Friday, July 22, 2011

"We've learned a lesson ... We can't take anything for granted" Pia Sundhage

Friday morning Jackie and I landed in Frankfurt, Germany. It was a last minute decision for me but after seeing the semi-final match I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. The flight from Finland was only about 2 hours and since we had the weekend off from practice, our coach had no problem letting us go. We got off the train and managed to find the hotel pretty easily.  There we met up with 2 of the Swedes I had met earlier this summer, Martina and Helena.

We traveled around the city and became more familiar with our surroundings.  Frankfurt was definitely an interesting place. While some parts of the city were not very nice and a bit sketchy, there were also parts that had a lot to offer. The downtown area had a lot of old buildings and museums.

On Saturday we went down to a section they designed for the world cup.  There they had many different stands; food, drink, games and music. They had big screen TV’s alongside the river. We decided it would be a good place to watch the Bronze medal match! We had a table in front of one of the TV’s and met a bunch of new people. Helena brought Swedish gear for everyone to wear and we made sure anyone who joined our table was rooting for Sweden.  The game was exciting and everyone was so into it. After Sweden won they set fireworks off over the river and the bands began to play. Everyone liked our Swedish gear and made comments as they passed us. After the world cup fan zone died down we went to the world cup bar by our hotel for some laughs at karaoke. The whole day was really fun!

Sunday morning was the day of the World Cup Finals. I sported my USA gear and dressed in red, white and blue. I was going to paint my face but we had some problems.. While Helena and I got on the train to the game, Martina and Jackie missed it! The trains were jammed packed and everyone was pushing. Since we got separated we didn’t have enough time before the game to paint ourselves. We got into the stadium and the atmosphere was amazing. I sat with a woman who coaches college back home in the US. We were about 20 rows up from the goal in which they shot the PK’s. The stadium was roaring and was sold out, about 48,000 fans! The game was everything we could have asked for, except for maybe the outcome! While the US started the game at a great pace they were unable to put one away. When Wambach scored in overtime I felt like I was a part of the game. The stadium was going wild. Somehow Japan was able to score with less than three minutes left off a corner-kick goal. Japan was able to fight back twice and force the game into penalty kicks. While the US has never lost in PK’s before it wasn’t their day. It almost looked like their confidence was broken. It’s hard to be mad when Japan won the game with everything that has been going on in their home country, the win could change a lot for them. I also believe the tournament could help the US professional league survive and hope that the loss in the finals won’t change that!

This experience was one that I will never forget. I had an amazing time! I was able to take in another European country and get to see the Women’s World Cup finals all at the same time.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

"What makes you better is how you react to it."

Yesterday we played our first game after a three week break.  The game was home against TJK.  The weather started off pretty hot (29c) and sunny.  Quickly that changed. The sky filled with clouds and heavy rain and thunder and lighting.  Back home if it was to lightning like this we would have paused the game and went inside.  Apparently here the rules are different because I kid you not; we could feel our hair sticking up during some of the storm!

Aside from the weather conditions we started the game off on the right foot.  We were creating some good chances in the first few minutes.  The first goal came 15 minutes into the match when Tess finished a great ball from Kerstin.  Just before the half Linda calmly placed a shot when Tess pulled the goalkeeper out of position. We went into the locker room up 2-0.
The second half started and only a minute in, I made a huge mistake. As the other team crossed the ball I went up to catch it, and the ball slipped through my hands and into the goal. Now the game was 2-1 and I was pretty upset with myself. The team was able to score three more goals after that and we won 5-1. My roommate Jackie scored her first goal of the season! About 30 yards out she took a shot that found the back of the net. The goalkeeper was a bit out of position and Jackie was able to take advantage of it.
The mental aspect of the game is huge for goalkeepers I believe. While other players on the pitch can make a mistake and go unnoticed, the goalkeeper is always remembered for the mistake he/she made.  Sometimes your self confidence will take a beating but you need to be able to put the mistake behind you and quickly move on from it. Mentally you have to be strong and how you move on from your mistake shows a lot about your character.
We have two more training sessions before we play our next cup game.  We are playing the league team from our city; therefore it will be a home game for both of us! They are expecting a crowd of almost 1,000. The team is especially excited for this game and as long as everyone believes in each other and themselves it will be a great game. We are determined to come out with a W and move on to the semifinals of the cup series. Check back later this week for an update of how the game went!

Hejdå för nu,

Friday, July 1, 2011

Helan Går!!

Last week after our cup game in Helsinki, Jackie and I headed to the airport.  We were off to Sweden for our week off!  The trip was amazing and we got to see a lot. Jackie has a lot of Swedish friends that she went to college with so we were lucky enough to have them take such great care of us!  We started the trip in Stockholm.  Although the weather for the first few days weren’t great we were able to make the best of it. We walked around the city for the first few days just taking in everything around us.  Stockholm is a beautiful city and has a lot for tourists (like us) to see!

The Vasa Ship
Helena and Martina took us to the Vasa Museum.  The museum has the 17th century ship displayed that divers found in Stockholm.  The ship is huge and the display is very unique.  There were different exhibitions around the museum to explain the conditions on board.

One of the best sights to see in Stockholm was the old city.  Our tour guide Martina took us to walk around the old city and the Royale Palace.  There were cobblestone streets, alleyways and old architecture to see. Although the Prince and Princess weren’t there, the guards were still in position.

We went to this TV and radio tower that you could go to the top to see all of Stockholm from.  The view was incredible.

One of the nights we went on an all you can eat shrimp boat with all of the Swedes.  I was a little nervous because I don’t really eat too much shrimp but it was awesome! The weather was really nice and although the shrimp were a little intimidating at first they were very good! The shrimp came head and tail intact! You had to rip the head, tail and body off before you ate them. This was very new to me but I think I did OK.  It was a lot of fun.  Everyone on the boat was singing different Swedish drinking songs.  After we got off the boat it turned into an eventful run across Stockholm.  I decided to try and catch up with some of the girls walking and when I couldn’t find them I was alone with no directions, phone or money! After about 30 minutes of running around like a chicken with their head cut off I finally found the apt! Thank gosh I have somewhat of a sense of direction; I was starting to get a little nervous!

One afternoon we took a trip to the Icebar in Stockholm. It was the world's first ice bar.  Everything inside was made of ice, even the cups you drank from.  When you go inside they give you these big coats with gloves attached.  The temperature inside is -5c so about 23 f. It was a bit smaller then I expected but it was neat experience.

We got to venture outside of Stockholm a bit to meet some of the girls’ families and see where they live.   One night we had dinner just outside Stockholm at Therese’s house.  The dinner was delicious.  Her family was really nice and spoiled us with all of the great food! We took the train to Uppsala for Midsummer.  The day was a lot of fun as we played a lot of different games and ate so much food! Dancing around the maypole, wearing wildflower crowns, and eating new potatoes, herring, sour cream & chive, strawberry’s and drinking schnapps are all traditions.  While we didn’t get a chance to dance around the pole we did go and check it out.  Lastly, we had a bbq in Vasteras at Linda’s house along the water.  The view was awesome and once again the food was really good.

We flew back to Finland on Sunday.  It was an amazing experience and a lot of fun.  A special thanks to all the Swedes who made me feel comfortable and took such good care of us!

Hejdå för nu!