Final Game Day v Martinique

It started as any other game day. Breakfast and shortly after, our pre game meeting. But instead of having separate tactical meetings like the other game days, we all came to the same meeting. I’ve heard plenty of pre game pump up speeches, been in many inspirational talks, and heard many different avenues to motivate a team. Not many like his one. My coach spoke of why we were here. What we play for or more specifically, who. Very strange that today is exactly 2 months from when all this will be over. It’ll be over because we are the first Caribbean team to qualify for the 2015 World Cup, or we did our best, but didn’t cut it. Either way, he pointed out in exactly two months from today, we will know which one is our fate. We will be crying tears of joy or tears of opportunities lost. He spoke of how this is the last chance for most of us because of our age. That we want to be able to look those who may be on their last journey with this team in the eye and proudly tell them we gave every ounce of ourselves to this. It was emotional and a necessary meeting for the team.

We won our game 5-1 today, but it wasn’t our best performance. There was a lot more we could’ve put into practice, especially after a speech like we had today. It was our fourth game in less than 9 days. We have learned a lot about ourselves and what we are capable of and what we need to improve on. We learned that in order to take this next step and qualify, it’s going to take absolute focus every time we strap on our boots. It will take all of us. Every last one of us to give whatever we have in us to seize this opportunity. And what a great and once in a lifetime opportunity it is.
Trinidad, it’s been great but it’s time to leave you. See you all at home soon! 

 

Day 9: Recovery Day

Today was a recovery for a lot if different reasons. It was our first day after a loss here and it definitely felt different. After a win, even if your body feels horrible, it still feels better than after a loss. Even if you got in all the same type tackles, had as many runs as the other game, or got hit just as much…things just hurt more when the outcome wasn’t what you wanted.

With that said, I actually did get into a pretty bad tackle that could’ve really taken me out of the game, but adrenaline and pure will power kept me in until the game ended. I definitely paid for that today. I’m very fortunate though that I’m doing a lot better than many expected and had a pretty awesome day with my teammates. We got to see one of the most beautiful beaches in Trinidad and the water was perfect. I’m almost positive it healed many bumps and bruises we had before going in.
Tomorrow we prepare for our final game here and I’m confident we will finish strong! We play Martinique the day after tomorrow and we will be fighting for a good seed for the final round of Qualifiers! Can’t wait!

 

Game Day vs Jamaica

Today went something like this. Breakfast, walk and stretch, meetings, lunch, nap, game time. That’s how fast everything seemed. Jamaica is a tough team. You can tell this in the way they walk around the hotel, the way they greet you, in pretty much everything they do. We are tough too, no doubt, but unfortunately, they got the best of us tonight.

With a pretty soft foul against us in the first 10 minutes, they finished the free kick and went 1-0 up. We definitely played against 12 players if you count the ref, but we were told early on that these refs were inexperienced and may make some bad calls here and there. Something a coach told me a long time ago, make the ref as irrelevant as the grass. Simply meaning, if you do your job, play as hard as you can, the ref really shouldn’t matter. Sometimes that’s way easier said than done.
In the second half, when we went for it and threw more numbers forward, we got caught on a counter attack and they scored their second and last goal of the match. With games with this much passion, it could go either way. Today it went Jamaica’s way, but we still have one more game to play here. We play another team from the other bracket in a few days.
Bad news, that wasn’t fun to lose that game. Good news is, we are still going through to the next round with the wins and hard work we already put in here. Proud of my team as that was a hard fought game and we worked very hard. And hey, we have time to put in the work before the next round and learn from our experiences here.

Day 7: Another Recovery Day

Today was another day of rest, but we got to actually take the whole day to just rest. Some of our other days off were jam packed with meetings and walks and stretches. Today was just a do your own thing type day. Very much needed.

We got in the pool for some recovery and it was a pretty funny situation. Apparently, many girls do not know how to swim, even though they live on an island. So, I tried to teach a couple. Being someone who swam her whole life, I couldn’t imagine being an adult and dealing with the fear of drowning if I were trying to learn to swim now. I mean, kids are pretty fearless in most cases and they are generally terrified at first when it comes to swimming. Again, to be an adult and be gripped with that kind if fear seems pretty tough. Either way, I forced a couple to face that fear and it was pretty cute and awesome. I was also really surprised of how heavy they felt in the water. But then again, these women are made of pure muscle and rigid from the terror of drowning. One of them told me she’s the baby of the family and her mom didn’t want her to learn to swim because she didn’t want her to die out there in the water. But today, after we got out, she held her hands up and exclaimed, “Now I can swim!” In perfect English. Very proud teacher!
There was tons of fun and laughter today. Celebrating yesterday and looking forward to being in the next round of Qualifiers. Coach even bought us ice cream. Got to watch a bit of a game from the other group as well. And frankly, we can take them. But first, it’s Jamaica tomorrow to clench the spot of top of our own group. I’m excited and hope tonight’s sleep will be better than my last.

 

Day 6: Game Day vs Puerto Rico

photoThere’s a good nights’ sleep and then there’s what I had last night. A very very bad nights’ sleep. Such poor timing. I knew I had to wake up and knew that Haiti had a job to do today. I also knew I needed sleep, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t happening. So, today seemed like sort of a daze. We ate, I tried to take a nap, did the walk and stretch, tried to take a nap, ate again, tried to take another nap, then before I knew it, we were on the bus on our way to our next match which would decide if we qualify for the last round of Qualifiers before the World Cup.

Side note…I don’t think I quite explained the police escort well enough in my last blog and definitely didn’t do it justice. Holy Toledo batman, it’s awesome. If you’ve ever seen the movie Bruce Almighty where he’s stuck in traffic after he gets his God-like powers and simply whips his hand up and all of the cars part in front of him…yeah, it’s kind of like that. But instead of Jim Carry, we have two super tough cops who just zoom up in front of us and scare people to the side shoulder and we pass through the cars with ease. So incredibly awesome.
Anyway, the whistle blows and we are off. We start strong and have a couple chances right away. About 9minutes in, a ball goes flying towards our back line and our center back gets a piece of it first and heads it in my general direction. I chase it down and my outside back behind me heads forward on a mission and I play her the ball. Now, there’s fast, and then there’s Gervil fast. Her nickname is “Ti Machine” which translates as “little car” because she’s fast as can be and never stops moving. She takes the ball, beats one player, beats another and heads toward the near post. She sends a rocket of a cross toward that near post and it deflects off a defender and boom! Haiti 1-0. I would love to say that we totally dominated after getting this goal, but there was about 10minutes there where I was a little worried and we gave up a lot of silly fouls and got disorganized in our defending. But then, a ball goes flying towards my midfielder (Shanna Hudson) and she gets up for a header, but it goes wide towards the side line. Judging by the spin of the ball, I knew I could catch it, but would have to beat a defender there. I get a step in front and she swings and comes through me as if I didn’t exist! The ref blows the whistle and we get a free kick. The ball is sent whipping across the box, I miss it, another player misses it and just when I think it’s a wasted opportunity, oh captain, my captain slides and gets a piece of it and boom! 2-0 Haiti!
Unfortunately, that’s how we ended the half. Dangerous dangerous score. Coach wasn’t as hard on us this half time, and we stayed pumped for another 45minute battle. And boy was it a battle. Both teams knowing they have two options: win…or go home empty handed and give up a spot in the next round. And then, it just clicks. We start connecting pass after pass, getting through ball after through ball and really pounding on the door hungry for a goal. Ti Machine gets a ball to feet and takes off at full speed toward the back line who just wasn’t prepared at all. I spin out away from her as she draws on two then three defenders towards her. At the last possible moment, and to ensure I will be left completely unmarked, she slips a ball through to me. I take one big touch towards the near post and connect with he ball with everything left in my tired legs. Somehow, and I’ve watched this on video and still don’t get it, but somehow the ball slips passed the goalkeeper near post and bam! I was able to get that 3rd goal, in the 74th minute that let each and every one of us let out a huge breath of relief.
I was pulled off soon after and got to watch as we get yet another goal to end the game 4-0. We were the first team in the tournament to get a shut out and I couldn’t be more proud of the team I’m honored to call my own. But we aren’t done yet. We still have two more games in this tournament and we came here to win it all! So, Jamaica…you may have some awesome music, but put your dancing shoes away because we are coming for you!
But with that win, WE QUALIFY FOR THE NEXT ROUND!!!!! Just one more tournament to get through before the 2015 World Cup!!!!!

 

Recovery Day 5

Today was all recovery and thoughts of tomorrow. We got to have a lot of free time. A little swim for the starters and a run and some sprints for the non starters to keep them sharp.
Tomorrow we play against Puerto Rico. Four years ago, at the beginning of my career with the Haiti National Team, we played against Puerto Rico right here in Trinidad. I was very nervous because I knew and had played with two of the players from Puerto Rico and knew they were top notch players. What’s great about that game was, even though I was nervous, I didn’t have to go at it alone. I had an amazing staff and amazing teammates who pumped me up and calmed me down all at the same time. So glad I don’t play tennis for reasons like that. Oh and four years ago, we beat Puerto Rico to advance to the next stage. Tomorrow shouldn’t be any different! With a win, we are guaranteed a spot in the next round of Qualifiers.
I’m excited about tomorrow and I’m excited that I can share it with my teammates/family. Mwen pa ka tann!

 

Game Day: Haiti vs Bermuda

Game day. Two words that will hype up so many players from all different sports. We train and we train, constantly getting feedback and coaching and running drill after drill. But on game day, we get to let loose and the game is ours. Not our coaches or trainers, but ours for the taking. It’s a great feeling.

Our bus ride to the game was pretty amazing! Why, you may ask? Well, we had police escorts! It was wild! They would cut through traffic and stop it altogether for us to pass. Then they would zip by, sirens blaring to forge the way. Never have I ever felt so VIP. We took picture after picture because it was just so cool to have them doing that, just for US! Crazy!
When we got to the field, we got to watch the first half of Jamaica and Puerto Rico’s game. It’s always fun to size up the competition and you can truly benefit from picking out their strengths and weaknesses.
Then we were off to get prepared for our match against Bermuda. I quickly took another peak of the words that my U15 Magic team sent with me to embody today. Definitely pumped me up! We warmed up and before we knew it, it was time to win a game.
First bit of the game was a little frantic for both sides. They often are in these tournaments. But about 7 minutes in, my left mid went flying down the sideline and attacked the touch line. She blazed a cross towards me as I cut across the defender to get to the ball first, I shoot, but she gets a pice of it. But as the ball is heading out, I slide and sort of slide scissor kick it back into towards the top of the 6 where my other forward was waiting to put it in. 1-0 Haiti!! Our next goal came from a cross from the right side and as I went to shoot, a defender got there first, but couldn’t redirect it. Luckily, my left mid was there to put it away. Our next goal makes me giggle. My right mid started to drive the ball centrally and diagonally. Me and my other forward almost crashed as we knew we needed to get out of her way because she was on a mission. And boy did she succeed in that mission with a beautiful warm burner shot and goal!
We went into the half 3-0, but our coach was not happy with our performance despite the score. We went out in the second half determined to do better and get more goals to pull ahead in our group. But our next goal didn’t come until the 80th. I came out a little before that. Then, Bermuda got a free kick and the girl launched a ball into the upper 90 making the score 4-1. Not much time later, our center mid who carried us into this tournament, answered with a beautiful chipper goal.
Yes, we won. But our coach was still disappointed in us. These are those moments where it’s probably good that I wear both a coach’s hat and a players’ hat. As a coach, I can see that he intended to push us and wants us to play the best soccer we can at every match and that wasn’t our best soccer. But as a player, it was hard not feel that we can celebrate the win despite the fact that we could’ve done better. He wants us to succeed here. He wants us to hold ourselves to an unmatchable standard. And we will. We will fight for every inch of that trophy we will win at the end of this tournament!
And all I know is that I’m extremely proud of my team. And we obviously have so much more to offer and can’t wait to show that we just get better and better at each game. Jamaica best Puerto Rico 4-1 so we are at the top of our group with goal differential, but we will really need to bring it next match. Puerto Rico, we are coming for you!
Police Escort

Police Escort

The Team

The Team

Day Twa (3) in Trinidad

Today was a pretty simple day again. As one of my coaches said, it’s less about the training when we get here to the tournament, and more about mentally preparing. If you’ve waited until now to train, it’s definitely too late. We have trained. We have come here prepared to play hard in every match and come out on top. The more I’m around my team, the stronger I feel we are.
I did want to share a bit of my training camp experience as I didn’t talk too much about it yet. I have been playing outside mid for this team for quite a while. I’ve come to really enjoy it. When I arrived at camp, my coach decided to put me up top. I’ve played there many times, I went into college as a born and raised forward, but in college I lost a lot of confidence in my finishing abilities. The lack of confidence has been sprinkled throughout my post college and professional career in many ways. And unfortunately, it reared it’s ugly head these past few weeks in training camp.
I was told that I needed to be scoring goals. With a lower confidence level to do this task that came as easily as breathing growing up, I was pretty shaken by the littlest bout of failure. I got to a point where I just plain didn’t think I could do it. Friends and family encouraged me, the most common advice used was the “just don’t think about scoring” phrase. But it’s pretty similar to me telling you not to think of a cute purple elephant. You are, aren’t you? Case and point. The fear I wouldn’t score was on my mind every time I touched a ball, made a pass, called for the ball…”I have to score.” I’m writing this because I know I’m not the only one who’s dealt with trying so hard to succeed at something that you put so much pressure on yourself that you almost explode with stress. I know I’m not the only one who’s gotten to a point where it feels like you’re being so positive and wishing and hoping so hard, but things just don’t go your way. These are the times where soccer has taught me so much about how to deal with an emotional dilemma, no matter how small that dilemma may seem to anyone else. It’s taught me that I’m free to feel stressed, but not to let that stress dictate my whole day or take away from the experience at hand. I was at national camp, with amazing players and top notch goalkeeping…it should be hard to score. And at the end of the day, I’m not sure I’ll be too worried about who scored what goal when we are holding up the trophy for this Caribbean Cup. I’ll just remember that we did it. Emphasis on “we.” If I start becoming too concerned with me too much, I may as well pick a solo sport, tennis maybe.
Well, I spoke with my coach again. This time he told me that scoring goals isn’t my only job up top. That my work rate and ability to retain a high amount of pressure the whole match is going to create chances for our team to score. Scoring will be the result of the forwards doing their job defensively. Well, wish he would’ve said this a bit sooner, but I’m glad he did none the less. And it made me think that all that stress and pressure that I felt was something that I put on myself. That it’s all of the little successes that will lead to a team success later. Ain’t that a kick in the butt.
So, tonight I sleep soundly and dream of a victory over Bermuda tomorrow. Match is at 4:15pm pacific time and it’s going to be an awesome game!!!

 

Day Two of Trinidad

Today was our “day off” before the madness starts. But, to be completely honest, we really didn’t get much “off” time. Breakfast was only served until 8:30am, so the day started pretty early. Then we had a meeting at 10am, then a walk to stretch out our legs. What felt like immediately following our walk was lunch. Then those of us who’s bodies hate flying as much as mine does, went to get adjusted by our trainer. And before we knew it, it was time to leave for our team photo and our light training session on the game field. By the time we got back, it was time for dinner and that was that.
We did get back in time to watch our U15 National Team in a final match against Canada in their Concacaf Tournament. They played very well and it was exciting to watch. What was more exciting was how much my teammates on the Senior team cared and are truly invested in those young players and their success. They felt every attack as if they were in there and were heartbroken at every tackle not won by a Haiti player. It was pretty cool, they even know all of the players’ names. I wonder if Wambach can name all the players on the USA U15 National team…? Just a thought.
Well, tomorrow is “match eve” and I can’t wait to get one day closer to a victory here in Trinidad. I just got word the games might be streamed and will post information about that as I get it. I miss all of my loved ones and hope to make you all very proud! Mwen pa ka tann!

 

Day One of Trinidad

Wow. Today started out a little rocky. We played a scrimmage last night to end our preparation for the 2nd round of World Cup Qualifiers. (We won 4-1). But we played at 9pm! Got home around 12:30am and left for the airport this morning around 4:45am. So, as you can imagine, we were all a little on the sleepy side getting to our 6am flight this morning. When we arrived, in surprisingly good spirits, our first flight was canceled. Just plain cancelled. Not delayed, no reason for it, just canceled. This flight was the one that was going to save us from the tedious task of having to travel the 3 hours to Chicago like we did last trip. So, we got back in the vans and, well drove the three hours to Chicago. When we arrived, apparently the United staff in South Bend where our flight was canceled, didn’t tell the people in Chicago that we were coming, so they marked us as “no shows” and gave away 7 of our groups’ seats. On top of that, they said we were no longer allowed to check a bag for free because our international itinerary no longer existed and our tickets looked like we were just heading to Houston.
Man oh man, when you sleep less than 4 hours, these types of obstacles can do one of two things to you. It can totally rock your world and make you want to curl into a ball and sleep right there on the spot, or it just rolls off your back because you are just way too tired to give a rats patootie. Thankfully, the ladder happened and because we stayed so calm, explained how bogus it was that any of this happened in a respectful manner, we managed to all get on the same flight and not have to pay for our checked bags.
After that, the day wasn’t too crazy. Just planes, planes and more planes. We did get a couple of shout outs from flight attendants today, that was cool. Oh and while we were descending, there was some seriously scary lightening that seemed way too close for comfort that definitely made me think I may see heaven today. Might I just add that airplane sleep is very strange. Anyway, I’m glad that we are all safe and sound. Oh yeah, WE ARE IN TRINIDAD! So very excited for this next step towards the 2015 World Cup! Time to rest and recover from this very long day and get used to this intense humidity.

 

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