Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Central VT Connection to the World Cup

When people think of the US National Team in soccer, few people think of Vermont. With five months of winter, VT just isn't a breeding ground for soccer players. However, VT is represented on the US team that will compete next month in Germany. Ryan Maxfield of Rutland is the equipment manager for the team (on the right in photo).

The Times-Argus and Rutland Herald ran a nice piece on Maxfield earlier this week. It's a very complimentary piece and a good read for soccer fans rounding out their knowledge of the national team. The one interesting tidbit about the US team's recent training camp is this quote:

"It's pretty crazy," Maxfield said. "Bruce Arena runs a very relaxed camp, but it's difficult for the players and staff because there is so much publicity. It's great and the players appreciate it, but every day for four or five hours there is the media or some event to get ready for."
I knew there was more press interest than in the past but I didn't know the players and staff were doing four or five hours of media work each day. Hopefully, all of that press will translate into greater exposure for the team and ultimately into higher TV ratings for the games.

Hopefully, WCAX or WPTZ will pick up on Ryan's story as we get closer to the cup. Any local slant always helps raise the interest level.

Ryan's brother, Todd, who I'll be traveling with in Germany also was mentioned in the the kind banana fetching big brother. Ha!

Speaking of the trip, my travel plans are finally looking settled for the cup. I fly out on Saturday afternoon and arrive in Frankfurt around 9:30am on Sunday. Todd's flight doesn't get in until noon so I'm planning on meeting a bunch of fellow soccer nuts from BigSoccer at a bar in the Frankfurt airport. It should be a fun way to kill a few hours.

Todd has a friend in Wiesbaden, which is about a half-hour from Frankfurt. Todd will crash there while I stay at Hotel Braun. Nothing fancy but it's close to where the other guys are staying. In fact, their place is right on the other side of a park from Hotel Braun and there's a bier garten right along the path on my way to their place. Could this trip get any better?

On Monday, we'll travel up to Gelsinkirchen for the US-Czech Republic game. If the US wins or draws, we'll probably stay in the city for the night partying. If it's a loss, we might just head back to Wiesbaden that night.

From Tuesday to Friday, we don't have tickets to any games and the only game during those days in Frankfurt, Kaiserslauten or Cologne is the Togo-South Korea match on Tuesday afternoon in Frankfurt. If we are back in town and feeling good, I may try to scalp a ticket to that game. I don't care about either team but the atmosphere at any World Cup match is worth the cost of admission.

Otherwise, from Tuesday to Friday, we are going to spend some time sight seeing but whenever there is a game on, we'll make a point of finding a bar or large outdoor viewing area in the towns. Frankfurt has potentially the best outdoor viewing option. Those crazy Germans are putting gigantic TV screens on barges in the middle of the River Main and seating for 15,000 fans on either side of the river for watching the games. That could amazingly entertaining (although I wonder how well we'll be able to see the screen in the daylight).

The other highlight for me will be living kid-free for a few days. I love my kids but not having to live on their schedule for a few days is going to be great. Wake up whenever I want to. Eat whenever I want to. Sleep whenever I want to. That hasn't happened since January 2002. It'll be nice.

Then we'll go to Kaiserslauten on Saturday for the US-Italy match. However, I fly out the next morning, so we'll have to travel back to Wiesbaden that night. Having said that, if we pull off a miracle and upset the Italians. It'll be impossible to resist the urge to stay and party all night. With the US military bases in the area, I'm guessing there'll be a lot of Americans out celebrating a stunning US win. It could be quite the party.

On Sunday morning, I fly back and arrive in Burlington late in the afternoon with a headul of memories.

Because I'm so excited about the trip, I am trying to temper my hopes for and emotional attachment to the US team. I often slip into a nasty funk following big losses by the US team that can often take a few days to climb out of. However, I don't want my week in Germany to be derailed by that sort of a funk. So, in case the team lays an egg against the Czechs, I'm trying to lower my expectations for the team.

With that in mind, the US helped hold down on any hopes I had for them by looking fairly crappy against Morocco last night (lost 1-0) in the first of their three final warm-up matches before they travel to Germany. They'll play Venezuela on Friday in Cleveland and Latvia on Sunday in Hartford. Both games will be on ESPN2 at 7pm.

Most likely, the team was a bit worn out from two tough weeks of practice in Cary, NC. Before the last World Cup, the team laid an egg against Canada immediately following their training camp. So, it doesn't matter much. But we did look poor.


yankunian said...

At least Reyna seems to be okay. I just found out my friend's wedding starts just as the USA-Italy match is kicking off. And my second choice to win, England, has lost Wayne Rooney, so everyone over here is totally depressed. It kinda puts a damper on the whole soccer madness thing I was looking forward to.

Flatlander said...

Are Brits really in despair simply because Rooney went down? I know the guy is great but that team is still stacked. I always sensed that everyone was excited to see what the kid would do but I didn't know folks were hanging all of their hopes on the kid's shoulders. That's how fans of minnows act not soccer super powers.

If Schevchenko went down, then I could understand all of the Ukranian fans being deressed but England still has a great team. Plus, I thught Rooney may be back in a few weeks. Perhaps he'll be available for the later rounds when you would need him more.

yankunian said...

I was watching the game when he went down in the final seconds and, this sounds melodramatic, but it was literally as if a shadow passed over the sun. At work the next day people were grim. As great as their squad seems to us, they really do think they have a lot riding on Rooney, and he is a reliably incredible offensive player. Even though they still have plenty of great players, his loss represents a huge psychological blow to the team.

Basically, I think the brits love a hero, and this cycle continues to repeat itself. Now Theo Walcott, the untried player picked for the squad, is the great white hope. You almost have to feel sorry for the kid.

Flatlander said...

In a similar vein, all of America has their heads hanging low this morning over the news that Cory Gibbs has hurt his knee and will be replaced by slow, old man Greg Berhalter. People are gnashing their teeth and tearing their clothes in disappointment.

What??? Oh, that's right. It's not even in the friggin' papers here and nobody cares. I forgot for a second that I live in the US. Sorry.

Seriously, I didn't see Walcott play but I read a reference to a recent performance he had with England that gave the impression he struggled at this level. Is that right? I guess I should just do Google News on Theo Walcott and check for myself.

yankunian said...

I didn't see the game but I think people are kind of reserving judgement on him for a while. His girlfriend is already getting the full "footballers' wives' treatment in the tabs, though.