Andrew and Donna's Road to the World Cup

Monday, June 19, 2006

Video

This is my first try at video editing so forgive the amateur editing and focus on the content, please

Here is a link to the video:

US Fan Support at US / Italy
Andrew 8:10 AM | 3 comments |

Back in Georgia

Hi there, we are back in the US after some gruesome travel. I posted some blogs we wrote on the plane. Mine is a bit disjointed, sorry. I'll get the pictures up soon.

We're looking forward to seeing everyone and catching up in person.

All the best,
Andrew
Andrew 1:49 AM | 0 comments |

Saturday, June 17, 2006 – US Soccer Fan for Life



Saturday morning began pretty laid back. We had a few trains to catch and needed to find our way to our hotel in Bad Sobernheim, from Hannover. I had pre-booked the tickets, so all we had to do was show up. Oh, did I mention that the biggest game for the US was only 12 hours away? Nice and relaxed; no worries.

We packed up and caught our first train at 9:40 am. We had to switch trains in Frankfurt in order to get to out hotel. We ran into many US fans getting on the train we were disembarking, yelling, “you are going the wrong way!” We were going the wrong way, if we were going to the stadium; that was still to come.

We boarded a train seemingly headed to no where, but we knew that we’d get to no where in about an hour. We met a US fan on the train who was on his way to Kaiserslautern, taking the route we would be following in a few short hours. We chatted it up a bit. We also met a military wife and her 15-month old son. She helped us figure our where we needed to stop to get to our destination. We still missed the stop and had to wait for train back in order to get to our stop. About a half hour after we should have arrived, we got off the train, saw no way to walk to the hotel and caught a taxi. She took us out into the woop woop and dropped us off.

Once there, we were told we missed the shuttle to the game by 10 minutes. So now we were not only locked into a train to the game (actually two trains), but we also were told that another train back wouldn’t be available until 6am the next morning. So we would have to sleep in Kaiserslautern. Seeing as the only reason we got the hotel was for a place to sleep between 1 am and 6 am, we didn’t think that was such a great idea.

Fortune smiled on us on our way though, when we met up with many more US fans on the train ride into Kaiserslautern. One person told us that they extended train rides back all the way until 1:45 am. Great news! Now all we need to worry about was the soccer match.


We watched Ghana beat Czech before our match began against Italy. Both sides were happy to see Ghana win. Us, because it gave three teams a loss, and Italy because they assumed they would beat us and be a lock for the next round.


Again, I won’t go over the game, if you watched it then you might actually know more than we currently do. I’ll let Andrew do a recap for you. I’ll just give my take on the game.


While we were headed to the game I insisted that I married into soccer and it would be wrong to call me a fan. Any person that stood in that stadium amongst 46000 other people pulling for their team to win, walked out that night a fan for life.


The experience was surreal for me. The first 45 minutes was the longest adrenaline rush that I have ever experienced. I used to swim and would always get the huge course of adrenaline running through me right before a race, but that lasted as long as my race lasted. This lasted 45 straight minutes. It almost made me throw-up. The fans were incredible. With two goals and two red cards in the first half alone, no one left the stands until the players were off the field. Of course then it was a mass exodus because no one had peed or gotten food or drinks for about 50 minutes.

Almost everyone was back in time for the second half and everyone was just as pumped up. With a quick red card for the US (for what?) we were down to 9 men. If I had to have 9 men play that game, I couldn’t have dreamed for a better group. They left the hearts on that field. They worked harder than I thought possible and played for the win almost right up to the end. I don’t know how any of them were left standing when the final whistle blew.

As for me, I yelled and cheered and cried and got angry and worried and elated. Cycle those emotions over and over again and you know what my second half was like. I asked Andrew, he said that I was just as into the game as he was. I never thought it would happen. Another thing that I never thought would happen is that I can’t wait to go home and watch it again to see all of the things we missed. Like didn’t Beasley score to put us up 2-1? What happened there? I thought the US fans were going to riot. They threw whatever they had on the field and were booing and yelling at Italy and the refs. FIFA brought in extra people to guard the field. It was getting out of control.

What kept the fans in control was the awesome effort by the US players. How proud was I to be an American cheering our team on, it was incredible. I was embarrassed for the Italian fans. I don’t know how they could cheer on a team that cheats and dives and cries for fouls. It was maddening and just disgraceful to the beautiful game. Although we left with a tie, which gives us a chance to make it through the next round (along with every other team in group E), we walked with our heads held high, because we couldn’t be prouder of the US’s effort; although, I did stare down a few Italia fans with my meanest look. Grrrr.

On the train ride home all of the Germans who attended the game were behind US. They said we totally outplayed Italy and that they thought we worked harder and were the better team. That is such a great feeling to have other countries show respect for your team that way.

Enough soccer talk our adventure didn’t end with attending the most exciting match of my life and of the 2006 World Cup. We only got to Bad Munster on our train and still needed a taxi the rest of the way. We assumed they would have taxis sitting outside the train station, but no, that didn’t happen. I was shivering and told Andrew there was no way I could sleep outside and wait for the morning train. So Andrew found a phone booth, called international information for a taxi company, then called the taxi company. Conversation went something like this:

Andrew “Sprechenzi English?”

Taxi guy “Little bit”

Andrew “We need a taxi at Bad Munster bahnhof”

Taxi Guy “There should be one there”

Andrew “There isn’t”

Taxi Guy “I’ll send one over”

Andrew “Danke”

Taxi Guy “Bitte”

Donna “Yeah, you are my hero! I love you! You are so wonderful!!!!!”

The taxi took us to our hotel after nearly hitting a deer and we arrived at 2:30, knowing that we had to get up at 6:30 to start the long journey home. See you all soon!

Oh, one last thing, I was originally going to call this blog ‘Out in the Middle of Woop Woop’. But the game was so amazing that it converted me into a US soccer fan.

Andrew 1:48 AM | 2 comments |

He Says

Wow. What a game. I am so glad we went to Italy before this game because I don’t think I could’ve appreciated anything Italian after watching the Azzuri. Apparently they have not been getting the Joga Bonita memos because they spent most of last night making a fool of the game. Dive. Cry. Repeat. Of course, the match’s mediator encouraged the behavior so he is partly to blame. All that said, it was incredible to be a part of the match. The US support was the best I’ve seen. The singing and chanting began about 45 minutes before the match and it seemed to increase in volume and passion as the match went on, as if the supporters were making up for the absences of our 10th and 11th players. I hope to post some video Donna took in the stands to give you a better taste of the atmosphere.

I don’t want to say too much about the match itself because I think I might lose myself. Right now we are about half-way across the
Atlantic on our way to Atlanta by way of Toronto. I will say that the referees sucked; in general, they have sucked all tournament but the suckitude last night was absurd. I’m not proud of some of the things I yelled at that crew. (Note: I am allowed to criticize referees more than the average fan because I got certified as a USSF referee and did it for a year in Georgia.) I just read Donna’s post because there are so many things I want to share but I’ve just got chaos on the brain, probably a symptom of yelling like a maniac for three hours and then sleeping just four hours. Her words brought tears to my eyes. I’m going to post it on bigsoccer.com and email it to Wendy Parker, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s soccer reporter.

I want to tag on to the taxi story. What Donna didn’t mention and what I failed to tell her, is that we used our last Euro on the call to the taxi service. We had seven or eight to start, but the first three were wasted on a German information service. I greeted the receiver of my call and asked if she spoke English. She said something like Farfegnugen or (however you spell that!). I said, “Ich verstehe es nicht!” She said, “Yah, yah.” Then I think she was speaking German again, or perhaps she got something caught in her throat. Then she hung up on me. It all worked out in the end, though we would’ve been sleeping at the train station if the taxi service dispatcher didn’t sprechenzi English!

Aside from the game itself, it was so awesome to see Donna so into the game. On the first goal we scored, I turned to Donna and noticed she was being embraced by an old guy who had the seat next to her; they were jumping up and down cheering. Awesome. Then when Beasley scored, we still have no idea why the goal was disallowed, I joined into the celebratory embrace and probably high-fived about six people before I noticed Buffon was preparing to put the ball back in play. Talk about a buzzkill. Most of you have heard the phrase, “Pimpin’ aint’s easy.” Well, for Donna, “Huggin’ ain’t easy!” While she did not exactly hug this random guy, of course her arms were down as they are when many of have tried to hug her, but she did not push him away or even look uneasy. This is fool-proof evidence that wifey was into the game.

Yesterday I wore a red shirt that has the bust of US manager Bruce Arena. I’ve been a pretty big fan of his since his days at DC United. I am guessing that to other fans the shirt was a sign of hard-coredness because all night I had random people coming up to me to chat about the game and ask me questions about the US team. I thoroughly enjoyed it. One guy gave me a button that said, “Acthung! Azzuri” with a guy diving and a soccer ball. Others asked me what was going on with the drama between Beasley and the Bruce. Yet another guy gave me a big bottle of German beer. I’m glad I wore it.

After the game, some of the singing and chanting continued. For reasons unbeknownst to reasonable people the stadium only had one exit open. So it was a bit of on ordeal to get out. Some particularly enthusiastic US fans sang a song that I have been unable to get out of my head. It is quite simple and is sung to the tune of the FIFA anthem that has the lyric, “Hurray for the champions.’ I think. The song’s lyrics are: “How much did you pay the ref? How much did you pay the ref? How much did you pay the ref? How much did you pay the ref?”

Maybe you don’t know that the Italian league (mainly the four biggest clubs) referees, management and several of the star players are under investigation for match-fixing and gambling. Juventus, one of its richest and most powerful clubs, may be dropped to the third division due to the scandal. Italy’s goalkeeper has been implicated but investigations into his devious acts were postponed until after the World Cup. Classy, eh? A cab driver in Rome was embarrassed to give us that nugget.

As for the game itself, I do indeed want to look at the recording before passing too much judgment. Like Donna, I couldn’t be prouder of the effort of our guys. I’m not sure why we didn’t use a third sub when it looked like a few of the players were going to keel over, but it worked out okay.

In the first half, Mastroeni was a beast. Totti was taken out of the game because he could do nothing against Pablo. Typically the manager of a 10-man team would remove a striker, but pretty-boy-mr-roma-mr-italia-mr-d&g couldn't do anything against our Pablo. The stadium would not show a replay of the red-card tackle so I don’t know how bad it looked but Pablo has got to be smarter. When the other team is down a man, you know the ref is looking to even things out. Two-footed tackles are out of the question. We’ll really miss him against Ghana.

I thought there would be more changes from Tuesday’s lineup. One change I was ecstatic to see was Clint Dempsey for Beasley. Clint is like 23 years old, playing on the world’s biggest stage and he is just chilling, dancing on the ball. This guy knows joga bonito. Most important, his play was effective and it seemed to unnerve the Italians. I guess Bruce wanted more defense when he subbed in Beasley after we went down a man.

Donovan had a couple of nice runs. I wish we’d see more of them, but they are not likely as long as he is playing up top. Convey had a few nice runs as well and he served in the dangerous set piece that the Italian so kindly knocked in for us. I can't see a negative word about a US player on this night. I probably could say a few negative words about little Stevie, but not tonight.

I'll get the pictures and hopefully video up tomorrow.

Andrew 1:33 AM | 0 comments |

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday, June 16, 2006: A much needed rest

Note: Donna wrote this entry

Here is the updated link to our photos on Snapfish: Snapfish Photos

Today we took a much needed rest. After being awoken by the cleaning staff at 10:30 am, we decided to put the “Do not disturb” sign on the door. We then slept until just after noon. At this point the day took a much more exciting turn and we both read for a bit. Around 1:30 pm or so, we decided to head over to the airport for lunch. We found a FIFA gift shop with the souvenirs we had been looking for and spent a bit of money on family and friends.

The next few hours were spent watching Argentina whoop up on Serbia (6-0), catching up on the blog, and finishing the books we were reading. Amazingly, Andrew took a nap!

We headed downstairs to the lobby for internet and dinner at half-time of the Holland vs. Ivory Coast match. Andrew found a flier for all you can eat bbq and sausage, but I persuaded him into one last fancy meal in Europe. I think we would both agree that it was a good decision.

We ordered a nice bottle of German white wine and ordered the antipasta to start. Before our dinners came, Andrew decided to check out the toilets in the lobby. He decided that German wine was pretty strong even after one glass because he found himself singing soccer chants out loud in the bathroom. Apparently it went something like this, “Didee-ay Didee-ay Didee-ay Drogbra…”

We both were very happy with our dinners. Andrew got a chicken with lobster and I got a wonderfully tender piece of tenderloin beef and asparagus. During dinner I asked our waiter how to say “I don’t understand” in German and he not only told me (several times), but also wrote it down. Ich verstehe es nicht; pronounced Ick ver-stay-he es nickt, or something like that. We finished the night with a little more football, watching the Mexico vs. Angola match. The game was in Hannoverb, and we had plenty of both Mexicans and Angolans staying at our hotel. They were all pretty rowdy during the match. Andrew offended a few Mexicans saying, “No se puede,” which means, “No you can’t.” Apparently a favorite Mexican cheer is, “Si se puede,” which means, “Yes you can.”

Tomorrow we leave our home in Hannover and head for Bad Sobernheim. The game is in Kaiserslautern, which is just a short train ride away from our hotel. We play Italy at 9 pm. That is 3 pm EDT, so be sure to watch if you can.

Go USA!!!!!

Andrew 5:47 PM | 7 comments |

Thursday, June 15, 2006: Football Fever in Berlin


After a three hour nap, the alarm woke me at 6:15 and we were off to Berlin. The crank-factor increased quite a bit when I realized our train tickets were in the smoking wagon. Our fellow passengers may have been confused into thinking smoking was compulsory, rather than simply not prohibited. I reclined my chair, put my rain jacket over my head and went to sleep. I awoke in better spirits and ready to face the day. When we stepped off the train at the Berlin Hbf (the main station, I won’t even try to spell the entire world), I knew we were in store for a good day. Donna agreed because we immediately saw a Starbucks, the first since London. Berlin, more than any other city we’ve seen, has a bad case of football fever. The entire city seems to be catering to World Cup patrons.


Therese, if you are looking for your people they are in Berlin. Sweden played Paraguay in the late game at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, which holds 80,000 people. That means Sweden’s Football Federation were allotted 6,400 tickets to distribute to their fans; I know we saw at least that many Swedes wandering around Berlin. Their turnout was impressive though I don’t think I’ll ever understand the men who wear the hats with the blond pigtails.

Before Donna and I (me, more than her) enjoyed all the football-focused attractions, we checked out a few of the tourist attractions.

Brandenburger Tor


The gate that used to mark the boundary between East and West Berlin

Reichstag

The seat of the German Bundestag or federal government: the transparent dome represents the transparency of their republic.

Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche

Berliners call the remains the ‘hollow tooth’. The church was bombed by the British in 1943; it’s a reminder of the devastation of World War II.

What struck us most about Berlin was its newness. Much of the city had to be rebuilt after World War II so while the architecture of days past may have been replicated, the actual buildings still seem relatively new. I really enjoyed being there: the public transportation is very well-organized, the drivers aren’t crazy and the people are friendly.

On our way from the tourist stops to the football fan fest, we came across a monument to people who died trying to cross from East Germany to West Germany. It was sad to see, for sure. Many of the memorialized were between 18 and 23 years old. It was especially sad to see the last person was killed just a few days before the wall came down.

Onto lighter matters –

We spent the rest of the day eating, looking for souvenirs to buy, and watching the day’s first two matches. Donna and I were both pretty tired from the day in Amsterdam and from the Berlin sun so we settled in a shady spot in front of one of the six or seven big screens at the fan fest and watched Ecuador beat Costa Rica. Earlier in the day we bought tickets to watch the England/Trinidad & Tobago match in the Adidas stadium. Watching the game with a couple thousand other folks was a lot of fun. Adidas made a show of it, giving away tickets to the Sweden/Paraguay match and T-shirts; they even brought out cheerleaders. Who knew Europe had cheerleaders? Donna aptly pointed out that they looked and danced more like pole-dancers. I love Europe.


At half-time of the England match, the Adidas MC called three fans onto the field—two Swedes and a Paraguayan--and had a contest to see who could shoot the hardest. The winner would get two tickets to that night’s match, obviously a coveted prize for the three fans who had traveled so far just to be in the city where their teams were playing. The crowd in the stadium was overwhelmingly European, mostly Swedes and English, but they got behind the Paraguayan. In two rounds of shooting, his two shots were the slowest. I’m not sure he ever kicked a soccer ball before. In the end, Adidas gave all three fans tickets and they all started hugging the MC and jumping in a circle. It was awesome.

Our trip back to Hannover was uneventful. We endured the smoking wagon again, hopefully for the last time. We got back a little after 11, which gave me some time to catch up on the late game and to confirm the facts I was planning to share during the radio interview. I caught a quick nap and then called into WBAL. The interview went well. It was pretty short, but I enjoyed it. Talking about soccer is easy for me so I felt comfortable. I got to sleep a little before 4 and slept until noon. I don’t remember if I’ve ever done that before. I’m feeling good and rested and hope to put up a good show tomorrow in Kaiserslautern.

Have a great start to the weekend. Thanks for checking in.

Andrew 1:37 PM | 1 comments |

Wednesday, June 14, 2006: Country #11

Note: Donna wrote this entry

Today we went to the last of eleven countries, Holland. We had one of our earliest starts (none competing with the 3:30 am start to Scotland) leaving around 5:30 am. We settled in for a four hour train ride from Hannover to Amsterdam and tried to catch a little nap on the train. During the few moments we were awake, I tried to find out if Andrew was excited about going to Amsterdam, but finally decided he was way too tired for that kind of emotion.

We arrived just before 11 and headed for the tourist information area to buy our I AMSTERDAM cards which got us into all the museums for free and provided free public transportation. There were many other advantages to the card, we just never made use of them. We were unable to check the weather before we left and were woefully unprepared for cold and rain. Andrew didn’t even have a long-sleeved shirt with him.

We made a plan for the day: 1) Find food. 2) See stuff. 3) Get a long-sleeved shirt for Andrew.

We decided to tackle the food situation first, because it seemed the easiest and gave us time to figure out what we wanted to see. I had brought a Top 10 Amsterdam book which we used to circle the places we needed to go and to chart our way.

Our first stop after lunch was Oude Kerk, the cities oldest monument and parish church built in the 14th century. The Oude Kerk happens also to be smack dab in the Red Light District. Andrew wondered why on earth I would drag him into the Red Light District after hearing the story of Emily and I racing through after being dropped off late at night when we were here in 2000. I explained that we were there at night when it is pretty scary (to me, that is) and that during the day it wouldn’t be as bad, plus some of Amsterdam’s best sites to see were in the RLD. I also think that you have to see it once in order to have an informed opinion on the area. Andrew’s opinion was that it was quite sad and that he didn’t like it. Even in the day there were prostitutes in the window’s and men smoking pot in the coffee shops. It smelled like urine, especially while taking pictures of the Oude Kerk. That was mainly due to a guy taking a piss on the street about 5 feet from where we were standing.

We continued through the RLD to see Waalse Kerk, which was founded in 1409 and was all that was left of the convent of St. Paul. We had a little trouble finding it since I had no idea what we were looking for, but after finding the exact address in the book we found it, took a picture, and got out of dodge (dodge being the Red Light District of course).

Next we headed toward Dam Square, and Andrew asked that I kindly stop swearing. He is a clever guy, isn’t he? In “Darn” Square, Koninklijk Paleis (town hall), Nieuwe Kerk (church), national monument, and many other tourist attractions are located. Andrew was in charge of taking pictures and was not interested in a picture of the large pole in the center of the square until I explained it was a national monument dedicated to the Dutch soldiers who lost their lives in WWII. He took a picture, but asked how many died. The book doesn’t have that answer, so I don’t know. I guess we should look it up.


After “Darn” Square, we headed to the Bloemenmarkt, a large floating flower market. Andrew contends that it is not indeed floating just because it is on pilings on the water. I still think it is neat. We got some pretty shots of the flowers and bought some tulips to plant at our new house next spring.

We finally tackled #3 on our list of things to do for the day and found Andrew a much needed long-sleeved shirt. Most of the tourist shops sold shirts with pot-leaves, and sayings that were not really that appropriate, so we had found it difficult to find anything. Also, they mostly only sold t-shirts, or sweatshirts; neither were on our list.

By this point in the day the rain had settled in and we headed for the museums so that we could be indoors. We went to the Rijksmuseum where we saw a lot of historical art from Amsterdam’s past including the famous “The Night Watch.” Then we headed for the Van Gogh Museum. I think it was around this point that Andrew and I both realized that neither of us were huge “art people” and wondered why we had gone to all of these art galleries and museums throughout Europe. I clearly don’t have a great appreciation, but I did think a lot of it was neat to see. Seeing the multitudes of portraits and the like, I decided it was really just the photography of the time.

Unfortunately due to some trouble with direction, bad weather, cranky attitudes, and time constraints we never made it to the Anne Frank House. This is twice I haven’t made it. I was sad not to make it, but now we have an excuse to have to come back.

We got back into Hannover shortly before 1 am and had to call a taxi for a ride to our hotel. Andrew still had some work to take care of on the computer and didn’t make it to bed until after 3 am. I don’t know if either of us was looking forward to heading out in the morning for Berlin, but like Bon Jovi says, “We can sleep when we’re dead.”

Andrew 1:21 PM | 3 comments |

Tuesday, June 13, 2006: An Iranian-Swede, some friendly Germans, and some clueless Americans – Next stop, Hannover

Today’s task list had one bullet: get to Hannover, our launch pad for the next four days. Even so, I told Donna that that didn’t mean that I was content to spend the entire day getting from A to B because really, Hannover is not that far from Duisburg.

The trip required two trains and a metro. We found ourselves on the smoking wagon of the first train, across the aisle from one another. The fellow next to Donna in a Brasil jersey seemed to be equally uncomfortable with the smoking and let out a series of pathetic coughs after two seconds or so. Donna started the unlikely friendship by kindly offering him a cough drop. We learned that our friend came from Sweden, originally was from Iran, but supported Brasil. We have a name for this type: glory hunter. He told us about his experience cheering for Iran in the midst of a Mexican section. I told him we were no big fans of the Mexicano futbolitos and he laughed and said it was probably one of the few things Iranians and Americans could agree on. The slogan for the FIFA World Cup 2006 is ‘A Time to Make Friends’.

In addition to our new Iranian-Swede friend, we were glad to make some German friends during the last leg of our trip. What we could’ve easily mistaken for an overly nosy German woman on the metro quickly became a hero. She seemed to be staring at the printout of the hotel information that Donna was clasping while she expressed her concerns to us in German. We were clueless. The only thing we took away from her desperate attempts at communication was that she hadn’t spoken English in 35 years. This lady would not give up though. She called down the half-empty train, looking for someone who spoke English and German. An older gentleman stepped forward and after the lady talked to him for a minute, told us we needed to get off the train because we were going in the wrong direction. Unlike Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, they did know where we were going. For some reason, they thought we were half-retarded or something and proceeded to make the motion of walking down stairs, under the train station and up the other side for no less than five minutes just to reiterate. I don’t blame them. We said about ten dankes before disembarking. This is just another of the many experiences we’ve had that debunks the prevailing idea that Americans are treated badly in Europe.

(The train station where we turned around)

Thanks to our German friends, we made it to our hotel at the Hannover airport or Flughafen before 4. We checked into our comfortable room and got some R&R knowing we had an early morning train ride in our near future.

Just a side note from Donna: I had to take a picture of this word. I think it means exit, but in English, it is a bit too close to something else and continues to crack me up. I realize it is a bit childish, but what can you do?

Andrew 1:17 PM | 2 comments |

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

On the radio tomorrow at 8:30 PM your time

Hey there, just a couple of quick notes before I head to bed.

First, I'm going to be on the radio in Baltimore tomorrow night at 8:30 PM EDT. My dad emailed the sports director of WBAL suggesting he talk to me about my World Cup experience and he went for it. I'll be talking with Peter Schmuck. You can listen to the talk live at http://wbal.com/

Yeah, that'll be 2:30 AM for me, but note the time of this post. I'm a slave to the beautiful game.

Donna and I got back from Amsterdam a couple of hours ago. Many fans in Germany for the World Cup had the same idea as us. I saw two guys from the Barra Brava, DC United's fan club and tons of Mexicans, Brasilians, etc. We got back just as the fans from the Germany/Poland match were returning from the stadium. They were in rare form, singing, chanting, blaring horns after their team beat Poland with a goal in injury time.

We're off to Berlin tomorrow before a much needed day of rest Friday before we travel to Kaiserslautern for the big match on Saturday.

Love the comments - I hope those who are keeping up with the blog get a chance to go back and read them. We've got some witty friends.

(btw, your comments have not been showing immediately because Blogger was requiring me to approve them...I changed the setting so now your comments should appear rather quickly)

More later
Andrew 8:07 PM | 6 comments |

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Monday, June 12, 2006 – Rough Start


That was a tough game to watch. The worst thing that can happen to the US is to give up an early goal. Our strengths are counterattacking and pressuring – two things that are not successful when playing from behind. It is easy to blame the manager for playing two players out of position in the world’s biggest tournament, but of course hindsight is 20-20. (Though I had a bad feeling from the start.) Football is a funny game. The US were not overmatched. They gave it their all. I was proud to root for them until the end. I was disappointed in two aspects of the game: 1 – I should’ve gotten better seats; 2 – the US fans sat and grumbled way too early…did they really travel 3,000 miles to give up after 40 minutes?

Anyway, I know most of you don’t care about the game that much so I’ll talk a little bit about the personal experiences. I’ll paste some analysis at the bottom.

The travel from Milan to Gelsenkirchen was nerve-wracking. For differing reasons, I have missed the first couple of minutes in the last couple of matches I’ve been to and I was terrified that I would do it again. Donna was kind enough to allow us to get to the stadium almost four hours before kickoff.

We did alter our travel plans a bit, but I didn’t feel guilty after we learned that our match tickets served as bus, rail, and underground tickets for any public transportation in Germany the day of the match. While checking into our hotel a friendly voice said, “I guess you’re going to the match, eh?” I turned around and saw it was ESPN’s sideline reporter Shelley something or other. She was really nice and flattered that I recognized her. She told me that she talked to Bruce earlier in the day and she thought Dempsey would start. I hoped she was right, but then asked about Beasley who I think has been terrible the last 18 months. She said Bruce told her he has had a good week of training and so has Convey. Shelley said she’d pass along more info to us if she saw us. It was pretty cool and got me really excited to head into the match.

After a pretty miserable tram ride, we arrived at the stadium about four hours before match time. The fan fest was not accepting new visitors, so we got some sausages and settled into our seats to watch the Australia/Japan match on the stadium’s big screen. The stadium was beautiful. Our seats were pretty high up as the pictures may indicate, but we had a wonderful view of the pitch.

For the two hours before the match, the fans were chanting and the excitement was high. The excitement definitely faded after the 2nd Czech goal. The whole experience was pretty surreal.

I was certainly upset that we lost and I’m definitely concerned about your psyche going into a must-win match against Italy. For whatever reason, I’ve been able to put that to the side and just soak up a bit of the World Cup experience.


A bit of post-game analysis

Give credit to the Czechs – they were very organized defending and their midfield creativity caused some problems for our midfield and defense. Their early goal would be a dream start against anyone, but it was especially helpful considering the US style of play. Their fan support was outstanding and they were, in general, fair competitors. Rosicky and Nedved were the best players on the pitch tonight.

A look at the three goals (note: this is going off of memory alone)

The first goal was a simple lack of tactical awareness by the team. Eddie Lewis got caught forward from his left back spot. When he ventures forward, Pablo Mastroeni, Claudio Reyna, or Bobby Convey should fill the void. Mastroeni was nearest but the CR player had time to have a touch, look up and pick out the giant Jan Koller in the box, and hit a millimeter-perfect cross for Koller to head in.

The second goal was a wonder-strike, no doubt, but two things went wrong on the play. First, Oguchi Onyewu’s cleared the ball up the middle; that is a cardinal sin, unless the ball clears midfield. Second, Reyna did not close down Rosicky fast enough. He made a half-hearted, one-legged attempt at blocking the shot. Perhaps Reyna thought Keller could not be beat from that distance. Cech might’ve gotten a hand to it, who knows?

The third goal was the result of a tired US team playing a 2—6-2 and Onyewu being unable to foul due to the caution he received in the opening minutes of the game. Surely he would’ve slid in and stopped the play 35 yards from goal instead of allowing Rosicky to go in alone at Keller. Keller went down a little too easy on the breakaway as well, making it much two easy for Rosicky to flick it past him.

Andrew 11:59 AM | 7 comments |

Monday, June 12, 2006 – A Soccer Widow’s Perspective


Note: if you can't tell by the title, Donna wrote this guy. I'll try to get some pictures up soon.

Today we left Milan. Before we left the US, I had bought a book on Milan, which we used most of the time we were in the city. On the 11th, we realized that we had no idea how to get to the airport or how far away it was from the hotel. After checking the internet for help, I checked the book. Lucky for us, although the airport was not the main one in Milan, the book did mention how to get to it. It suggested we take a bus for about 6 euros from the central train station. Both of us were a little worried that we that it couldn’t possibly be that easy, so we prepared to pay the 90 euro for a cab ride just incase. Lucky for us, it was that easy. Our cab driver was even kind enough to drop us off right behind the bus and say “Orio al Serie” and point to it so we would know.

Unfortunately that was just about the last thing to really go right for the rest of the day. The one hour bus ride to the airport gave me an awful bout with motion sickness which somehow managed to last right up until we arrived at our hotel in Duisburg, Germany. While waiting at the airport for our flight, I tried to talk to Andrew, but it was to no avail. He was sick with worry. Will our flight be delayed? What if the train is late? How will we get to the hotel? What time will we get to the game? And on and on it went. Now you have to realize, that getting even the headlines for what was on Andrew’s mind was not easy. He apologized for being a bad travel companion, but I understood. Today was a very important day.

We landed in Dusseldorf right on schedule, but changed or travel plans anyway. We took a cab to the hotel, rather than the train that I had booked and paid for. While checking-in we ran into a woman from the ESPN crew which Andrew recognized. They chatted a bit; she was very friendly. I’ll let Andrew tell you about it more.

We dropped off our bags in our room and attempted to head to the stadium. We asked the woman at the front desk how best to get to the stadium. She told us take the train, turn left, go two lights, and turn right.

We did exactly that. We did not find a train station. Instead we found the underground, which Andrew tried to convince me was the way to go. After searching long and hard for a stop for Gelsenkirchen, we gave up and decided to ask for help. Not an easy task when all you can say is hello; do you speak English, goodbye, my name is Donna and this is my husband Andrew; I don’t know, I have no idea, and a few other not so helpful phrases. On our way to find help, Andrew got interviewed by a local television station on what he thought of Duisburg. He told them that he had only been in the city for 10 minutes, but people seem friendly. After the interview, Andrew asked the interviewer how to get to the train station. He pointed us toward the underground from where we had just left. At this point Andrew was still convinced that the underground was the way to go. I was not at all convinced, mostly because I was the one who booked the train tickets.


We headed back to the hotel to ask for help again and this time understood that the first left didn’t take place until we were headed left out of the hotel. We found the train station in about 3 minutes. (Who was right??????) Finding the train was not as easy, but with a little help from the information desk we were on our way. After 15 minutes on the train, I said to Andrew, this isn’t what I expected. I don’t see any other people headed for the game. Two seconds (no exaggeration) later, the train doors opened up and a flood of US and Czech fans boarded the train.

After getting to the Gelsenkirchen train station, we boarded a tram that was filled to the brim, had a few cracked windows and no air conditioning. The tram ride took about 30 minutes, stopped at every stop, but wouldn’t open the doors. Several soccer hooligans from England started to get a bit out of control. I was very thankful to get to the stadium without any major incident.

I’m not going to talk too much about the game, I will leave it to Andrew to describe, but I will give a few thoughts that I had.

I enjoyed the game, aside from the loss that is. The fans for the most part were very enthusiastic, the stadium was very nice, and the players played very hard. We had a few people that were too cool to stand and cheer sitting near us, but for the most part everyone stood (until we were down by 3) and everyone cheered. Andrew started to grumble about our seats, then I reminded him that he had chosen the seats because he didn’t want to sit with the suits, he wanted to sit with the real fans. He kicked himself for that one. But I followed up that reminder with, “Remember how many people didn’t get tickets. They would have given a lot to sit where we are sitting.” That brought his mood back up a bit.

For my part, I was very nervous about the loss. I didn’t know how Andrew would take it. Anyone who knows Andrew’s passion for US soccer can understand. He’ll be mad that I am sharing this, but even four years after last World Cup, whenever he watches the US/Germany game he still gets riled up and stays angry for a good 24 hours. So, you can easily understand how I might be a little concerned. He was great though. He was sad, but very nice to me. He was happy with how the US played and only had positive things to say. It was good to know that he took it so well, but I still hope we win against Italy on Saturday!
Andrew 11:37 AM | 1 comments |