Friday, March 5, 2010

Exploring Russia- Day 4

By: Erin Lycan
Fran Kulas put in an excellent journal which covered the goings-on of today on the mytripjournal blog:

From today’s itinerary….

The USA won the inaugural Women’s World Cup held in China in 1991.

“Hard work beats talent, when talent won’t work.”

TEAM DEFENDING begins with our forwards.

Today was an eventful day for us and an exciting one since today was the first time we were able to take the field since our arrival in Russia.

Following a late breakfast, Coach Mike attended a type of media day/press conference for the Russian press that was attended by him and the national team coaches from Russia and China, during which the Russian National Team coach acknowledged that we, along with China were the favorites in the tournament. Coach Mike reported that while this event was being covered heavily in the Russian press, the country as a nation is still admittedly in the early stages as a developing national in women’s soccer.

While Coach Mike was at the press conference, Coaches Fran and Erin conducted a team meeting to briefly update administrative items, and then to discuss our defending tactics for our first match.

The players showed a level of focus today as they are aware of the importance of preparing to play in our first match and how quickly we must jell as a team.

Following lunch, we were off to our first training session. The training fields were just over 10 minutes from the hotel and were in very good condition. Pictures of the field and the players preparing for and walking out onto the field are included in this update, as are photos of the banners that were displayed at the training facility, which had three fields. The conditions today were a little brisk, but overall were perfect for training, with exception to the small trash fire (notice the smoke in the attached photos) that was burning in a nearby yard that caused some of our players some coughing fits!

The session began with a dynamic warm-up that the players rehearsed in previously in Moscow. Following the warm-up and stretch, Coach Erin took the goalkeepers for their warm-up and repetitions and coaches Mike and Fran took the field players to begin the session with 2 vs. 2 played small goals, with one team attacking one, and defending one. On one field, both goalkeepers were playing behind the goals as back-pass/build-up players and also were able to defend the two goals. One interesting bit about today’s session was that the U19 Russian National Team arrived to train on the field next to ours and it was interesting to observe their training practices.

Upon returning to the hotel, the team ate dinner and a team meeting followed this where the staff reviewed our desired attacking schemes as well as our organization on all restarts. The staff then proceeded to an administrative meeting, lasting almost 3 hours, that was attended by the coaches and was conducted by the tournament organizers. Translators were on hand which was very helpful, particularly to us! The coaching staff of the following national teams were in attendance:

Russia, Estonia, China, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Iran and Belorussia had not yet arrived, but the coaches from the regional teams from the Urals, Krasnodar, and Moscow attended.

The purpose of the meeting was to review the playing rules of the tournament, coordinating uniforms for matches between the countries, reviewing accommodation arrangements, etc.

One interesting discrepancy at this meeting was between the Chinese National Team and the Moscow Regional Team when determining uniform/kit colors for matches. The Chinese refused to wear anything other than all white (white tops, shorts, and socks) or all red (red tops, shorts, and socks). The Moscow Regional Team were a late addition to the tournament because Chile had to drop due to the recent tragedy in their country, and Moscow only had white socks as a result of their late addition. China as the host team for their match against Moscow, refused to wear any combination of colors (white tops, white shorts, and red socks) because this goes against their traditional national color pairings. The USA (as we are referred to here) offered our Blue socks to the Moscow team to help solve the dilemma and they were extremely appreciative of this gesture.

With breakfast at 8 a.m. and our bus leaving for the stadium at 8:45 in the morning for our 9:45 kickoff against the Krasnodor Regional Team, we are all excited for our first match and to start the tournament on the right foot (pun intended!). In addition to our first match tomorrow, the official Opening Ceremonies will be tomorrow at 4 p.m. and followed by all teams watching the U19 National Teams of Russia and Estonia playing against each other. Perhaps bigger than the soccer, we learned that because this event is so well thought of, that the President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, is attending the Opening Ceremonies!!! In addition, we were told that the head of women’s football (soccer) for FIFA (soccer’s world governing body) would also be attending these ceremonies. During the ceremonies, the American Flag will be displayed on the field as our team, along with the other teams, are recognized along side each other in a parade-type fashion.

Today was a long day for all of us, but we learned some interesting things not noted above:

1. Our hotel, Sputnik, and the immediate surrounding areas, will be serving as the Olympic Village (the central location for the participating athletes) for the 2014 Winter Olympics! We were aware the Olympics would be held here, but were not aware that we would be staying in “THE” hotel and area that they are preparing for this major event. The Black Sea is in walking distance (we plan to do that soon) and while there is much construction going on surrounding us as they prepare for the Olympics, Sochi is a very nice place.

2. The Head Coach for the Chinese U19 National Team is experiencing coaching female soccer players for the first time in his career. He most recently was the Head Coach of the Chinese Men’s Olympic Team prior to this new appointment.

This has a pretty long and detailed update and we’re not sure we can do such a lengthy update on a regular basis, but we will do so when possible. Between our training, matches, meetings, staff meetings/video review, we will continue to do our best to keep you updated as best as we can, once we’ve attended to our priorities here in preparing and helping this great group of young ladies represent Region I ODP and the United States as best as possible.

On a closing note, Tori Leigh and Kristen Schmidbauer, were named today as our team captains for this event. Congratulations to them and we trust and look forward to them leading our team both on and off the field during this once-in-a-lifetime experience for our group.

In closing, we hope to provide an update as soon as we possibly can tomorrow following our match, with our positive result as well as goalscorers, etc. So that you can prepare with us, our focuses and phrases that appear on our itinerary for tomorrow are as follows….thanks for following us!

The first USA Women’s National Team Soccer game played on USA Soil was in Blaine, Minnesota. The game was on July 7th, 1986 against Canada, the USA won 2-0.

Set the tone of the tournament in minute one of game one.

Soccer is a territorial game. Remember we want to defend in the opponent’s half, win the ball in the opponent’s half and if we happen to lose the ball, do so in the opponent’s half.

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