2014 Soccer Coming to an End

It’s amazing the feelings that come with something ending. Most people jump to sadness. They think of all the things that IMG_4937have happened and recognize or more or less, they realize that those things may never happen to them again. This is something that we go through so young and its probably one of life’s first real lessons. From losing your last baby tooth, to starting taking classes where you have to impress more than one teacher, to your first school dance, to your last driving lesson with your dad…all of these things are things that life only really teaches you once. So, why is it that we fight these life lessons so much? I think I’ve cracked the code, not that I’m the first, but proud of myself none the less.

Because CHANGE IS TERRIFYING!

When I first made the choice to take the roster spot and come to this tournament, I was scared. I had just rode the most disappointing roller coaster of regrets and lost opportunities, and to be honest, I was truly motion sick. The ups and downs of not being in the 2015 World Cup made parts of my personality disappear into a place where they were dead set on staying until I was good and ready to start living again. (Side note, as I just typed “living,” my phone changed it to “loving.” First ever auto correct I would’ve been ok with). Anyway, I spent so many wasted thoughts on what could’ve and should’ve been. I should’ve gotten a goal against Trinidad. I should’ve dribbled this one ball differently and maybe passed it more cleanly. I should’ve spent every waking minute before the World Cup Qualifiers with a ball at my feet so there was no one on the field who could beat me or take it. But, as my dad and I think the Bible says, worrying does not add any inches to your height. It’s funny that he chose that Bible reference for me growing up as I think he knew it was impactful because I spent the majority of my childhood under the height of 4 foot. And I worried about everything down to whether my last piece of Cheerio would be too soggy to eat today. Silly dad. Silly me.
Now, I did have a choice this time to come to this tournament or let the last USA game be the last game I played this year for Haiti, and maybe my last game in the Haiti jersey for good. For those of you who watched that game, you will know that the decision should’ve been very easy and coming to the tournament should’ve stuck out in my decision process like a sore thumb. I wish it were. But remember what I said about my capacity to worry? Yeah….Coming to this tournament meant I would miss more time with my amazing DUSL teams. Those girls have inspired me so much and they will probably never know the positive impact they made on my life. Nick Lusson and Jovan Yamagishi have been such amazing mentors and facilitators, both playing a huge role in me being technically and tactically, and physically ready as a player for this tournament. I didn’t want to disappoint all those people. The amount of other people who have helped me; the coaching staff at DUSL, the members of the board (Brian and Dan leading the way) and the many families who read all this rambling, even the ones I don’t know of. Kyle Davies, who took time out of sleeping to come and wreck my body with his sick training sessions. Staff who covered those Monday Circuit Trainings, even when it was their only Monday off. Art Garcia and Todd Barnes who took my teams on as their own while I was gone, organizing probably better than I ever could. My assistant coaches Anant Jain, Tony Colmenares, Scott O, Vanessa Amaral, my managers Priya Jain and Jamie Thompson. These people are like super women and men who parent, cook, clean, drive kids here and there, go to work, and all STILL find time to send emails for me, cover games and practices and make my life SO much better. Then there are the super patient and supportive parents of these wonderful players I’ve had the pleasure of coaching. You all have seriously been above par and the support you showed me was so noticed and appreciated. Even when I was unable to email you back because Trinidad’s Internet was bipolar. Kids, my Dymanite and Magic girls, past and present, you’re all amazing. Each and every one of you have a special place in this crazy heart of mine. I will always be here for you all. Always.
And then there’s Alena Thom. My partner in crime, who would never let me forget that I could do this. She has been my biggest driving force in soccer over the course of these three years since the day I saw her walk up to our first Bay Area Breeze practice and thought to myself, “Dang, that’s what a professional soccer player looks like…she looks like she could bench press me, while juggling, with her eyes closed, then bike the ball over a multitude of defenders, purposefully bounce it off the inside of every post before it went in and then wake up because she did it all in her sleep…” Alena will forever be my hardest one v one opponent I’ve played against and I know that losing 9.75 out of 10 times to you over the years has truly made me a better player. What and how you have inspired me off the field is unexplainable. My family…my parents and sisters, who taught me everything I know (especially how to write this way), I can’t wait until we are all done with our Brand adventures and are all living within slapping distance of each other again.
Thank you. All of you. I may be a word smith sometimes, but this time, the only thing I can say is thank you. For absolutely everything. Sharing this experience with all of you has made me realize that there are so many people who care for me and are willing to prove that day after day. Even if you’re someone I’ve never met, yet you read these blogs, you were all a piece of the confidence that I took with me in ever match, that I used when my head went down and that I will carry with me for the rest of my days. Deep sigh, boy I write a lot. And absolutely none of that was about how we only lost to Mexico 1-0 in the 86th minute of the match…
Oh well, for another blog!

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SAM IN BACK ROW=HUGE OVERSITE

Veracruz Game Against Columbia

The game against Columbia the other day was challenging. And when I say challenging, I think you may look at the score andIMG_4754 say, “Yeah, you lost 3-0, of course it was hard.” But you would be mistaken and that’s why it always pains me to know that people can’t watch these games and see for themselves the effort put into them. The goals we gave weren’t goals of their brilliance, but mistakes of ours that were exploited. Simply put, we have them this win. Those are always more challenging.
First goal. Our player gets a ball taken around midfield. They counter. Player shoots. Our keeper makes yet another amazing save but it was so wet and rainy it bounces out, other player follows, we don’t. She comes in, shoots, scores the rebound. I know that without a shadow of a doubt, they were more relieved than happy for that goal. Half time. Second half. Second goal. Player does a quick throw in, their player hand balls it but the ref let it play on. We got flustered by that and couldn’t recover. Player turns, we don’t step. She slots it in. Within 4 minutes, we have a break down on the right side. Their player gets a cross off. Simultaneously, our left back gets a calf cramp and doesn’t communicate this and no one checks their shoulder to make sure the players are covered. Cross comes through, our left mid couldn’t recover in time. Back post player taps it in.
That’s it. That’s the game everyone will remember. But how fair is that? There were 88 other minutes in that game where we were disciplined, communicated, passed the ball under pressure, and defended our tails off against a team headed to the 2015 World Cup. But that’s not enough. At this level, it’s not enough to simply have 88 good minutes of soccer. It’s not enough to have the best 88 minutes of your life instead of the best game of your life. It just simply takes a whole match. That’s what separates us from the World Cup. That and a few choices made in formation and us not being able to adapt to them mid game. I trust in my teammates. Confide in them off the pitch. Love them. But we aren’t there yet. The level we want to be to make it to the 2019 World Cup will take SO MUCH MORE than we are giving in each match right now. We need to be so exhausted after each game that we need an IV to recover properly. Until then, I will be proud of the effort that we put in for 88 minutes but I will NOT stop until we can do better.
Thank you to my teammates. I was low at points of that game and you lifted me up. How lucky are we to be a part of a sport like this. And little ones back home. Dynamite, who is on their way to trying to win a State Cup, stop worrying about the little things you can’t control. Worry about your effort, inspiring your teammates and constant communication with each other to lift each other up through this State Cup adventure. Only then will you succeed. Magic, I miss you all so very much and hope that you know that High School soccer does NOT define you. Nothing in High School does ;)
Mexico. It’s great that you’re a good team and all, but we intend to make you work for a win against us!

Game Against Trinidad and Tobago

It’s amazing how the tiniest of things can change the course of your day, your next few hours, your everyday life. One decision can be the start of so many moments to follow that could’ve otherwise been avoided had you just did that ONE thing differently.  That’s life and surprisingly, even though it’s merely a game, I feel that soccer imitates that better than anything else I’ve ever experienced.

The ball gets hit over me and I turn to sprint to get it with a Trinidad forward barreling down behind me, hoping to change the score of this game in her favor. I swing off balance to get to the ball first and get nudged ever so slightly and hit the ground as I stick a tackle, but lose my balance and take both myself and the forward down with me. As we fall, she throws her leg out for a last stitch attempt at creating a chance and slide kicks the ball back to her teammate coming in who takes no time at all to send a flighted ball into the box. Our defender, our keeper and their forward jump into the ball wit everything they have and boom. Their forwards head connects with the ball and they’ve scored on us in such a similar way as the World Cup qualifiers that I almost don’t believe it happened. I was stunned. I was shocked. I was hurt. I was disappointed. I was lost. But only for a moment. Then, I snapped out of it, grabbed the ball and jogged it to the midline. Not because I thought that we needed to go score a goal right away. Not because I wanted to show my team and theirs that we are ready to come at them. I did this simply because someone noticed that I did this against the U.S. in our last game and it made such a huge impact on him, he now claims I am his favorite professional female soccer player. It’s amazing how little simple decisions can change your future actions and the perception that people have of you.

What if I had approached the ball differently, stayed on my feet and denied that initial play? If I had made a different decision, would be be three points ahead of the whole group? Would we be in a situation where instead of a tie, we have a win and the only story we tell forever is the story of a life time where our meant to be goalkeeper got a ball, turned a player, flicked it to our right back overlapping who came in like a wrecking ball and didn’t stop until she put the ball in the back of the net? I wish that were the case. I also wish that the PK opportunity we had later in the half went our way. But those are simple, small, sometimes obsolete decisions we make that change the course of your entire game and on a team where your soccer is your life and your life is soccer, you have a bad day on the field and you just plain have a bad day. Gone are the days where losing a soccer game can be remedied by my moms perfectly warm hugs and/or my dad letting me koala jump into his arms. Do those still work wonders and am I still shocked that even in my late 20’s both of my parents can comfortably carry me? Of course. But ultimately, I chose to play for a team where every game can change a woman’s life. Can change my teammates’ lives. And growing up in this game, I would have never thought that I would be playing it in a way that my one decision in one game could change the lives of little children in a country I didn’t know enough about growing up, despite my lineage. I admire those who play for their countries. I admire those who put their own pride aside to try and better the lives of future players to come. I admire the coaches who sacrifice family, a social life and sometimes their own personal gain to coach such an emotional sport at this high of a level where so much is at stake. But I can’t get that one single moment out of my head. I can’t stop thinking about how I just want to re-do that one little moment and maybe I could’ve been the person who changed my goalkeepers experience from merely assisting a goal in a tie to assisting THE game winning goal. What an impact that could’ve been.

Let me tell you about the first half. It’s a lot more positive and I’m so proud of the women I get to call my teammates. Like I mentioned in the previous blogs, we have 11 players, a couple injured players and also were going to be playing with one of our goalkeepers as a target striker. We couldn’t get the ok for our fitness trainer to play, so it was all up to us. Little did we know, our goalkeeper was Ronaldo in her previous life. Or Cobi Jones for those of you who have been long time LA Galaxy fans like me. Her first touch of he game was a perfect one touch pass under intense pressure. A situation that I’m not very confident I would’ve look as composed as she did. One of her following touches was a controlled trap, a slight set up turn around a player as she played a ball to our right back who’s speed, like I mentioned before, makes Usain Bolt look like a grandma. Side note, do you know those little thought bubbles that cartoons have that are written in those cloud looking things where you know it’s the only thing that little cartoon can think of? Well, if those could be used in real life and if there was one over our right back’s head in this moment, it would’ve read, “Can’t stop, won’t stop…until I score…” And she did. She darted down the line and passed everyone defender from the halfway line to the goal and slotted it passed the keeper. I definitely had one of the best koala jump hugs this world has ever seen straight into the arms of our goalkeeper/striker extraordinaire. So incredibly proud to call my team my team.

Second half, our coach changed our formation and style to a 3-3-4 ish thing, but we weren’t using our two injured players on the flanks, so we were almost in a 3-3-2. Then again, after her amazing first half, our poor goalkeeper/striker was a little tired. So we essentially played a 3-3-1. Sound familiar Dynamite? Before I continue, let me tell you about this wind. There’s wind and then there Veracruz CRAZY wind. With a sport where the objective is to control a ball that over the years has become so light the wind plays with it like a beach ball, it was absolutely insane how different the game was. No longer a game where your touch is only affected by how many hours you’ve put in over the course of the years leading up to this level, but also changed by your ability to be professional and read the wind and what it will do to the ball in any given moment. I’m fairly decent at this as weather is a part of the game that I’ve often found fascinating to conquer. But even with that experience, I got a few unavoidable balls blown into my face, stomach, lower limbs. But I loved it.

Back to our formation/changes. We were up 1-0 at half. We threw one of our center backs up as a forward and hoped to use the wind to get a few more goal scoring chances. Here’s where this blog gets tricky. I want to give you a real picture of what it’s like to play on a team of this level, but there are also life lessons that I can’t share with you in fear that you will get just a small dose of our reality and paint a picture of our team that isn’t based on the whole truth. But in this case, I want to share our experience in some way, so I’ll put my coach’s hat on to do that. I coach two amazing teams back in California. If any of you kids or parents are reading this, hello from Veracruz and please comment on these posts so I can know you’re keeping up! Now I coach these two teams through past experiences as a player, through what I’ve learned from my DUSL mentors and from what I naturally know as a person. Sometimes I make decisions thinking one thing will happen and the players either can’t execute it due to lack of focus etc or absolutely ALL odds are against them and they are doing the best they can, but just aren’t succeeding. I think for us yesterday, it was a little bit of both of those things. Maybe because of the personnel we ended up with, the tactical plan to play direct was harder than it should’ve been. Or maybe because of all the external factors, we were thrown off. But regardless of the reasons for our lack of success in holding the win, we just plain needed to DO better. There were balls that weren’t taken out of the air cleanly, passes that were the second best option because we waited too long to penetrate the first option. There were shots that should’ve been goals and we did not use the proper technique and/or placement of that shot. No matter what, when you lose a game as a player, the absolute hardest thing to do is look inside and figure out what you personally needed to do better to have impacted a single moment for better and not for the worst. Could I have stayed on my feet in that tackle and changed everything? I don’t know. But I do know that when I’m in that situation again, when I get the opportunity to redeem myself for that, I’m going to grab it by the horns and succeed. And in turn, WE will succeed.

We ended in a 1-1 tie with many missed opportunities. But want to know something so crazy it just makes me giggle? So did Mexico and  Columbia, the two other teams in our group. Every team literally has 1 point. So, it’s like that game was a learning experience for us all without there being any truly horrible detrimental consequences for us not getting three points. That’s crazy stinking cool. Still would’ve wanted the win, but it’s fun to see how things work out and how opportunity can come when you least expect it.

Columbia, I don’t know much about you, but I do know that we are stronger than you would ever imagine. Even with the news that our younger players aren’t coming now at all and we will possibly play with 11 for the whole tournament if the players who got deported cannot make it either, I’m still STOKED to be here.

Can’t wait to play again!

Veracruz – Pre-Match Days

IMG_4669Well, this place is amazing. Veracruz is seriously one of the most eclectic places I’ve been in regards to weather. One day it was so windy I could stand outside and lean into the wind and it would almost hold me up and the next day it was sunny and I was frolicking about in the Golf! I absolutely love it. Speaking from someone raised in Southern California where the season changes consisted of a little sprinkle in the morning in winter and clear by lunch break, I am truly enjoying the changes of weather. Some of my teammates, not so much. But they are extremely grateful that we are not back in South Bend where there are currently snow storms. We will take a few sprinkles here and there as an alternative.

I mentioned that our 7 younger players and 2 players who were having trouble with our visas haven’t arrived yet in the last blog. Unfortunately, this hasn’t changed and may not change before our fist game against Trinidad and Tobago on Monday. I also mentioned our numbers situation. Without the two players who were sent back, we only have 11 players here and two of those are goalkeepers, and three are recovering from injuries and have not been required or cleared to play played a full 90 minutes yet. So essentially, we have 8 healthy bodies. Myself and another player have unfortunately been having some strange stomach issues and are having a hard time catching back up from our first day where we were kept without food for over 12 hours and may have caught a stomach bug. That leaves 6 players who feel 100%. My poor coach.

I also mentioned in my last blog that all those bad things happening were almost irrelevant to our experience here thus far. We are fed. We have rooms. We can train. We have each other. We have the perfect groups here to deal with these ups and downs. Take our youngest player, Cynthia Chery. She’s a goalkeeper and the one who took the red card in the first match in the Gold Cup not too long ago. That experience should’ve crushed her, embarrassed her and made her feel like this pressure may not be for her. But she’s here. Working hard and actually preparing mentally to play as an attacker which she hasn’t done on over 3 years. She’s amazing. She’s an inspiration. Her elder Geralda Saintilus came into that game in the Gold Cup and was thrown into a situation most non starting goalkeepers dread. She was thrown straight into a PK. And she saved it, keeping us in the game and ultimately leading us to victory through so many more spectacular saves following. She could’ve taken that game, not been ready because she didn’t get the start like she thought she deserved. But she didn’t. She absolutely didn’t.

Our back line is solid. Our right back, Gervil Yyve Rose is probably faster than most NFL safeties. Within three steps of taking off, she’s not only caught up to you, but she’s ran past you, lapped you, taken the ball and is having lunch with your mom before you even realize that she was there like a thief in the night. Our center back Roselord Borgella has more talent in her left pinky toe than I’ll ever had in my whole body, mind soul and career. She can easily play at any level any time given the opportunity to. Shanna Hudson, broke into this team at 27 years old and committed two years of her life to becoming an absolute specimen. And Lord help me she has. If a strong, seasoned, former law enforcement criminal saw her in a dark alley, they would not only give her their money, but their house their life savings and their social security number just in case she wants to change lives sometime. She’s amazing. Since we lost our left back, our athletic trainer Alexis Catt may be eligible to play with us due to residency laws. I had the pleasure of being her partner yesterday and she and I were placing ball after ball perfectly on each other’s foot. She would do just fine with us. If she’s unable to play, I may be shifted back to left back and we don’t have to go into how amazing I am in this blog, it’s already so long as it is.

Moving to our midfield, this just doesn’t stop there. Our center midfielder, Woodlyn Ketura Robuste is simply one of the most intelligent people I have ever had the pleasure of being jealous of. She has absorbed ALL of the English she has learned and translates for everyone involved with our team. EVERYONE. Including me. She translates during practice, meetings, when we are joking around making fun of each other and don’t quite get the “Creonglish” the other is saying. And she isn’t just a brain, she’s a baller! Works harder than the majority of the players I see running around with professional contracts. One of the recovering injured players, Dina Jean-Pierre has also picked up so much english, if we dropped her in the middle of New York and told her she has 24 hours to get a task done, she would be just fine communicating her way around. She would probably come out of the situation with tons of friends for life, a few crazy stories and  enough food to feed all of Haiti. On the field I am floored with how hard she works, and she’s been doing it with a piece of her bone floating around in her knee for months. Gross, I know. But it gives you a glimpse of who she is, and she sure ain’t no quitter. Our other outside midfielder actually took my spot, which I’m not sure if I’ve truly forgiven her for yet. Right mid is the position that I can do in cruise control. Lindsay “Marli” Zullo is now our starting right mid and let me tell you, she’s truly something. She isn’t Haitian. No, she falls under a residency clause where if you reside in the atmosphere of the National Team for a certain period of time, you can receive a visa and play for that National team. THANK GOD for that and that we have been blessed to play with a player like Marli (called this because she has the sickest dreads ever). Just yesterday during a technical challenge, she placed a flighted ball onto her partners foot that was being held in the air. She was on the halfway line and her partner was standing on the 18 not allowed to move her foot. It was SPECTACULAR! We pretty much won the tournament right there. She was my roommate in Gold Cup and will definitely be one of my soul mates for life.

These last two players are etched in my heart and mine in theirs in such a way that if I died tomorrow, I will live on through people like them who have such strong ambitions I couldn’t ask for a better forever home than on their strong hearts for life. Mounoucheka Pierre-Louis is quite possibly one of the most talented female soccer players I have ever played with or against. Let me put this into perspective for you. I’ve played with and/or against players like Abby Wambach, Christine Sinclair, Tiffeny Milbrett, Brandi Chastain, Sissi, Kristine Lilly, Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd…And I’ll repeat, she is by far one of the most talented players I’ve ever played with or against. The country of Haiti say that she has “Pye Majik” meaning “Magic Feet.” I couldn’t agree more. But that’s not the only reason why I respect her. She’s humble. I’ve never heard her speak of her value as a player. I’ve never once heard her put down someone using her undeniable respect and power over other players. She leads. Not in a bull horn down and give me 50 way. She just is leadership. She just demands respect. She is simply the best player this team has and may ever have. And I’m lucky enough to be her roommate back at training camp and somehow here at this tournament too. Blessed doesn’t describe my friendship for this person.

Last, but not least, my best friend and sister in Haiti, Kimberly Boulos. If you read back about how I came to be on the HWNT, you would know who this girl is. She’s who I starting this whole adventure with and I owe this part of my career and so much more to her. She has pushed me, picked me up, brought me down to earth if I’m too high, supported my weight when I couldn’t walk, and seen me through the most horrific moments of my entire life. She is and will always be a soul mate of mine and someone who will never ever be replaced in me. I could write a whole book about our adventures and ups and downs and I wouldn’t be surprised if it would be a best seller.  And we haven’t even talked about her abilities on the pitch. Some players have that motor that just keeps going. That endless fuel that cannot run dry no matter what. She’s one of them people. But a few years ago, she was having some fun with some kiddos in Haiti and she had one wrong movement and tore her ACL. For every athlete in a sport where sharp lateral movement is essential to success, this injury is our worst nightmare. But she conquered it. Rehabbed and was on her way back. And then one day, she heard a loud pop during PT and when they investigated further, they realized that her surgery was unsuccessful and the graft was put in at a bad angle. She was told she would need surgery again. Let me rewind and say that ACL recovery is anywhere from 6 months to a full calendar year. Awful. So, she had already been out a year and was told she needs to do this all over again. She was given a choice. Leave it as is and just not play soccer anymore, or do the surgery and take the risk to try and come back. She was 26 at the time and I can speak from experience that this is about the time our body starts to hate us for what we’ve put it through in our college soccer days. But again, she did it. She conquered not one, but TWO surgeries back to back. Her come back game was epic. She came in at half for our first Gold Cup game and was PHENOMENAL!!! She changed the game and seriously my life in how she played. At times I almost forgot to play because I wanted to stop and hug her and sob telling her how proud I am of her.

And those are the 11 we have. Sound pretty dang strong right? Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And if that doesn’t sound like a strong enough team, let me mention our staff. We have one of the most tactically genius coaches women’s soccer has seen, a technical genius of an assistant, a trainer who can diagnose my weird unexplainable ailments, and a goalkeeper/assistant coach who has truly changed my life in so many ways it’s unexplainable. Let me try to relate it like this. Parents, you raise your children as best you can, but sometimes they just do NOT get it. Your watching them barrel through experiences in the most unbearable way and you just want to stop them and shake them and scream, “You’re so much better than this!” Times that by a gazzillion and that’s what we have put our poor staff through. But hey, at the end of the day, you love your kids to pieces and a little tough love and perseverance pays off in the end. We are blessed to have them and they are the foundation to the structure we are trying to build now.

And that’s what happened today.

Day One: Traveling to Veracruz 2014

In the typical Haiti Womens’ National Team fashion, we were up before the sun to start our journey to our next tournament. Four years ago, right after my first World Cup qualifier experience with this team, I opted out of the Central American games to take a professional contract in Iceland. So when this time rolled around, I made sure to jump on the opportunity. I mean, these legs aren’t going to work forever!

We had a really easy travel day for us. We traveled a few hours by bus to Chicago from South Bend, flew to Mexico City and then hopped on a plane to Veracruz. Now that I write that all down, it sounds like a travel trip that the average man would call the antithesis of an “easy” travel day. But they have never traveled and played in three states in six days. We have built up an immunity to traveling, and you really have to in this line of business. Well, most of us have. We do have a player, our starting center back Roselord Borgella who simply cannot handle take offs and landings. And don’t get me wrong, I’m no good at those either, but I’ve learned a pretty killer poker face and most people buy it. On one of our trips, Roselord literally held and cuddled a complete stranger to get through it. To my surprise the stranger truly embraced to role and comforted her as if she was her own child. The pictures are pretty adorable.

Now, there were some absolutely hilarious and amazing moments on this travel trip, but unfortunately there were se equally awful ones. When we arrived in Mexico City we hit a really rough patch. Two of our younger players’ visas had expired and it somehow slipped through the cracks. We were hoping it would work out, but unfortunately they did not make it through customs and were told the had to be sent back home to Haiti. One of them is our starting left back and the other is a very talented striker. While this was all happening, our Head Coach reached down in his pocket only to find out that he left his wallet on the plane. This wallet has all of his ID’s, bank cards, and the teams’ bank card as well. We waited as long as we could for him, but ended up running through Mexico City airport to catch our connecting flight, but he and the other coach didn’t make it.

When we arrived in Veracruz, all any of us could think of was food because we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and dinner time was soon approaching. The tournament committee wasn’t too sensitive about this and sent us to a check in meeting where we were to get all of our credentials. What was supposed to take 30 minutes to an hour ended up taking over 3 hours and time soon began to eat out insides. When we finally finished, and were the last team there due to many complications, we looked up and there was our coach. He made it. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, but it didn’t change how we all also would eat salted cardboard if offered to us. We left the building and headed straight for the hotel restaurant. The last bit of bad news we got that day was that our younger players joining us for this tournament were also having visa trouble and it has not been worked out yet. They were to arrive when we did and we haven’t seen them yet. That’s cause for a bit of concern as we have 11 players here now and two of those are goalkeepers.

This is all funny though. Because when I think back on the travel trip, the bad is definitely not the first this that I remember. I remember running around on luggage carts and players stealing each other’s shoes. I remember how beautiful it was flying in to Veracruz and how many houses they can fit in one little area. Those are the memories I’ll hold close to my heart. Can’t wait to make some more!!

From One Journey to Another

I’ve waited a little while to write this last blog. The last few days have been surreal. Since 2010, I’ve had a goal. I’ve wanted to qualify for the 2015 World Cup. A four year goal was not easy. Many things tend to feel like they are pulling you away from that goal. It’s tough to stay on the right path and not to replace that goal at some point with something that doesn’t compare. Long term goals like that take a lot of focus and dedication.

So, if you followed the game at all, you know that we did not beat the US and did not qualify for the 2015 World Cup. Thoughts have moved abruptly from thoughts of hope for what’s to come to thoughts of what could have been. They’ve moved from concrete plans of knowing what the next few months could look like to reevaluating what’s important and what goals to set next. The truth is, there are plays that keep running through my mind, moments I want to re-do and feelings of longing to rewind life a week and start that tournament all over again. But that’s not possible, the days are gone and the moments are set in stone and now I have two choices. I can dwell on all those moments and feel burdened by regret, or I can hit the ground running and use those moments to grow and become a better version of myself because of what I’ve been blessed to just experience. As much as I would like to say the latter is easy and I’ve been doing that since the whistle blew a few days ago, it isn’t and I would be lying. The journey to accepting the reality of building a new goal is a moment to moment choice. It’s way more conscious of an action and harder than I expected it to be. But the greatest thing about playing the beautiful sport that I do, I’m not going through this alone. I have an amazing support system through my teammates and staff who understand how much I’ve poured into these moments. I have an amazing family and amazing friends who have watched me succeed through life and can remind me of how that feels if I have forgotten. I am so blessed to have the whole DUSL club who has shown so much support through this whole process that I am not sure how to express my gratitude.

The next morning after the U.S. game, I felt a sense of peace in the fact that in a few years, we have the opportunity to try and qualify for the Olympics. Then a year or two from that, the next World Cup cycle starts. There has been comfort in those thoughts. I’ve also found comfort in the fact that I know with everything in me that this team has made huge strides for women’s soccer in Haiti. I know that the fact that we got this far with the little resources we had truly inspired people to help the Haiti Women’s National Team. People are talking about the women’s program and not just the men’s program. That is very exciting and encouraging. I hope Haiti Women’s Soccer continues to grow and continues to bring more attention for those kids in Haiti to see and to work towards for a better life.

For all those who watched any or all of the games, for those friends and family members who came to the games, for both my DUSL teams (Magic and Dynamite) and for the WHOLE entire DUSL club, and for all those who have supported us in any way…thank you from the bottom of my heart. We felt you there with us on the field and I am so blessed by all of your ongoing interest in this team.

Oh, and next time we meet you U.S., watch out.

Tough Game

I wanted to take some time before writing this post. We had a very tough game against Trinidad and Tobago a night ago. It was a game that I will never forget.

We arrived in Chicago pumped and ready to fight. We knew that we were one game away from making a huge difference in our country. It was emotional, exciting, and one of those feelings every athlete strives for. I woke up really early and couldn’t go back to sleep. All I could think about was finding a way to let my team know we are going to do great things. I wanted them to feel all the support that we have been receiving and truly enjoy it. I just wanted to help. So, I did what I always do when I’m stuck. I started to write. I wrote down things I want and needed to share with the team. Below is some of what I said to them on game day:

“All the emails and Facebook messages and game reports, media keep saying we played a man down against Guatemala. I’ve even said we played a man down.

But it’s wrong. I was wrong.

We played with eleven and we all know who our eleventh player was.

But then I thought about it again and realized that’s wrong too.

Because every time we step on the field, we play with every single person who has ever influenced us in soccer.

We play with those coaches who taught us the fundamentals of this beautiful game past or present.

We play with family who came to watch us even when we were five years old and all we did was chase the ball around in circles.

We play with every fan who ever screamed our name.

We play with our former teammates who pushed us and lifted us when we couldn’t lift ourselves.

So, when we step on the field today, think of those people and know they stepped on the field with you.

And I know that Shek always says, if God is with us, who can be against us.

No disrespect, But I think that’s only half correct.

Because We don’t just have God with us.

We have every single person who has ever believed in us and lifted us up in prayer out there on the field.

Coach, you will be out there with us.

All of our coaches who have helped through these years, trainers who have trained us and healed us.

Will be standing by our side, holding our hand. Cheering us on, lifting our spirit.”

I truly felt the support before during and after our match. We didn’t win. We didn’t fully secure our spot in the 2015 World Cup. We didn’t do what we set out to do statistically speaking. But I know without a doubt that we made Haiti proud and worked as hard as we could and did not give up. We know we are paving the way for Haitians to build on later. I can’t wait to watch that develop.

I’m excited to face USA on Monday and can’t wait to keep showing the world that the NEW Haiti is here and we aren’t going away!

Travel Day

It was hard to get to sleep after a game like that. Plays and moments ran through our heads constantly. I watched the game highlights many times and couldn’t believe some of the moments even when I saw them on tape right in front of me. There were definitely 11 of us on the field the whole game. It’s amazing how proud I felt all day today.

There was so much support and good wishes flowing in today. This tournament is set up to have us play in many locations. A couple that I’ve never been to. Although it will be great and an honor to play in these places, I know that the travel is rough on our bodies. Many of us are feeling the aftermath of the game in a big way. Most of us had a night like mine where we couldn’t sleep because of the shock of what we just endured. Some of us felt some moments we wanted to take back but pride in the fact that we collectively worked for 97minutes.

But the best thing is, none of that matters. We are ready. We are excited and when it comes to game time, pain is irrelevant. The travel will be irrelevant. The past will be irrelevant. All that will matter are the players and their drive and desire to do everything in our power to make this dream come to life. And we have it. We have an opportunity right in front of us to change everything. We have an opportunity right here to change the course of women’s soccer for all the girls in Haiti. But it’s more than that. It’s so much more. Haiti has come through some of the most horrific things, but always coming out stronger. We lead one of the most defining and influential revolutions in all of history leading us to a road of freedom. And now we, the Haiti Women’s National Soccer Team, would want nothing more than to lead the country to a place of pride and hope for a better future. I’ve grown up admiring the 99’s from the women’s US National team and I truly feel this group has the opportunity to do something of that magnitude for the women of Haiti. I can’t wait to be a part of it. The game will have nothing to do with Trinidad and everything to do with us and the passion and power that is coursing through our blood.

Mwen priye pou Bondye ap jwenn favè nan nou. I pray that God will find favor in us.

Game Day! Guatemala Here We Come!

Haiti Goal PK SaveI woke up this morning way too early. There was no more need to sleep. I just wanted to play. I just wanted to get to the field and beat this team already. All my dreams surrounded that feeling until the catapulted me into consciousness. Then it was breakfast time.

We were followed again by more media all morning. Two awesome guys recorded us joking around. My breakfast table is quickly becoming an unsafe environment with all of the pranks going on escalating at every meal. Then after breakfast, we found out who those camera men were. It turns out that the founder of TOMS the shoe company read our article in the New York Times and was really taken back by our lack of resources. So he decided to do something about it. He sent the co-founder Jake Strom to come and surprise us with new gear and our very own pair of TOMS!! He showed us a video of the founder and I got to hear first hand his mission with his shoes and his influences in Haiti right now. It’s amazing and if you could just take a second to go look at their story, you will be instantly inspired to do good in this world.

After such an empowering surprise, we felt good, no great, and thanks to TOMS, we looked real good. We had another tactical meeting and more food and more pranks. Usually I say game day flies by and before we knew it, it was time to play. Not today. It inched and crawled by, but each moment was savored and we felt so much support from family and friends.

When we finally got to the field, the excitement was almost overwhelming, but I couldn’t peak too early. Everything you do when you get to the field is timed. You have a certain amount of time for this and that and have to make sure you manage it well. That didn’t stop me from taking some amazing jumping pictures on the field before the game. Then we got settled in the locker room. Got all the last minute treatment we needed. Talked with our coach again, prayed for safety in the game for both teams and were ushered onto the field. Game time couldn’t come fast enough.

I wish I could tell you we came out swinging with chance after chance, but we had a pretty rough start. Just 17 minutes in, things got serious. Our goalkeeper got red carded and the other team awarded a PK and we had to go a man down. Yes, 17 minutes into the game. Our other goalkeeper would have to come in, cold, unprepared after sitting since we ended warm up and jump right into a PK. While we were waiting for her to come on the pitch, we gathered together, pumped each other up and told each other we now represent two people each and we will not let this stop us. The PK shooter took her place, our GK took hers. The whistle blew, she runs at the ball, hits it towards the corner and BAM! What everyone thought was an unprepared keeper was way way far from the truth. Our keeper lunges towards it and gets a hand on it and instead of it going in as it looked like it would, she pounces on it again and SAVED IT!!!! She couldn’t have been more prepared. There’s a time and a place for a dog pile, and unfortunately, majority of our team chose this one. The ref had to break it up and remind us we still had about 27 ish minutes left and we needed to start playing.

As you can imagine, our whole team, every inch of our being was lifted and energized by this save. She kept us in the game and in this tournament. But we were still a man down. We fought and fought and came out of the half 0-0 by God’s grace alone.

At the start of the second half, our coach substituted two players into the game. One of which was Kimberly Boulos and if you’ve read any of these from last years, you already know who she is. She is the friend I started this whole experience with and someone I can’t live without. She has pushed me our whole friendship and I definitely wouldn’t have half of my successes today if not for this amazing woman.

This time, we did come out swinging. We fought for every ball, we kept possession and we worked as hard as we could. I even forgot we were a man down. Every second our team was clawing for opportunities. And then it happened. From a ball coming in from a free kick, it came to our captains head and she fired it toward the goal, but the keeper got the best of it, but fell to the ground as a result. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced 3-5 fit athletic women sprinting at you at top speed with cleats on while on the ground holding onto your dreams of a better life…but now this poor keeper has. We all rushed the ball that was bouncing in front of the goal and WILLED it into the back of the net!!! I think three or four players scored all at once and it wasn’t pretty. I’m almost certain it bounced off of at least three people’s tummies!! But, like mom has always said to me, it doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to go in. And it did. We were 1-0 up in our first game of the tournament and we did it with only 10 players.

Things definitely got harder and harder as the minutes dragged on. Our players were over exerting themselves all over the pitch. We may have felt like two people each on the field, but we still only had one body and many of those bodies started cramping. At times we had only 8 players on the field with players dropping like flies. And Guatemala was not going to let us have this easily. They had dreams of a better life. They too wanted to make history for their families and for their country.

I looked up to see 90 minutes is up, and then saw the allotted additional time. SEVEN MINUTES!! I almost cried. I had a couple bouts of calve cramps myself through this second half and wasn’t sure my legs would last seven more minutes. We had used up all of our subs at the start of the half. It was up to only us on the field. I was moved all over to compensate for players having to leave the field on stretchers from cramping, even one who got hit so hard in the head she lost her sight for a moment. From left mid to right mid to right back to left back, it was insane! Things were getting scary with Guatemala attacking viciously, hitting cross bars, near misses and having really annoying fresh legs. And then, the referee picked up the ball and blew the final whistle. Almost all the players on my team collapsed with joy, fatigue and utter relief that we didn’t have to run another step. We were rushed by our teammates from the bench. Emotions ran wild. We needed to clear the field quickly because there was another game right after ours. But doing anything quickly at this point was a lost cause. We headed to the tunnel and I heard her voice. The one who taught me how to pass for the first time. The one who would challenge me with juggle tricks for ice cream. The one who taught me that playing soccer just to win was never good enough and playing for anything outside of yourself will bring you success. I heard my mom. And you know how when you’re a little kid and you get hurt and think, “I got this, I’m good…” But then you see your mom and fall to pieces and cry? Yeah, that was me the moment our eyes met. I just wanted to run up and be cuddled in her arms, but it probably wasn’t the best time for that. She wasn’t the only one who came. Alena and her mom, sister and nephews came, my amazing friends Laura and Sara came!!! It was awesome!

As you can imagine, I’m overjoyed and exhausted, ecstatic and sore. There was definitely favor for us from higher places and I truly appreciate all the prayer and good thoughts from all who thought of us! Thank you to DUSL for all the support I’ve received and especially my two teams Dynamite and Magic!

Can’t wait to get on the pitch again against Trinidad!!!! Chicago bound and more importantly, one step closer to WORLD CUP BOUND!!!!

Day Two! Getting Ready!

Today was a long day, obviously because we couldn’t wait for it to be over so that we can beat Guatemala already. Breakfast was amazing. All the meals so far have been. But we haven’t let the mouth watering food and five star hotel distract us from our job here. After breakfast, we had our last meeting to solidify our roles in game play, on set pieces etc.

Before we knew it, we were eating again. We had some time after that and most of us watched a little TV, or caught up on some more sleep. It’s funny. We’ve been doing two a days, three a days, around our soccer teammates, talking about soccer, thinking about soccer 24/7, yet on our time off, there was no question what we wanted to watch on tv. More soccer. Sometimes this love of the game we all share baffles me, but then I’m reminded why it’s so strong. Soccer is loved worldwide, it’s a way of life or out of a hard life for so many people. Because it’s so universally loved, it is a spectacular tool that connects you to people of all different cultures and walks of life. It breaks down language barriers, social barriers, economical barriers. It basically just rocks! And I’m so thankful to my mom for putting me into this sport and not into ballet which she told me was a small aspiration of hers for me as a child. Wow, what a different life that would’ve been. So, thank you, mom, for making the right choice there.

Time for sleep and dreams of the celebration after we are victorious tomorrow! Beating this team will be one step towards the World Cup 2015! I cannot wait!!!

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