In Portugal With the Emergency Brake On

ALBUFEIRA, Portugal — Hello from Portugal! As Whitney Engen says about our current location in the Algarve, it is very “aesthetically pleasing.” You won’t catch me using a term like that, but I decided to quote her because it’s probably the best way to describe this place.

The trip over was not bad at all. I didn’t realize that the flight from the East Coast was only six hours (short!). After we landed in Lisbon we had a several hour bus ride, but I slept through most of it and then we were at our beautiful hotel. The resort and spa where we’re staying for our three-week trip overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.

The field where we’ve been training is only several short, but eventful, few miles from the hotel. And by eventful, I am referring to the driving situation.

We have vans, which are manual transmission. For the most part, this has not been a problem (nor a smooth ride, but who’s being picky). There was one slight snafu when Nicole Barnhart, who we call Barney, attempted to drive us home from training the other day. We should have known things were not right when she had trouble getting the van into reverse to leave the parking lot. But it only dawned on us that something was awry when we tried to drive up the first hill.

Yeah, the shifting of gears had been a little rough (she definitely revved the engine and peeled out a couple times), but the hill was an even greater challenge. As we sat, almost stalled, halfway up the thing, I really didn’t think we were going to make it to the top. We ended up grinding up in first gear, and as we all breathed a sigh of relief, one of our other team vans pulled up next to us.

“Maybe you should try taking off the emergency brake.”

They said it smelled like burning rubber while driving behind us. So, that was the culprit! We all laughed the rest of the way back and went from joking with Barney about her driving ability to praising her for being able to negotiate the drive with the brake on. Not even her Stanford education could have prepared her for that!

The rest of the trip has been a lot smoother than our drive back from training that day.

We’ve been working hard, playing a lot of small-sided games so far. Whereas last camp had an emphasis on fitness, this trip has more of a tactical emphasis. We will play Japan, Norway and Finland in our group games of the Algarve Cup.

Each of these opponents will present a unique style of play, allowing us to approach each game with slightly different tactical objectives. It’s all part of the learning and building process to prepare for the World Cup this summer in Germany. More to come. …