By: Erin Lycan Last night the team took a trip to downtown Sochi for a bit of comfort food - McDonalds! The girls were so excited to get some protein and a little taste of home. Although it’s not food that I ever eat, the thought of actually getting some protein from chicken nuggets and some real ketchup was too good to pass up. It’s probably the first time I’ve eaten at a fast food chain in over a decade and as fun as it was to get out and do it with the team, I think it’s safe to say that will be my last fast food foray. That trip was followed by the second evening where the other participating teams performed their "skits". While the team went to McDonalds, Coach Fran stayed back at the hotel for the coaches meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to determine the schedule for the remainder of the event, as well as address any concerns. The tournament organizers feel strongly about the final placements of all of teams outside of the finals. So for example, even though there are four teams (China, Turkey, Estonia, and Russia) in the semi-final round, the organizers are also interested in determining places 5-11. What they've done at this stage is organize two additional brackets, the 2nd bracket is where Region 1 falls, with Ukraine, Krasnodar Regional Team, and the Urals Regional Team. The 3rd bracket consists of Belarus, Uzbekistan, and the Moscow Regional Team. At the meeting, Region 1 expressed our feeling that placement at this point in the tournament is irrelevant for the teams who have not advanced to the semi-final round, and that it is our preference to play a new or different opponent than we have played thus far. Region 1 asked through translators if other teams would be open to changing these arrangements to accommodate the opportunity to play different opponents, and the answer we received from the Krasnodar Regional Team and Ukrainian National Team (who we've already played and tied) through translators was that they did not want to play a different team and that they wanted to have the chance to beat us instead. The feeling of the coaching staff was that we preferred to play a new opponent, as a different opponent presents new and different problems for us to solve. The viewpoint of the other teams, as it has been for all of the teams throughout our trip, is that everyone wants to "beat the Americans." We are hoping that the team will respond to this approach once again and in the case of playing the Krasnodar Region again, that we will be able to beat them this time around, as we knew our earlier 2-2 result against them in group play was not representative of our play.
Following the meeting, we spoke with Estonia who had expressed an interest in training at the same time and on the same field so that after a brief training session / warm-up for each team on Saturday, we would engage in a modified and informal friendly. This morning, following breakfast, the team went to the field for an hour session prior to the friendly against Estonia. Coach Erin took the goalkeepers for the first half hour to work on flighted balls while Coaches Mike and Fran worked with the field players on passing and receiving technical repetitions. Following this, the team played a three team game to 2 goals, with two teams in the game and the third acting as one-touch bumpers on the perimeter of the field. The team who was scored on left the field, the bumpers enter, and the team who scored gets the ball from the goal they just scored in and attacks the opposite direction. Following this, the team kicked off against Estonia for a 40 minute match (2 x 20 minute halves). Coach Fran served as the referee for the match and both teams were able to experiment with different players in different positions. Region 1 took a 1-0 lead into halftime on a goal from Jennifer Gibbons. Region 1 tacked on two more goals in the second half on strikes from Tori McCombs and Jenna Gibnney to close out the scoring and give Region 1 the 3-0 win.
Tonight following dinner, we have organized a movie night for the girls in a theater type room here at the hotel. The seating in the room includes movie theater-style seating and a large screen and large speakers. The team has many DVDs with them and the group will take a vote on which movie they will watch together…so far, Adam Sandler’s Don’t Mess With The Zohan seems to be in the lead. We've also extended the invitation to the Estonian National Team to join us, as the players and the staff from our two teams have connected and worked together very well on this trip.
The team will kickoff tomorrow at 12:30 against the Krasnodar Regional Team - wish us luck!