Soccer….Family Style


Did You Feel It?
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This is my blurry photo of Rapinoe’s greatness. You won’t need crisp edges to feel that unbounded joy and accomplishment.

Could you feel it? At home, or in the bar? Could you feel it in the upper decks of the stadium? This USWNT was different, and I didn’t fully feel it until they were right there in front of me. The relentless force of a group of women who refused to stop, refused to listen, refused to behave. They would not stop celebrating and be less than they are because their critics were made uncomfortable by their unabashed awesomeness. They kept scoring goals, and they mocked those who said they celebrated too much and then went right on celebrating.

They were clinically well planned out, and well coached through the entire tournament. Every team they faced was met with their own special branded Kryptonite. It didn’t matter what the opponent’s style of play was, Jill’s got an attack for that, and a team that would steal soul after soul with devastatingly beautiful touch.

But what I loved most about this team was how intensely they played their game as themselves. That’s what we tell our kids, right? Be yourself, do your best, stand up for others. Go dye your hair purple and bring home an armload of trophies. Never make yourself smaller because someone else can’t dream as big as you can. Go wear your shorts a little goofy and who cares if you look nothing like a professional soccer player. You go teach THEM what a championship soccer player looks like and make them regret they ever told you no when you streak down the field and bury it in the back of the net.

I could run for weeks on the focus in Alex Morgan’s eyes every time she ran toward us with the ball on her foot. Her look was a thousand years of silencing “smile more” dudes. It was absolutely terrifying and ferocious, and I will remember it forever. There are lessons in this team that I will love forever, and I’m gratefully inspired to live my life more relentlessly, authentically, my bodacious self for the rest of my days, and I hope you felt it too.

 

PS EQUAL PAY NOW!



LET’S DO THIS!
March 28, 2016, 2:27 pm
Filed under: International Soccer, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

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10 hours. It takes 10 hours to drive from our house to Columbus, Ohio and MAPFRE Stadium, not allowing for stops for the Hat Trick Baby. We did it in December for MLS Cup Final (someday I’ll get that blog posted) and we’re doing it today for USMNT. I’m starting to wish rest stops came equipped with paper bags for hyperventilating.

As a US Soccer lifer, it’s a lot of time to think about this moment in our history. My love of Klinsmann is well documented, but even I am having a crisis of faith. Where are we as a nation of soccer supporters if we can’t score on Guatemala, even away? What is happening if we can’t sell out our home of all homes, Columbus?

I got into a Facebook conversation with my friend Bill about the parallels that can be drawn between Bernie Sanders’ campaign and US Soccer at this moment (I know, don’t talk politics, but bear with me….I’m from Iowa, I promise to keep it civil). Both movements have young followers who want to believe anything and everything is possible. I sense a similarity in these campaigns in the rising sentiment of “if we don’t win, I’m done” and a willingness to profess love on social media, but not make it out to the voting booth/game day.

But support isn’t about the fair weather days. It’s about picking up your team when they are down. I wish politicians were talking about the unfairness in rising tickets prices. I get it. It’s a pretty big leap from $40 being the typical, pre-Hex price for a qualifier in 2013 to $60 for tomorrow’s match. I hope we’re getting another round of collectible scarves at this price, but given how fast Columbus has sold out previously, I’m surprised to see “cheap” seats available the day before the match.

A win tomorrow puts us back into “likely qualifying” percentages. A loss puts us into that 10% range that might even get me reaching for the pitchforks. But that is for another day.

Tomorrow is about getting this effing job done. I drove 10 hours with an 11 month old baby and I want my THREE POINTS. I came to sing. I came to yell. I came to love. I hope you’ll come too. Come out and support our boys on the Road to Russia.

Let’s do this.



Polka Police Stopped Us at the Border!
June 12, 2015, 12:52 pm
Filed under: Family Fun, International Soccer, Womens Soccer | Tags:

wpid-20150607_181400.jpgGetting out the door with an infant is never easy, but we figured “What’s the rush? We’ll get to Canada eventually.” We didn’t realize that there’s ordinarily an hour wait at the border on Sunday evening, and on June 7th, as American soccer fans invaded Canada en masse in preparation for our June 8th match, that we would overwhelm their capacity. Friends who crossed around lunch time made it in under an hour, but the line grew steadily throughout the day, and by our attempt at 5 PM, the wait was almost three hours.

As reality set in, people started leaving their cars with just the driver and walking around, meeting each other, kicking soccer balls around, and having a chat. We walked around a bit and took photos at the Canada signs, but then a two man band approached and my son ran back to the car to get our drum. He joined Lt. Lederhosen and Sgt. Squeezebox and went on a march along the highway, making music to entertain the travelers, thus introducing us to the great entertainment that is “Polka Police.” I’m going to have to try to catch a full show, because they were certainly welcome entertainment on a long afternoon at the Canadian border. Hope you have the pleasure of meeting these funny guys here in Winnipeg or back in Omaha where they live. More people who make the World Cup the awesome party it is!



Back From the Dead….uh…Bed
June 11, 2015, 2:20 pm
Filed under: Family Fun, International Soccer, US Soccer, Womens Soccer | Tags: , ,

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It feels like I’m coming back from the dead, but it’s really more like coming back from the bed. Publishing my book was all the feelings multiplied by fire hose delivery. It was so satisfying completing a project I’d worked on since 2010, and the feedback from other writers and true soccer fans was amazing. The internet backlash and misogyny was not. I learned so much, so fast, about so many things, it took me a while to process it all.

Then came the MLS All Star game in August and a funny thing happened. I woke up after a night of drinking and felt awful. Luckily, I was staying with my friend Phyllis, who gifted me the best memory of this particular morning. I drug myself out of bed and up to the kitchen and said,

“I can’t go drinking anymore this weekend. I think I’m pregnant.”

Phyllis, having witnessed my four year struggle to conceive our third child tried to steady my rocky seas with reason.

“You’re just hung over. Did you take a test?”

But I knew. The eternity we’d waited for our “Hat Trick” baby was coming to an end. The pregnancy gave me an all to welcome excuse to enter a hibernation-like sleep. I was tired of rolling my eyes at internet trolls accusing me of shamelessly self-promotion of my book (because y’know, artists, writers, musicians never promote their own work). I was hurt when American Outlaws withdrew their promised support for my book, and worse, I was angry when they offered little support when their own members made Twitter accounts to harass me. To have internet trolls announce my deeply wanted pregnancy on Twitter and joke about it being a mistake was the last straw. It was a good time to turn off my blog and block my internet haters for a while, because telling a pregnant woman to be unemotional about such things was unreasonable, and I had better things to focus on.

Now she’s here, our Hat Trick, and the fog of pregnancy and early motherhood is lifting just in time for the Women’s World Cup. Two games in Winnipeg sounded like a great idea for a ten hour road trip to my husband and older kids and I didn’t have the will to be the fun-hater that would point out the a ten hour drive with a newborn would take almost twenty hours (when you throw in the three hour wait at the border). YES! Let’s take a seven week old to Canada!

As we arrive in Winnipeg, it doesn’t seem so bad. The kids played soccer and partied with other soccer fans at the border and the Hat Trick Baby didn’t complain one bit about taking three hours off from her car seat. (Although she’s clearly letting us know she’s ready to get to the hotel now….5 more minutes baby. I’m excited to go to our first Women’s World Cup since our first born was a baby in 2003. I’m excited to be in Canada for the first time since I was a kid. I’m excited to see what WoSo looks like now that so many of our soccer buddies are traveling to support it.

Welcome back from the bed.



Brutal Loss and Soul Searching
July 8, 2014, 11:59 pm
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer

I’m a well established fan of the German national team, and yes, I enjoyed the game today. I’m happy for my second team and can’t wait to watch them in the final. But tonight made me think about all the friends we made in Brazil. As a US Soccer fan, I can certainly empathize with brutal, heartbreaking losses.

I was chatting with my friend and Portuguese teacher Thiago tonight, as he suffered in Sergipe, Brazil. I remembered for him the times the United States came in dead last in the World Cup (1998) or the time we lost brutally to Mexico in the Gold Cup (2009). But then I pointed out that if the US were to win every World Cup from here on out, it wouldn’t be until 2038 that we surpassed the number of championship stars on the Brazilian jersey. My daughter would be 35. I would be almost eligible for retirement. It’s brutal for Brazil to go out like this, but as I told him, it’s tough to feel sorry for too long for a country with that kind of history.

I’ve been struggling with what to say about our travels in Brazil, because I do not want to sound ungrateful or imply we didn’t have fun. It was a wonderful trip and I got to know my children deeper than I ever imagined as I watched them embrace a foreign culture wholeheartedly. I loved cheering on my country and felt lucky to see Brazil from the air and from the road.

But Brazil disappointed me in a way I’ve never experienced at the World Cup. I’ve been looking forward to coming to Brazil for as long as I can remember. On page 26 of my book, Passionate Soccer Love, I wrote about watching Brazilians climb to Sacre Coure in Paris in 1998 celebration of their team. I came to Brazil for that…the fervent passion of a nation of people raised on the beautiful game. But that wasn’t there. Brazilians weren’t obsessed with soccer. They were not glued to every game. In fact, it was often difficult to find a place to watch the games, something that had never been a challenge in previous World Cups. We drew the conclusion that Brazilians were perhaps only in love with Brazilian soccer, and even that, they were not so sure about this year. They wanted to win but couldn’t seem to find that sparkling joy they had in Paris sixteen years ago.

I can understand why. I thought I understood the Brazilian protests from here in the States. We all know FIFA is corrupt, we all know governments don’t always support the neediest. Traveling to Brazil, I was forced to reconcile the abject poverty of pothole-wrecked cobblestone streets juxtaposed with freshly poured concrete reaching out just two or three km from sparkling new airports…fresh pavement that never reached city center. I went to games in a stadium that has no corporate caretaker to manage its $250,000 annual operating cost after the World Cup leaves, and then fell, injured in the streets of Manaus because even basic infrastructure was neglected. I was terrified my kids would get hurt and need medical attention because the hospitals I saw were decrepit and frightening. I have traveled all over the world for soccer, but I’ve never been more grateful for my American life as I was in Brazil.

Brazil must now search its soul as a nation, as we all must come July 14. We live in a world where Costa Rica outlasted all her CONCACAF neighbors. Where England, Italy, Spain, and Portugal were sent packing from the first round, but the United States captured the world’s attention not just for escaping the Group of Death, but also rallying a hardcore and diverse fanbase in Brazil. We had more fans in the opening round matches than I remember at home game friedlies in the 90s. Heck…in the early 2000s. It was glorious…but then awful as I watched Brazil, the country I used to worship for its passion, tell my countrymen and women they needed to sit down for the game against Belgium. The United States discovered its passion for soccer, now we must see if that passion can fuel the revolution that will launch us to the next level of competition. Brazil seems to have lost its futbol soul somewhere in the broken cobblestones. Hopefully they can reclaim it and mend their hearts, and restore their beautiful game as they rebuild their streets and systems. Sleep well, soccer fans. Tomorrow is another day.



Last Minute Travel Tips for Brazil
I’m still working on my rewards and thank yous for all the love and support I got for my book on Kickstarter, but in short, I was amazed at the generosity people showed, not just funding my project, but making it happen on May 28th was especially wonderful. My book is now for sale in the real world, on Goodreads, Amazon, and a hundred other wonderful places. Please go ask for “Passionate Soccer Love” at your local bookstore, or at Beaverdale Books if you’re in central Iowa, or you can order paperback, hardcover, or e-book direct from the publisher at this link.
I wanted to post my travel group’s tips for Brazil to share as another thank you for all the book love. Thanks to Kaela of Local Kitchen for compiling most of this list.
COMMUNICATION
Download Viber and/or WhatsApp. If you rent a phone or get a new SIM card down there, make sure to announce yourself by text before you call someone: I, for one, don’t pick up unrecognized numbers, especially if doing so is going to cost me a fortune.
LANGUAGE
In my dealings with the locals over the past couple of months, I’ve found that very few people speak any English. If you haven’t already done so, pick up a Portuguese phrase book, or spend an hour or two on Babbel or Duolingo, just to get a few basics. If you have any kind of complicated situation – like say, you need to go from the airport to Pipa with a stop at a random shopping mall for FIFA tickets in between – I recommend that you type clear and simple directions into Google Translate, then print out the instructions in Portuguese and simply hand them over to your driver, hotel clerk, tour operator, etc.
HEALTH
For any prescription meds, it’s a good idea to snap a picture of your prescription details in case of lost/stolen bags (email to yourself to a web-based email). For OTC stuff, I recommend bringing [I, Tanya, second this recommendation…having pantomimed symptoms in several countries]:
-ibuprofen (not only for the standard reasons, but it can also stop a sunburn in its tracks)
-Benadryl and/or Claritin (if you are subject to seasonal allergies)
-band-aids & travel Neosporin (everything grows in the jungle: infection is a serious concern)
-moleskin or similar if you are prone to blisters (we’ll be doing a lot of walking)
-cough drops (singing, people. singing. I always forget them and wish that I hadn’t.)
-Immodium
-Tums
-Breathe Right strips (for snorers) + earplugs (for the rest of us)
-sunblock + bug spray (I’m bringing tiny bottles of each and will replenish down there)
-Yellow Fever vaccination card (you don’t need it, unle.ss things change…so bring it).
Don’t underestimate equatorial sun. Even the natives stay out of the sun mid-day. For Northern moles like ourselves, it’s going to take some adjustment. No heat stroke or 3rd-degree sunburns, please. [Also beware foreign drinking. Don’t assume drinks have the same alcohol content you’re used to, and know you’ll get drunk faster in the heat.]
PACKING
Two words: carry. on.
You don’t need half of the stuff you toss into a bag. You probably don’t need a third of it. Pack light: no one is going to want to wait for your giant suitcase to come through baggage claim, especially after we’ve been living out of a tiny 20-inch suitcase for a week or two. But seriously: do you actually trust the brand-spanking-new Natal airport not to lose your luggage? That the 4-times-normal flight volume in Brazil is not going to result in a high proportion of screw-ups? That you’ll ever see that luggage again once it disappears? Pack light. You’ll thank me later. Whatever you may wish you had brought can be bought there. Souvenirs! [I talked with my contact in Brazil tonight, you can pick up a duffel bag in Brazil for less than $50, so if you buy stuff down there, you can pick up an extra bag to bring it home.]
Essentials: other than game-day attire and the hot weather basics, I consider a long-sleeve shirt (lightweight UPF 30 is ideal) for sun + bug protection, a single pair of long pants (same reasons), and a shade/rain hat to be the only real “essentials.” It’s probably going to rain every day  –  for maybe an hour every afternoon – probably more in Manaus. So a light raincoat is a good idea. Comfortable shoes: you never remember how much walking, standing, jumping, running, and all around foot abuse happens on one of these trips until you’re in the middle of it, wishing you had brought your favorite sneakers. Bring them. And a pair of sandals/flip flops. And that’s it.
SAFETY
For those of you who didn’t see it on Facebook, I have a friend who is married to a Brazilian and they head back at least once a year to visit family. I asked her about the safety situation – this is what she had to say.
“Rio and Sao Paulo can be pretty dangerous. We stay on the beaten path and don’t wander too far off. I’ve been there 7 times and have never had any problems. I have seen people get jumped for their bikes in Belo Horizante. Normal precautions. Do not show your wealth. I have been told keep some “mugger’s” money in your pocket. So if you get mugged they don’t get mad. Do not carry a lot of cash. The ATMs close normally around 10 pm. for safety. There are some 24 hour ATMs but they come with a big charge. If you go to a bank do not take the candy because the candy wrappers tell people that you were just at the bank. Do not walk around by yourself late at night. During the day you should be ok and in the tourist areas you should be ok. It’s really only when you go away from them you have problems. Stay away from favelas (ghettos). Ignore people when they ask for change. Even the young kids – they can be setting you up. There will be a heavy police presence and the national army! I think just being a smart traveler is the most important thing.
The more serious crimes happen in the big cities. There have been hold ups at stop lights but this is not the norm. Again, don’t play the wealthy tourist!
The driving in Brazil is CRAZY! Between cars, overloaded trucks, motorcycles, bikes, horse and carts, and people walking on the same highways it can be an interesting excursion. It really is pretty funny! Brazilians are extremely aggressive drivers. They pass going up and down the sides of mountains crossing into the opposite lanes and will not move over to avoid a crash. You have to be a defensive but yet aggressive driver always looking for your escape path. But that being said it really is fun to drive in Brazil because of the mountains and the curves. That’s why they are always amongst the world leaders for formula 1 racing!
I have found that most Brazilians are extremely welcoming and gracious. They try to speak English. They like americans. I have not been to Natal, Recife, or Manaus. I’ve heard that Natal and Recife are beautiful.
Alex says be more concerned with the mosquitos since they carry dengue, malaria. Mosquito spray is more important (especially closer to the amazon) than a gun!”
So don’t be foolish. Leave the bling at home. Try not to carry too much cash at once, and carry it in separate bundles – in a pocket, in your wallet, tucked into your bag, etc. Don’t park a car with any visible stuff in it that might tempt a thief. Look grubby & poor: that shouldn’t be tough for us. 🙂
One thing I always do is photocopy my passport (+ visa page) and the front & back of credit cards, driver’s license, health insurance card, etc. Make two copies and stash them in two different spots that are not my wallet. My wallet was stolen in France ’98: trust me, the photocopying is a very minor pain in the ass compared to trying to cancel all of your credit cards on the fly without having any of the phone or account numbers. You could also simply snap pictures with your phone and email the files to a web-based email that you can access anywhere.
[Tanya: I also recommend taking photos of your World Cup tickets as soon as they are in your hands. Our tickets were stolen in ’98, and the first thing the police wanted to know was our section, row, and seat number.]
Emergency Numbers in Brazil
National Emergency Services Telephone
Medical Emergency (ambulância) Tel: 192
Fire Service (Corpo de Bombeiros) Tel: 193
Federal Police (Polícia Federal) Tel: 194
Website
Federal Highway Police (Polícia Rodoviária Federal) Tel: 191
State Highway Police (Polícia Rodoviária do Estado) Tel: 198
São Paulo Civil Police (Polícia Civil do Estado de São Paulo) Tel: 197
Website
São Paulo Military Police (Polícia Militar do Estado de São Paulo) Tel: 190
Website
Rio de Janeiro Civil Police (Polícia Civil do Estado de Rio de Janiero) Tel: 197
Website
Rio de Janeiro Military Police (Polícia Militar do Estado de Rio de Janiero) Tel: 190
Website
Sea Rescue (Salvamento Marítimo) Tel: (21) 2104 6119
email
Website

 

You can add your travel tips in the comments. Please go buy my book and enjoy reading it between matches, and thanks for all the support bringing it to fruition! Safe travels to everyone following their teams in Brazil this Summer, especially all you Yanks!



May 28th…for decades

One day, back in 1993, I decided to make May 28th a big day in my life. I booked my wedding for May 28, 1995 and forever made this day a bigger deal than most other days of the year. I chose it because my betrothed and I were living in Iowa and marrying in New Jersey, and it allowed our friends from around the U.S. to join us for the wedding without taking any days off.

So on May 28th, 1995, I married Doug, or Mr. Tanya, as he’s known in the Twittersphere. He deserves a ton of respect, because it’s not easy being married to an outspoken woman, he he takes it all in stride (including his tongue-in-cheek internet nickname). I wasn’t a huge fan of marriage, and he’s spent the past two decades proving to me that marriage is (or can be) way cooler than many people make it out to be. We make a good team, Mr. Tanya. Thanks for rocking my world over and over.

19 years ago today I married Mr. Tanya and began our (mostly) happily ever after.

18 years ago today we bought our first house together (the first anniversary is paper, and we figured a mortgage is about the most expensive piece of paper we could buy together.

10 years ago today Doug inadvertently inspired my love for Portland Timbers.

3 years ago today we moved into the Hatton House.

1 year ago today we went to KC to watch Des Moines Menace in the Open Cup vs Sporting.

Tonight, we’re joining our friends at Menace vs Minnesota United in the Open Cup. I’m confident that my Kickstarter for Passionate Soccer Love will fund in the next 48 hours, but I hope you’ll understand why I’m doing an extra push to finish it out today. Because May 28th, it’s kinda a big deal. Thanks to everyone who has supported me on this journey. I am deeply grateful.

Here’s that link, one more time: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1081588443/passionate-soccer-love-publishing-and-book-tour



Nike Football “Winner Stays” Ad vs the Six Year Old
May 3, 2014, 10:16 am
Filed under: Family Fun, International Soccer, US Soccer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XviR7esUvo Saturday morning soccer was on at the house this morning and I was watching with my six-and-a-half year old son. He wasn’t paying full attention, so when the Nike ad came on, I pointed it out to him. He’s still psycho for Tim Howard, and as predicted, he want a little nuts when the Hulk morphed into Timmy, and he was generally mesmerized by all the players. Thankfully the final moment comes when the kid player takes on Howard before my son can break anything pretending to be Hulk/Timmy Howard. The kid scores on Howard….

My son was crushed, and my husband said “well, at least it wasn’t Ronaldo (our first round World Cup opponent) scoring on him.” I looked at my son slumped on the couch and said “Hey, think about what that ad is saying. It’s saying you need to have guts and be brave, and that any up and coming player can score on a star. Rafa, someday, you could score on Timmy Howard.” He looked back at me incredulous, shaking his head “No way, Mom, never.” But there was a glimmer there… that moment where he could see himself as a soccer star with the chance of playing with his heros.

Then my daughter said “Yeah, because by then, Timmy Howard will be really old.” A cold splash of water on my beautiful parenting moment. Sigh…just another morning as a soccer parent. And off to the fields we go.



Thoughts on Michael Bradley Coming to MLS
January 13, 2014, 5:44 pm
Filed under: International Soccer, US Soccer | Tags: , , ,

After watching Clint Dempsey and the frustrations he faced at Seattle Sounders, I can’t say I was all that thrilled to hear Michael Bradley was moving to Toronto FC. As much as I enjoy Seattle’s suffering on the club side, this year is one to focus on USMNT and making sure our boys have the best year possible, at least in my opinion.

Then my husband, affectionately known as , Mr Tanya, walked in from work with the opening line “I guess Bradley doesn’t even want to be on the same continent as dear old Dad” that I started to feel better. He has many interesting points on Bradley’s move and the state of MLS, and was kind enough to guest blog them here.

I had some initial doubts about the Bradley to TFC move but since I’ve had some more time to think I consider this a good thing for Bradley and the USMNT. Before you get all excited and pissed off thinking our best players should be playing at the best level and on the best teams possible let me have a chance to explain.

The World Cup is a special event. It is 3 games in a cloud of dust, or middle of a rain forest, as it were. It’s not a 10 month marathon like a European season. Anything can happen in a one-off game with everything on the line. Just look at what the US did in the 2009 Confederations Cup. They got killed in the first two games, did great in an elimination game against Egypt, and then took it to Spain for a shocking upset, and then Brazil for a half. I don’t believe the USMNT would finish above Spain or Brazil if they were playing club style long season but for 2 ½ games the USMNT was phenomenal.

That is what the World Cup is all about, single games where anything can happen. It is a fast paced, physical tournament. It is not a tournament for aging, slower players who need a game or two off to rest up here and there. The World Cup has become much more an athletic event over simply a pure skill tournament. I believe it changed during the 1994 WC in the US. The heat and travel requirements took an enormous toll on older teams. The speed of play has only increased since then, requiring the need to be in peak physical condition.

In order to be great in modern day World Cup games, players must be at their peak physically and mentally. That is what Klinsmann wants from his players. He wants all of the players to push themselves to be their best: play in the biggest leagues and play in the biggest games. But do not forget he wants them to PLAY in those games, not ride the bench and watch others do the playing. You can do that in front of a TV at home with a beer. Players always talk about being “game fit”. Practice on a top flight team is not a substitute for the mental and physical rigors of game speed and intensity. 

Klinsmann has always said that to get better, players need to be playing against the best, however, he also emphasizes if you are not playing regularly, you will not be selected for the USMNT. Period. There’s no buddy buddy old boys club favors of what you did for me last year, or acceptance that riding the bench for a great team is as valuable as game experience. That is not Klinsmann’s style and he has made it very clear to everyone: get playing time for your club, or you won’t be playing on the national team.

So back to Michael Bradley at TFC vs Any European Team. I don’t think there is any doubt that TFC has already pre-printed all of their game day programs with Bradley starting in the midfield. He is a starter and will likely play the full 90 in every game. I don’t see that kind of guarantee in any European team.

Mentally, it is very difficult for players at the top level to not be playing in every game. Doubt in their own ability and confidence can creep in, and wreak havoc on the most talented player. I want all of the US players playing with confidence and a bit of swagger. If that means being the best player on a slighter lower level team instead an occasional sub on a top flight side, I’ll take that.

Billed as a star on a team that’s trying to improve their position will put Bradley under pressure to succeed in every match. He will not have the refuge of playing a relegation team, every game in MLS will be important to TFC. MLS is a physical league, requiring hard work for the full 90 at every position on the field. He will get plenty of practice defending and will always have someone pressuring him when he has the ball. He will need to lead the team, start the attack and work back on defense at a fast pace, not unlike what he will face in Brazil.

I don’t think we will see Michael Bradley grow leaps and bounds as a soccer player in the next 5 months, nor would he whereever he was playing. With playing time every week, he should be able to avoid any backsliding in talent and fitness, which could happen if he stagnates on a European bench. USMNT doesn’t need a “better” Michael Bradley, we need Bradley at top fitness to keep doing what he’s done for the US for the last year. 

Long term, I hope Bradley has a fantastic World Cup, is courted by a bunch of European teams who show him the money, he moves again in 9 months, and becomes the greatest US player of all time and spends the rest of his playing career as a starter on a Champions League winning team. That would be great. Not very realistic, but great. The US just can’t afford to have him riding the pine this spring.

Now let’s focus on Jermaine Jones. I hope he likes barbecue, because it would be great to see him playing with a USMNT midfielder and a defender three short hours away in Kansas City.



The Storytellers World Cup – Why This is a Great Draw for US Soccer
December 7, 2013, 2:17 am
Filed under: FIFA, International Soccer, US Soccer | Tags: , ,

The moment Ghana drew into the same group as Germany, I knew it. I turned to the group of Des Moines Outlaws gathered in the middle parlor of our home and said “This is our group.” There were groans and begging not to jinx us, but moments later, when they held up “USA,” and as almost everyone hung their heads, I was jumping and shouting for joy. I love this group. I’ve dreamed about a group like this. The short answer: Because JĂĽrgen Klinsmann. Here’s the long answer why:

Ghana: We finally get to play Ghana in the first round! I’m a believe in the third time being the charm, based on the highly scientific study of draw simulators I ran all day while my son was home sick. When Ghana was in our group, we got out of the group. This is the year. I believe that Klinsmann can make the US team believe they can do anything. He can lead the US to avenging our losses in previous World Cups. It will be a moment of spontaneous healing for soccer fans across the US. I can’t freaking wait.

FigoRonaldoPortugal: Best game of my life was watching us beat Portugal in the 2002 World Cup. I met most of my soccer family that day, walking up to the stadium, and the game itself was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.  They were #4 in the world, we were college kids with no clue. They had Figo, we had….mostly people before they were famous. That glorious moment when we scored in the third minute, my husband was shaking me and screaming “This is going to be the longest 87 minutes of my life!” You better believe I think we can do it again. No doubt. My only regret is that Ronaldo’s name won’t fit well into the “Agoos has more goals than Figo!” chant. (Side note: yo, USMNT…no own goals this time, my heart stopped after the Agoos goal and didn’t restart til the final whistle.) Relive that game? Yes please!

6a00d83478053469e201116907d3b7970c-800wiGERMANY: The MOTHERLODE!! The team that brought me to US Soccer. That beat us in 1998. That sent us home in 2002. Who we BEAT THIS YEAR. Don’t give me your “Meh, it was a friendly” “It was their C team” Whatever. Klinsmann wants to beat Germany. I’d put money on it. Because he must have about 100x more German friends than I do, and is just as sick of hearing about how the German team is better than the US. Maybe some days they are, but not June 26, 2014. That is the day we will avenge this handball, and I will get to send a nice bottle of consolation wine to my German housefather, as he delivered to me after our 1998 loss.

Klinsmann was on the team that destroyed us in 1998. He understands the game, the psychology, the bench, the players. He needs to play Ghana and two European teams, instead of needing to prepare for an African team, a South American team, and a European team. Already a job made more simple. But more importantly, he’s been inside the German psychological game.

The 1998 US Soccer sports psychologist, when speaking about that game, told how Germany stood next to US Soccer in the tunnel, and in unison, turned to the US looking unimpressed and unthreatened, then in unison snapped eyes back front, leaving our boys without any hope of beating the German machine before they ever left the tunnel. Klinsmann was one of those players…oh sorry, he was the CAPTAIN. Heck yes I want him leading us into this battle! This is the year, I’ve felt it since we hired Klinsmann, this is THE YEAR.

It’s not enough for me, just getting out of the group, and I cannot for the life of me understand why we’re just talking about getting out of the group, now or in 2010. It is un-American to not want to do better, strive for more than we’ve ever done, so let me tantalize you a bit with what awaits us on the other side of the epic battle we have in front of us. My geek husband ran the numbers on group “deathness,” much like MLS did here, only he used FIFA and ELO rankings. When you look at ELO, deathness is ranked (starting with most deadly) B, G, D, A, C, F, E, H. See, we’re not in the worst group (smirk). But what about the next rounds? Let go of your fears and look into the next round!

If (when!) we escape the first round, we get to face the winners of group H. How’s that side looking? Not too shabby. You know who we face in the round after that?? E or F’s winner. Aw yeah boyeee!! I know, I know…one game at a time, but seriously America, get hungry. When we hired Klinsmann, I told my kids I thought he was the coach to take us further in the World Cup than we’d ever gone. I still believe. You should too, because it’s going to be an epic story next summer.




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