Sunday, July 10, 2011

We're baaaaaaack!!!

Before we "get back" I'd like to report on our last night in Italy. We were informed that the bus would be picking us up at 4am and so in our great wisdom, everyone decided to stay up all night. After a pizza dinner, Coach Jonny removed the curfew requirements and the boys were left to their own devices. They just had to be quiet after midnight and have their bags packed and staged in the downstairs hallway. I can't even tell you what they did, but at 3:45 am, they were all ready to go. Such good boys.

Now the parents were an entirely different story. In order to facilitate an all-niter, much beer and wine had to be consumed (well, didn't have to be, but was!) I do have incriminating pictures, but they will not be posted here. I'm sure they will make it to the Internet some day soon.

Even at 5am, the airport in Bologna was PACKED! After missing our earlier flight in Paris, there was some concern that we would not make this flight even though we were over 2 hours early. Luckily, we made it and our connecting flight at the dreaded Charles de Gualle.

I want to thank the Italian players for bringing such panache to our game. I know the guys have made lifelong friendships with our Italians, Dani & Denis, since much "friending" has occurred. The wonderful Mimma even created a Facebook page and has friended some of our players. I can't even describe Scott, our tour guide at the tournament. He is a fount of knowledge on any subject imaginable. Never challenge Scott to an intellectual dual, you will be sorry!

You all have wonderful wonderful sons. I am honored to have spent time with them in Italy and was so proud of them on and off the playing field.


4th Place overall!!!

Mimma and her Boys

Friday, July 8, 2011

Our Final game -- Us v. Sweden 1 (again)

As luck would have it, we drew the first Swedish team in our final match. Hopefully, the outcome will be different this time!

The Swedes came out ready for us. Their better players #s 21 and 26 immediately penetrated our midfield and backfields with speed. But our steady guys in the backfield, took the abuse, and actually seemed to be getting stronger as the minutes ticked by. The field was smaller than the stadium field, which made for very quick speed of play and unfortunately, favored the Swedes. Quality shots and saves were made on both sides of the pitch.

17 minutes in, and Garrett is taken down in the box. Penalty kick is awarded to us. Italian Dani motions for our guys to take the kick, but no one makes eye contact with him, so Dani takes the PK. He strikes a beautiful low shot to the back right corner, textbook PK and scores! 1-0 us.

The half continued at the same high intensity. Yellow cards were given evenly to both teams. Bodies were flying and our guys were giving back as much as they were taking, totally opposite of the first game. Tommy, playing an exceptional game, kept the Swedes from scoring and cleaned up any balls deep into the backfield, classic sweeper. The Swedes were a bit more frantic since we were up 1-0. Half-time 1-0 us.

The Swedes take a corner 5 minutes into the half and score. 1-1 tie.

Both sides continue with high intensity play. #21 takes the ball down the right side, and Brodie attempts to delay him. Unfortunately, 21 gets off a great cross, switching the ball to the far-side, and inside our 6. There is flurry in the box, but no clearance. Swedes score, 2-1 them.

After several more minutes, run of play has the Swedes working down their left side of the field. Our defenders shift to our right trying to stop their forward movement. They get the ball inside our 18. Max gets entangled with one of the Swedes, who fell down quite readily. The referee blows his whistle and signals for a PK. Evan dives left, but the goal is made to the right side of goalmouth. 3-1 them.

Coach Jonny changes to three across the back, moving Tommy up into the midfield. Tommy immediately starts to change the complexion of the game; just making trouble in the middle for the Swedes. The ball somehow makes it to the top left and Matthew fights his way to the ball and gets a nice cross. Denis quickly gets to the ball and scores! 3-2 them.

Game ends 3-2. Very exciting, very good, very competitive. There were no losers today. You would have been very proud of our guys. We will be going to the closing ceremonies tonight at 7:30 back at the stadium.

Party @ the Hotel Karim

Unbeknownst to us, every Thursday night, the hotels in Tagliata host a dance party for their patrons and the locals. Our guys were invited (told) by Mimma (mee-ma), our wonderful hotel matriarch that they will be at the dance tonight. (I was thinking, yeah, these guys want nothing to do with dancing.) Mimma, took care of our boys all week as if they were her own sons.

Rich and I were coming back to the hotel after our evening stroll and we heard dance music several blocks away. As we came up to the gate, we saw all of our boys doing the Macarena with Mimma! OMG!!! They were all there, except Evan and Steven who was partaking in pizza down the street. Steven managed to join the group dancing a few moments later, but Evan was nowhere to be seen.

The dancing went on for several hours and our guys stayed and danced and danced. Jonny even broke out the Robot, which is always a winner – you just can’t go wrong with the Robot. The guys loved it! The funny thing about the dance was that there were two very cute Italian 16-year girls, dressed to the nines! But our guys were having so much fun dancing with each other that they totally ignored the hot Italian chicks. They left after about an hour after coming to the realization that our guys were not going to ask them to dance. The party wound down, or came to a complete stop after Jason dropped the hotel owner, Mariangela, flat on her back after attempting to dip her!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Game 5 - Sweating with the Swedes

After a long walking tour of Ravenna, our guys return to the Stadium for their 5th Game start time –5:15. The Swedes came in donning red/black, we wore white/red. Our starting line-up for today’s match:

Goalie: Evan
Defenders: Jason (right), Chris, Tommy, Brodie (left)
Midfield: Max, Ben, Dani, Denis
Strikers: Garrett, Jamie

This Swedes are currently in 2nd place in the tournament and had already played a game today. We did not know the outcome of their first game, so two losses for them today would help us get closer to a 3rd place tournament finish. Hopefully, they will be a little tired from the earlier game. We definitely had the run of play in their half for most of the game. 13 minutes in, Italian Dani sends the ball across the goal-mouth and Jaime, running into the 6, puts away a very easy goal. 1-0 us.

5 minutes later, Jason moving toward goal from right to left, takes it inside the 18, past a defender, then passes it to our Italian Dani who hit the back right side net. Score!!! 2-0 us. Half-time

Start of the half sees Coach putting in new players: Stephen Thiringer in goal, Steven Logan at left halfback, Matthew T in at right back replacing Brodie, Jamie, and Evan. 2 minutes in the Swedes score on a cross from the left side of the 18. Rut-ro... The Swedish coaches must have given a very decisive peptalk during the half because the Swedes have stepped their speed of play and physicality. 2-1 us.

Ben wins a header in the middle of the field, and luckily lands on the right foot of Dani who immediately passes to Denis running at full speed toward the goal. He takes on a defender who tries to take him down, but Denis acrobatically jumps over the sliding defender. Keeping his composure; he takes several more touches then sends the ball into the net. 3-1 us.

Quick long ball from the backfield produces an exciting breakaway by our speedy Italians. Multiple beautiful give and gos are witnessed until the Italians Dani finally score. 4-1 us. (Whew, for a while there it looked like the tide was turning in the Swedes favor.)

Games over we WIN!!!! 4-1 us. Well-done boys, man of the match – Italian Dani.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Game 4 - Great Danes

With the exception of Stephen Thiringer starting in goal and no Lorenzo, the starting lineup remains the same as Game 3. Italians Dani & Denis take the kick-off and movement starts on the left side of the pitch. 3 minutes into the game we score! Brodie sends in a great pass into the 18 and Italian Denis heads it in for a score… 1-0 us. OMG!!!!

For the next several minutes run of play remains on their side of the fifty. Ben takes a wicked shot from the 30, which just grazes the top of the box. Not to be outdone by his younger brother, Max takes the same shot, but just misses wide right. Brodie misses just shy left, the ball comes back out, we knock it around the 18, then Max scores with his left! 2-0 us…

The Danes finally move the ball to our side of the 50, fortunately our defense stops them, Ben recovers and takes it all the way to their 30, dishes it left to Italian Dani, who dishes it more left to Steven Logan. Steven takes a shot which crosses all the way over the goal mouth and hits the right side cross bar. After more play around their 18, Italian Denis sends a decisive ball to the back of the net. 3-0 us.

(I hate to say this, but if you’re not here, you are missing one heck of a game. Our boys are on FIRE!) Argh, I shouldn’t have been taunting the home squad, the Danes just scored on a break away… 3-1 us. Halftime.

Half time whistle blows, 2 minutes in and Jaime scores from a nice pass from Italian Denis. Within minutes, Jaime takes another shot at close range, but the shot is blocked by one of two defenders tightly marking him. 4-1 us.

Our defenders, TLo, Jason, Matthew & Brodie do an exceptional job giving the mid-fielders relief by being close and open enough to accept an outlet pass and maintain possession. While I haven't discussed our defensive end because there was not much happening back there in either game, they played exceptionally all morning.

The remainder of the half had our team playing a very smart conservative possession game, but our little 14s still rudely kept pushing for more goals. TWEEEET!!! We won! 4-1 us!

Game 3 - Czech-mate

Today we had two games, Czechs & The Great Danes. Game 1 kick-off was at 0900, Czechs wearing red jerseys/white shorts, our guys in white jerseys/red shorts. Two of our Italian guests rode to the stadium on their cool little Vespas and sporty hair-dos. Unfortunately, Lorenzo our Italian holding mid was not able to make this first game. At the onset of play, both teams seemed equally matched, which was evident in the 0-0 score 15 minutes into the game. Jonny made some line-up changes, Evan started out in goal, Ben in the middle of the pitch with Max, and Chris to the back line. This change seemed to work very well. We had several more scoring opportunities than the other team. Max was taken down shortly before the half, but managed to get back on his feet. Half-time 0-0.

After halftime, the Czechs came out in green jerseys – which helped out tremendously. Matthew came in for Chris in the backfield and Stephen replaced Evan in the goal. Run of play was much more physical at the onset of the second half. We had several scoring opportunities, but unfortunately so did the Czechs. (Golf commentator voice…) Max is lined up to take the direct kick outside the 18, the shot is deflected back out and Italian Dani puts it AWAY!! SCORE!!! 1-0 USA-USA-USA!!!!

(Golf commentator voice again…) Matthew T. gets the ball at the half. Sends it up to Garrett on the right flank who dances past his defender. We now are in a 2v1 situation where the 1 is their goalie. SCORE!!!!! Whistle blows, we win 2-0!!!!

Game 2 - French Fried

The France team (their jerseys read U17-U16) was very physical, skilled, and fast. Run of play was definitely on their side for most of the game. They punished our team after making the smallest of mistakes. – soft passes, kicks to no one, missed tackles. Both goalies, Stephen & Evan, made some outstanding saves, even though the game outcome didn’t reflect their efforts. Good learning experience for our guys, make a mistake and you will get shellacked! Can’t really critique this game, we played a very good team and we had some opportunities on goal, but we just couldn’t finish. C’est la vie… 3-0 France