examples:

Automatic cabinet of depositing parcel = electronic lockers at the gym

Deep-fried dough stick = donut

Apple sauce = apple juice

Mouth puffs = desert ├ęclairs

Player morality = the discipline (yellow cards) section of the tournament rules

The list goes on. Of course, ask any member of the U.S. delegation to speak any Chinese, besides “thank you” and “hello,” and for sure it would be the Chinese that are chuckling.

Fact of Fiction

After the meeting tonight, the players broke into two teams to play a game we like to call FACT OR FICTION! It’s a bit tough to describe, but to summarize, each player wrote four things about herself on a piece of paper, three of which were true, and the players on the other team (the 20-player roster was split in half) had to guess which of the four things wasn’t true. There were of course points for correct answers. It was quite competitive (shocker for the WNT players, we know), but it came down to the last player and the last question, which just happened to be Heather O’Reilly answering about Angie Woznuk, whose four things were:

I am the youngest of four in my family
I have more than 60 first cousins.
I was born in Columbus, Ohio.
I only have one nephew.

With the tension mounting and her 45 seconds up (each player had 45 seconds to answer, with or without the help of the rest of her team), O’Reilly somehow pulled out the correct answer to lead her team to a dramatic victory. Woznuk was born in San Diego, but has tons of extended family in Ohio. Kudos to O’Reilly. A clutch performance.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Almost Game Time

The U.S. team trained today at the game venue, the Guangdong Olympic Stadium. The field is green and plush, although with six games over the five days, it’s going to get a bit chopped up for sure. The team ran through some passing patterns, did some finishing, played a bit of 11 v. 11 and then worked on some set plays. Tomorrow, it’s one final training and then the match against Canada on Wednesday, January 16. The game kicks off at 1 p.m. local, which is midnight ET. Canada and Finland both arrived over the past two days and all three squads are staying at the same hotel. Interesting enough, all three of the teams in the hotel are coached by northern Europeans. Michael Kald of Finland is of course Finnish. Even Pellerud of Canada is Norwegian and the USA’s Pia Sundhage is of course Swedish. China’s head coach, Elisabeth Loisel is French, meaning all four coaches at the tournament hail from Europe, despite only one European country in the competition. Tomorrow, all four coaches will be at a press conference at the stadium. It will also be defender Christie Rampone’s first press conference as captain of the U.S. National Team.

Seahawks Don't Fly in Snow

Hope Solo was all set to watch her beloved Seattle Seahawks take on the Green Bay Packers this morning on the internet when Cat Whitehill came into her room to sheepishly ask if she wanted to the know the final score. It seems Solo had miscalculated the time difference between Guangzhou and Green Bay. It turned out to be better though, as Whitehill giving her the score was more like ripping off a band-aid than the slow, aching pain she would have suffered had she watched on her computer. While disappointed, Solo has now turned her fan attention to the new MLS team in Seattle and she’s pretty sure they are going to win the championship real soon. Meanwhile, Wisconsin native Leslie Osborne was sporting her Packers colors, and didn’t rub it in too badly to her teammate.

What a feeling

     

The team went to the Guangdong Olympic Stadium yesterday afternoon for weight training. They have a very large, very nice fitness facility there. During almost the entire lifting session, there was an aerobics class going on in one side of the gym with an instructor who was definitely putting his charges through some serious steps. He led about seven or eight young Chinese ladies to blaring 1970s disco music. The first song playing when the team walked in was “What a Feeling” from the Flashdance movie soundtrack. (For those born after 1975, you may not know the song or the movie. For those born before, you definitely do). The funny thing was that the singer wasn’t Irene Cara, who won an Academy Award for the song (we looked it up), but a Chinese artist of unknown identity. While this may fall under the category of “you had to be there,” trust us when we say that walking into a gym with a cover of “What a Feeling” screaming out of huge speakers at ear-splitting decibels as a group of women gyrated to movements choreographed by a guy with very tight spandex shorts and faux-hawk, was pretty funny. Oddly enough, it was also motivating to get your own workout done, which the U.S. team did in three groups, taking about an hour. By the way, Leslie Osborne joined in the class for a bit, and yes, the midfielder has definitely taken an aerobics class or two.

Float That

A highlight of dinner tonight was when the players dug into the ice cream in the dinning room. The ice cream had been there the whole time, but for some reason, many players had not partaken until tonight, when it proved a very popular after-dinner treat. Cat Whitehill took it to another level, making herself a cola float. Lindsay Tarpley said that in her hometown Kalamazoo, Michigan, they call it a brown cow, or maybe it was a brown goat? She wasn’t quite sure. The most popular flavors were of course chocolate and vanilla, but some people went for chocolate chip. While slurping down her chocolate, Angie Woznuk bemoaned the fact that there weren’t any toppings available, like chocolate syrup and some rainbows sprinkles with some brownie pieces. She apparently is confusing a Chinese hotel with a Coldstone. Speaking of Coldstone, Tarpley would like to remind everyone out there that a "Love It" is only 50 cents more than a "Like It."