It’s a routine day at the office.
We step off the bus, lace up our boots and jog to the far sideline and back a several times, some of us stopping to stretch or knock the ball around. Typical.
This time, however, it’s not quite so typical. The soil into which our cleats plant is English, the spectators all speak with accents and our opponents outweigh us by, on average, 40 pounds.
As we jog, out of a minibus step the boys we are preparing to scrimmage; correction, men. It is a U19 team, much larger and stronger than the U16 boys we are accustomed to playing at the Home Depot Center in outside L.A.
Minutes into the scrimmage it becomes clear that despite the physical mismatch, we are the better footballers (note the English terminology). Our technical and tactical advantage just falls short of matching their superior speed and athleticism. We lose, 1-0, but over all have a good performance and are forced to play a fast-paced game.
Typical day at the office.
We are here on a “business trip,” if you will, with training and meetings taking up a lot of our time. It’s not all business, though. We got the opportunity to explore London one evening, and a definite highlight was getting to see the England-Ghana game at Wembley Stadium.
The bus ride took nearly two and a half hours, but eventually, after weaving through traffic, we could see Wembley’s giant lit arch through the fog. The stadium at night is breathtakingly beautiful. I have to admit that I don’t feel particularly strongly about either side, but as I stepped out of the walkway to get to our seats, the atmosphere in the stadium was like no other game I’ve experienced.
As the vibrantly dressed Ghana team lined up in red opposite the traditional all-white English kits on the brilliant green, carpet-like pitch, I got the chills. I don’t think I said more than three sentences all game. I just watched, mesmerized. There’s something about seeing a game in person — watching powerful, skillful athletes perform with ease the game you love, that is supremely inspiring. I left feeling energized, despite the fact that we didn’t get back to the hotel until after midnight.
With just this trip and one training camp left before the World Cup roster is announced, what seemed like a long process, with plenty of time for the expected ups and downs, all of a sudden feels a bit less forgiving. We face England on Saturday and then go to Scotland to play them on April 6. Yes, it’s a business trip, but I have to say, this business is pretty fun. And no matter how routine it may seem, no two days are ever the same.