Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Thursday - Going Home

This morning we are packing and getting ready to head to closing ceremonies and then home.

It's been an amazing 3 1/2 weeks with 20 remarkable young women (19 players and my assistant coach Jessica). For a group of young women from diverse backgrounds to live, train, play, have hearts broken and then rebound together and still truely care deeply for one another is amazing. They go home knowing they will all be connected forever. For me, I go home with the memories of seeing them each grow as athletes, soccer players and young jewish women.
But I'm most pleased that I now have 20 additional daughters.

It's been an honor and a privilege to have been entrusted these wonderful young people.

Vivareshicha Adonai V'yshmircha;
Ya-Ayr Adonai panav Aylecha v'yichunecha;
Yee-saw Adonai panav Aylecha v'ya-saym l'cha

May the Lord bless and keep you; may He make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may He lift up His countenance to smile on you, and give you Peace.

Wednesday - Medal Ceremony Pics/Haifa

Today the players had a choice between spending a day with the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and seeing what its like to spend a day as a soldier or going to Haifa to see the Open Women's Final between the US and Israel. Five girls chose to have the army experience and the rest went with Jessica and I (and some of the U18 Boys) to Haifa. The US beat Israel for the Gold 4 - 0 in a pretty boring match, so having a chance to eat and do a little shopping in Haifa was the real highlight.

I have posted some pics of the Medal Ceremony from last night. As you see, it was smiles all around. Tonight we begin packing and preparing for the closing ceremony and departure. I'll do my final post tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday - Final vs Canada

There is an old expression that soccer can be a cruel game. Today we felt that cruelty. We knew it would be very different from the previous match although it started out much the same way.
At 1:35 into the match, a beautiful series of 6 consecutive passes resulted in a goal for us. It was just as we would draw it up. We came out playing a 3-5-2 looking to take advantage of our ability to possess the ball and our speed of play. It looked like it would be a repeat of Sunday's match until the referee decided he needed to even things up. After several calls going against us in a row he gave Canada a free kick from about 25 yards out. He told the players to "wait for his whistle". At that point the Canadian girl struck the ball into the net just under the crossbar while we were setting up. When the players asked he just ignored them. When I asked he just smiled and shrugged his shoulders. Unfortunately these things happen when you are the US playing away from home.
We gathered ourselves and got ready for what was now going to be a war. As expected, Canada was rebounded from being deflated from our goal and now was motivated. The match turned a bit more physical with both teams stepping up the intensity. As halftime we talked about getting back to our game of up tempo possession and switching the point of attack. We created opportunities but were unable to finish them off. On to overtime. Two ten minute periods where we continued to create chances to score but had balls cleared of the line or were called for a hand ball or offside.
Tied 1-1 after overtime we went to penalty kicks. I still felt quite confident going into PK's as we have 2 quality keepers who both played in the match and fairly technical players. (I had played both Gabby & Alexa in goal splitting both regulation and overtime between them.) For PK's Gabby got the call since she was the keeper on the field at the end. With Canada shooting first, Gabby saved two giving us chances to win the game. Unfortunately we were not able to convert those opportunities. (the Canadian Goalkeeper did quite we well also). After 5 shooters it was still tied so we proceed shooting sudden death until the 10th shooter when we missed and they had converted.
Shattered is the only word I can think of to describe my feelings for my players at that point. As I stated yesterday, I had no doubt they would conduct themselves with honor and distinction and did not deserve this result but nonetheless I could not have been or continue to be prouder for them.
As stated above, the game can be cruel. However, these amazing young women who continue to carry themselves with class asked if they can get together at a tournament in the states so they can play together again. So maybe its just my perspective as a Dad that I feel the cruelty long after they have moved on to just continuing enjoying each other again.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday - Rest, Recuperation, Preparation

Today we spent the day resting and preparing for the Gold Medal game against Canada tomorrow at 11:00 am. (4:00 am est)
The players slept in and we met for lunch at 11:30 am. At 1:00 pm we took a brisk 45 min walk through the Kibbutz and then spent the next 45 min doing stretching, some yoga and relaxation exercises. Jessica then took the girls to he pool for an hour.
We have begun what we're calling "team segregation". That means for the 36 hours leading up to the final match we are staying away from the other teams and athletes as much as possible and keeping together as a team. In some cases its as much a state of mind as a practical reality since we are living amongst the other athletes. The intention is to focus attention and energy on the task ahead rather than get caught up in the usual hustle/bustle of others.
Tonight we'll have dinner as a team and then our Madrich (which is an Israeli counselor assigned to accompany each team) is doing a program with the girls. (BTW our Madrich Molly, is from Boston and has been great)

We'll meet for breakfast tomorrow at 8:oo am, have our tactical meeting at 8:45 am then board the bus to head over to Wingate around 9:15 am.

The culmination of all we have learned about the the game, each other and ourselves will be tested tomorrow. Regardless the outcome I feel very confident that each my young women are prepared to represent themselves, their families and our country with honor and distinction.

I'm hoping that the next picture I post will have gold in it!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday - USA Beats Canada 3 - 0 to Finish Group Play Undefeated

Today we beat Canada 3 - 0. But, more importantly was how we did it. The game was at Nuerim Field which is on the small and tight side so we played a low pressure, 4 - 5 - 1 direct style. As expected they came at us right from the opening whistle playing 4 flat in the back and looking to pressure us. We scored in the first 2 mins and then again 10 mins later. We also platooned our subs by making wholesale changes midway through each half since they aren't as fit or deep as us. They were very frustrated by what we were doing and kept yelling over to their bench that all we were doing was playing kickball. I do have to admit that it wasn't very attractive but as I told my players, we were looking to set them up for Tuesday's Gold Medal match which will be played at Wingate Stadium which is a nice big, fast pitch. (wink)
We scored the 3rd goal in the 3rd min of the second half to secure things. They never really found a solution for our clog up the middle tactic. I'm quite sure that they will come with a renewed intensity on Tuesday. They are a good team with some dangerous players up top and a quality keeper in goal.

After the match we went straight to Tel Aviv Beach and spent a couple of hours enjoying the Mediterranean. Canada, Finland and the Spanish Volleyball teams also went.
When we returned from the beach we had quick showers and then on the bus again to head over to Ra'anana for a concert with several thousand kids. It was one of Israels top bands and the crowd was mostly under 21. (The pics are of the after effects of playing a match in the morning and a couple of hours at the beach)

We just had a quick meeting before the team headed to bed to talk about keeping focused for the next 36 hours. We're very close to finishing out what has been an amazing 3 1/2 weeks the way we've planned all along.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday - Interesting Morning Event and Shabbat

This morning we had the opportunity to attend a special premiere of a new Israeli movie called "Size Matters". It's about 4 Israeli guys who form a sumo wrestling team. A very funny movie.
I recommend keeping your eye out for an opportunity to see it when it comes to the states.
After the movie were got to meet two of the lead actors. It was fun, relaxing morning before I released the girls to spend Shabbat (Fri night/Sat) with family who are here. After being away from family for 3 weeks I know that everyone was looking forward to spending time (and going out to eat) with their families.
The Soccer Coaching Staff even had an opportunity to go out for dinner at a wonderful restaurant in Herzliya. For anyone who has an opportunity to visit. The restaraunt is called ZooZooBar and features Pan-Asian cuisine. We all definitely enjoyed a couple of hours in our "civilian clothes".
We will re-assemble Saturday night and begin preparations for our matches with Canada.
We play them Sunday in final match of pool play with both of us undeated and looking ahead to the medal game on Tuesday.

Shabbat Shalom Ya'll

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thursday - Rolling along

Today we played Finland and while they were a pretty athletic group, the tactic of man marking that they used was disasterous for them. Good for us though. Once we got used to them chasing us all over the field it was just a matter of time before our tempo of possession and ball movement opened the game up. I was surprised that they stayed with that tactic throughout the whole match, even after it was clear they weren't nearly as fit or technical as we are. 7 - 0 was the result with their keeper putting in a courageous effort.
We play Canada on Sunday in the final group match and then we will play them on Tuesday for the final game since we both have won all of our matches. Should be quite interesting as they are much improved over 4 years ago and play a pretty direct, physical game.
They have been scouting us at each of our previous matches so I think I'll show them a different look and give them something to think about before the final.

We watched our U18 boys play Canada today and come out with a 1 - 1 draw, playing a man down to put them into the medal round.

After the boys game, some of the girls and I walked over to the shopping center next door for falafel. Some of the girls had McDonalds. Guess they needed a taste of home after being away for 3 weeks.

Tomorrow we are going to an event being held at the Cinema City and then the girls will be joining their families for Shabbat. Time for some recharging before we head into the battle with our neighbors to the north.