Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Video Update!

Yesterday I was at the stadium way after everyone else left because I was doing laundry.  I figured I'd do a little video of the walk from the locker to the field.  You can see what I see before a match!  Also it shows the stadium a bit which is nice.  I hope you enjoy it!


video

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Matchday 7 and the motherf'ing Eurovision Song Contest

Hi friends!  There’s much to talk about, so let’s just get to it.  But first I have to say thanks to everyone who reads this blog.  I know my life isn’t terribly interesting, but many of you have continued to come back and read.  I just passed the 1000 pageview mark!  That may not sound like a lot, but since I haven’t advertised my blog in any way I’m proud of that.  Maybe I’ll start to advertise it a bit, but I don’t know.  I kind of like knowing that only people who actually care are coming to my blog.  I’ll try to keep doing things to make this blog interesting.  Just so you know, every time someone visits my blog, my niece Amani smiles!  Moving on…
"Read my uncle's blog!  I love him and want only for him to have success and occasionally change my diaper!"

We lost yesterday to Vasteras SK, 2-1.  I came off the bench for the second consecutive game in the 66th minute.  I felt much better physically than I did in my last sub appearance and I had many positives in the moments that I had the ball.  Hopefully I can play from the start in our next match.

The game itself was actually pretty good.  We played one of our best games of the season, even though we were missing Kerim Mrabti, who had started every game so far.  That allowed Ernesto Ferreira to step in, and he did a very good job.  It’s been clear to anyone paying attention that Siggi has been itching to put Ernesto into the starting lineup, and now I see why.  Ernesto is our oldest player by far, but he is also probably our smartest.  His introduction brought with it a calming effect on the team.  For the first time since preseason, we were moving the ball from left to right and penetrating the other team’s defense.  Ernesto was instrumental in pulling the strings in the #10 spot.  He was clearly our man of the match and I hope he can continue to be so influential for us.  With Kerim missing due to injury and the fact that our captain Tom Noden had to pull out of the warm-up due to a migraine and didn’t play, we now have only one player who’s started every game: Robert Kjellman.  That’s a pretty extraordinary turnover considering we only have a 22 man squad, and from that three players haven’t played at all.  Anyway, the game was very even with a lot of possession from both sides, but no real attacking threat either way.  There was the odd chance, but the first half was played almost exclusively in the middle third.  Vasteras scored the only goal of that half on a questionable penalty.  They got the ball wide and the winger put in a cross that hit Philip Zamayeri on the arm.  There was no question that it hit his arm, the question was in whether such an infraction warranted a penalty kick.  His arm was tucked in on his body and there was no way he could have avoided the contact.  I don’t like the “ball to hand” rule in soccer, but it exists and this was a textbook example of ball to hand.  In my opinion it should have been a no call.

The second half was a bit different in that we had to chase the game.  By the time I came on in the middle of the second half, we were essentially playing 4-2-4, with both wingers and Ernesto pushed up alongside Erik Andersson.  I came on as a left winger, which was kind of new since I haven’t played there since preseason.  I’ve been used this season exclusively as an option to run behind the defense and put in crosses.  By playing on the left though, I was given more freedom to come inside and play almost as like a 2nd #10.  For the tactical soccer nuts out there (I’m in that category.  I love analyzing various tactics) I was playing a role similar to the 2 in a 4-3-2-1.  That’s not the formation we were playing, but that’s what I was doing.  I like the role because it combines the two positions I’m best at: winger and withdrawn/2nd striker.  I felt instantly more comfortable than I ever feel as an out-and-out winger.  I was also able to be more dynamic and unpredictable which made me far more difficult to defend.

In other news, I have been getting more boring by the day.  If my life was a tv show it would get canceled at this point.  I hang out with the same people in the same places almost every single day.  And I have no real desire to go out and meet new people in Enkoping.  It’s not a knock on the town, but I’ve already got a handful of really good friends here now and I feel no need to make new ones.  In short, I’m boring, which is why I’m shocked at myself for bringing up the idea to go to Stockholm a few days ago.  Just spontaneously at lunch with Daniel, Linus, Joel and Fabian (look them up on my Meet ESK link.  Fabian’s not on there just yet) I blurt out, “I wanna do something.  I kind of feel like going to Stockholm.”  Daniel, a native of Stockholm, immediately jumped on the idea and was ready to go.  I on the other hand, had already soured on the idea once I considered the time and money involved in a half day trip to and from Stockholm.  I want to visit Stockholm, but not on a tight schedule.  Long story short, I was convinced to compromise on a trip to a “fotball golf” course in Stragnas.  I’ve butchered the spelling of the town since I don’t know how to put the dots over the a’s.  Well, once we got to Stragnas we saw this:

And this:


This fotball golf course was more like an abandoned amusement park.  We played the course anyway and I finished 2nd.  Daniel won and he was all to happy to let everybody know about it.  I’m glad I went out with the guys.  Sitting at the Poorhouse (my apartment, keep up) wouldn’t have done me any good.


The last thing I’ll talk about before I go is the ridiculousness that is the Eurovision Song Contest.  Now if you’ve never heard of this, then congratulations, your life is better than anyone in Europe.  But also sorry, because now you’re going to hear about it from me.  The Eurovision Song Contest, which I insist must be pronounced “the motherf’ing European Song Contest” in the same way as the Catalina Wine Mixer from the movie “Stepbrothers”, is something that I don’t understand at all but I will try to explain it.  Essentially it is American Idol, just that the people performing create their own songs.  People watch the performances then vote for their favorites.  There are no live judges from what I can tell.  I’m pretty sure that the artists have to be amateurs and cannot have the backing of a music label, at least when they begin the competition.  Each European country has their own competition and declares a champion, then that champion competes at the international level to see which country will have the winner.  Sweden’s representative was Loreen with her song, “Euphoria”.  I really like the song and apparently so does the rest of Europe because she was voted champion!  This was a big source of pride for Swedes, with probably half of all Swedish people I’ve spoken to in the last month have mentioned that Loreen was a favorite to win the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final, a competition of the top 20 countries.  Now I’ve never been a big American Idol fan or any of the similar shows, but at least I understand them.  It’s cool to see someone go from unknown to star in front of your eyes and partially with your help.  This contest though doesn’t seem to have that quality.  I’ve been hearing “Euphoria” on the radio since I got to Sweden.  I am 99.9% sure that Loreen has a recording deal with a music label and that her song is on an album.  That makes this seem more like a vote to see which country has the artist with the #1 song in Europe at the moment.  I don’t see how that could possibly be popular but what do I know.  Maybe only Sweden was interested because they knew they’d win!  Anyway, I can’t talk so much about a song and then not post it, so here you have it: Loreen performing “Euphoria” at the Eurovision Song Contest Finals.  See you guys. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Allsvenskan Summer Break and (Other) Yanks Abroad


Hey guys and gals.  Thus far, my blog has been exclusively about myself and the people I am around.  If you’re reading this then clearly that’s not a huge problem for you, but I thought today it would be nice to kind of talk about some of my American friends and colleagues who are playing in Europe.  There are quite a few but I will only mention the people who I most identify with.  Hence, you’re not gonna hear about Clint Dempsey in this list.  Before I start that though, I want to mention that here in Enkoping, we have been working on some tactics for the match on Monday.  I won’t go into those tactics until after the game, but I just wanted to say that I’m happy we’re working on it.  I like our training sessions, but I’ve always felt that we kind of neglect the tactical side and it hurts us, most notably in our match against BK Forward. 

In other news that doesn’t technically involve me, Allsvenskan went on a one month break because the European Championships starting next month.  I don’t know what the teams will do in the break.  I assume they’ll have two weeks off then pick up training again around the 10th of June, but I don’t know.  Maybe the teams will just train the entire time.  That would suck for those guys, but then again they get paid good money so if they have to train then tough noogies.

Last thing from me: Yesterday, Robert told me that he would be “holding his thumbs” for me, which means he is wishing me good luck.  That is by far my favorite Swedish phrase since it makes absolutely no sense.  It’s slightly above, ”When the cat’s away, the mice are dancing on the table”.  The second phrase is a funnier visual, but “holding my thumbs” just gets a laugh out of me every time.

Enough about me let’s get on to my friends who are also living/chasing the dream!

Brad Rusin (HB Koge, Denmark 1st division, but recently relegated)– Brad is a guy that I’ve known through mutual friends for almost 15 years at this point, since he was a youth player in Indiana that I was trying to recruit to my Dynamo FC team.  Though we are not necessarily close, I do consider him a friend.  The only time we’ve actually met was in the SunBowl soccer tournament in Tampa, FL when he and I teamed up on the Clearwater Chargers.  We were both coming off our very successful freshman seasons in college, me at USF and him at UCLA.  Since then, our paths have taken rather different trajectories, but I contact him every once in awhile.  If things don’t work out in Sweden when my contract is up, I just may look to the Danish 2nd division so there’s a small chance we might be teammates!

Alejandro Taylor (CD Estoril, Portugese 2nd division, but recently promoted to the top league) – Tony, as he’s known, is one of the quickest and technically gifted players I have ever met.  We played together for one season at USF before he transferred to Jacksonville University for personal reasons.  I was his host on his recruiting visit and one of his closest buddies on the team (at least on the field.  Off the field he had his own totally separate group of friends).  I remember the first time I ever played with him; I laughed at how comically hard he went through even the simplest drills.  Only to then have to play 1v1 in training and have absolutely no chance of tackling him.  I tell people that he surely must be as quick a dribbler as Messi and I mean that.  People who know me know that I love Messi more than my own theoretical children so to make that comparison takes a truly special talent, which Tony (El Tigre, as I nicknamed him) is.

Neven Subotic (Borrusia Dortmund, German 1st division) – Neven is one of my favorite people to brag about knowing.  Like Tony, I met Neven at USF and I was also his host for his recruiting visit.  It’s interesting the relationship you form with someone you host on a recruiting trip.  For 48 hours, you’re like a big brother to these guys.  The only non-adult they really have a chance to sit and talk to during the whole trip is you.  They eat with you, occasionally go to your classes and sleep in your room (I would always let the recruits have the bed and I would sleep on an air mattress or the couch.  I guess that’s why every single recruit I had my freshman year committed.  Allow me to list them: Diego Restrepo, Anthony Wallace, Marc Doherty, Neven Subotic, Tony Taylor…the list goes on.  Google that group and then be impressed!).  Neven also lived with some random roommates since he was a January enrollee.  Thus he spent most of his time in my apartment using MY PRINTER!  I joke with him to this day that he owes me about $30 in printer ink.  Most of you reading this blog will know that Neven went on to play in the German Bundesliga and has been one of the best players on Dortmund’s back-to-back championship teams.  I’ve lost touch with him over the past year or so, mostly because I only communicated with him via facebook and now his facebook page is full of fans.  I’m really happy for him that he’s doing so well.

Monica Dolinsky (Kokkola F10, Finnish Women’s 1st division) – Monica is a really cool girl who is kind of living a mirrored life to me.  We are actually quite similar in that we both have lots of talent but haven’t found that big break just yet.  Monica is from Indianapolis like me and I knew her just because we were both doing well in the youth soccer scene and we are the same age.  We were never close though growing up and when I left for college I didn’t hear or really think about her for like 5-6 years.  In a pretty crazy coincidence, the day before I left for Sweden last fall I went to a party with my best friend.  His girlfriend (now fiancé) came to the party with Monica, who was ALSO going to Sweden just a few days after me.  Since that revelation we’ve kept in decent touch and I’m happy she’s doing so well.  She’s suffering from the all day sun too!

Mallori Malachi (Aland United, Finnish Women’s 1st division) – Mallori and I went to USF at the same time, but in all honesty I barely know her.  I’ve noticed via facebook though that she is playing in Finland in the same league as Monica.  The only things I can tell you with certainty about Mallori is that she’s nice girl and the best female goalkeeper I’ve ever seen in person.  She, and I mean this, could have played ‘keeper for the USF men’s team if we didn’t have two All-Americans already playing the position.

Paul Torres (Nykoping, Swedish 4th division) – Paul is a player I met during my trial with FC Haka (remember them?) last fall.  I only stayed with Paul for maybe ten days but we got along really well.  He’s currently playing about 100km from me so I hope to travel down to one of his games.  He also introduced me to TED Talks, which I have been watching like crazy the past couple weeks.

Brian Span (Djugarden, Swedish 1st division) – I actually don’t know Span at all.  As far I know I have never met the kid.  I phrase the last sentence that way because I visited the University of Virginia to hang out with Diego Restrepo while Span was enrolled in the school, but I don’t remember him.  There was a lot of alcohol associated with that trip, so maybe my memory isn’t the most reliable, but it’s good that he’s doing so well.  It shows once again that Americans from the college soccer system have what it takes to succeed in Sweden’s top tier.  That’s nothing but good news for my chances of moving up.  Hopefully he keeps doing well.  As his stock rises, so does mine a little bit.

Ok.  I wrote this post because I had nothing to say and ended up writing 1400 words lol.  I like how this post turned out so maybe I’ll do some more about other people I know, though there’s not many.  Maybe I can get together with some of the Americans playing in Sweden and spend a day in Stockholm or something.  I’m sure the guys I know would be open to it.  That could be a pretty sweet post for those who are interested in Yanks Abroad.  I could get a picture with half a dozen of us!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A New Feeling and Swedish Cuisine


Hola!

The last few days have been very uneventful, much like every day in Enkoping.  The only thing I’ve done is sit at home watching Netflix and Hulu.  Not to knock on-demand video websites, they’re a lifesaver.  However, it doesn’t make for great blogging, hence the lack of posts.  If you care to know, I’ve been watching “How I Met Your Mother” on Netflix, along with various TED Talks and documentaries.  On Hulu, I watched the entire first season of “The New Girl” in a day and a half.  I also caught up on some of my favorite shows, “Family Guy”, “American Dad” and “South Park”.  In other words, I’ve been living a very productive life.

In soccer-related information, it’s been a very different atmosphere this week so far.  As you know, we got our first win on Saturday.  We had Sunday off and then got back to work on Monday.  Training was pretty short as it often is, but the training itself was different than before.  We were much more lighthearted and laid back than we’ve been the past three or four weeks.  We started the session by playing handball, or as I call it, “International Competition Handball!”  That’s supposed to be read with a very grand voice and, yes, the exclamation point is part of the name.  Handball was fun, but I have to say that Swedes have absolutely no grasp on handball tactics and strategy.  I don’t know how a soccer game would go between Harrisburg or CPB vs. Enkoping SK, but I know for a fact that a game of International Competition Handball! would be a slaughter in favor of the Americans.

Today however, training went in the exact opposite direction.  We trained at our alternate site which is rare and Siggi was super-intense.  It seemed kind of like he felt that we were too laid back and he wanted to light a fire underneath us.  Siggi yells a lot in the matches, but rarely yells in training.  Today though he was in a yelly mood.  The training itself consisted mostly of fitness related games.  We played a large area possession game, then ran actual fitness, then played a 9v9 match.  Afterwards, Siggi yelled at us for not working hard enough and kind of resting on our laurels.  To be fair, we were pretty much just walking around during the early stages of the scrimmage.  So much so that I took it upon myself to get vocal and tell the guys to pick it up.  For people who know me, they know that I rarely yell at the collective group.  I talk a lot to people individually both on and off the field, but to talk to the whole group is not really my thing.  We got a dressing down by Siggi at the end of training and it was well deserved.

Back to non-soccer stuff.  As I assimilate myself into Swedish culture, I’ve learned how to make one or two Swedish “dishes”.  I put dishes in quotes because the food I’m going to show you is not really a complicated meal.  It’s more a snack.  Anyway, here goes it.  This is like a sandwich, but using a bread/cracker hybrid food.  I don’t actually know what it’s called, but it’s similar to like graham crackers but without the taste.  You start by spreading butter on the bread/cracker.

Then you add cheese.

Then meat.

And you get a nice little lunch or snack!

I am looking for new, actual meals to prepare that are unique to Sweden.  I know there’s probably not many.  I mean, these people were Vikings.  You know, the people who raped and pillaged their way across northern Europe for hundreds of years?  I get the feeling that they didn’t take too much time to create fine cuisine.  If they did though, I’ll find it and try to make it!  Maybe soon I can show off my cooking skills!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Matchday 6: You Can't Lose 'Em All!


Sooooooo I’ve got some news.  It’s no big deal but,

WE WON!!!!!! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON!

(deep breath)

WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON! WE WON!

(deep breath)

3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points! 3 points!


I know what you’re thinking: “Jordan, did you guys win?”  Well let me be clear and say that, yes, we…WON!  We won our first game of the season and are finally off the snide.  I’m positive that snide is not the word I want to use there but oh well, it happened.

Unfortunately I’m pretty sure we’re still in last place.

Our game today was against Akropolis.  “Akropolis,” you say, “Didn’t there used to be a bar near your college named that?”  Why yes there was.  Thank you for noticing.  The bar though spelled it Acropolis, so you lose points for not noticing that.  Anyway, Akropolis was the first team all season that I’ve been eligible that we played a team the wasn’t in the promotion zone.  As such we came out and dominated, and within five minutes we were up 1-0.  The game evened out after that, but we held on to win by 1 goal to nil.  I played the last 10 minutes (as a striker, no less) and had a really close chance, but mostly I just ran like a mad man.  I was more tired playing those 10 minutes than at any time during the previous four matches where I played a combined 330 minutes.  We deserved the win, if for no other reason than the fact that we did the two most shocking things in soccer history:

1.       We held a shutout.  I never thought we would do that.

2.       I was subbed in as a defensive change.  Siggi, in all his wisdom, decided to put me in to keep a lead.  I assume it was some sort of Jedi Mind Trick that is above my head.

If ever you doubt that miracles exist, I suggest you think about the fact that I was subbed into a professional match as a defensive change and it actually worked.  Before today, I would have told you that it was more likely that a random bolt of lightning on a sunny day would hit a shot as it was flying into our goal and stop it than me stopping a goal.  But I would have been wrong.

From a tactical perspective, turns out we played a 4-1-4-1, effectively flipping the midfield triangle of our usual 4-2-3-1.  I think it helped us to find good passes in the attacking third, though I don’t think all the players had the same confidence that they had in the preseason.  Thus we hit more panicky long passes than short, crisp ones.  Eric scored our goal and was excellent up front.  He’s really turned into one of, if not our most important player.  Not bad for a guy who didn’t start a single relevant game in preseason.  I predicted to some time ago to a few of the guys on the team that we would make the tactical shift that we did, and now I predict that at some point in the future we will see a lineup with two strikers, either 4-4-2 or 5-3-2.  I know 5-3-2 sounds crazy to you soccer people out there but if we do use that formation I’ll go into detail as to how it could work, especially with the personnel that we have.  It could and probably would work.

Moving on…In the American tradition, I am now going to go out and drink excessively.  A win is not a win unless you celebrate it more than you should.  Also, and I think this is in the constitution of every civilized country in the world, if you have to wait five weeks for your first win then you can drink however much you can afford.  Luckily for you worriers I only have enough money for five (domestic) beers so tonight won’t be so wild and crazy.

I’ll let you know how things go.  Thank goodness we got our first win.  It’s so important for the team moral that we were able to do it.  Now we can go into the next match with some confidence and maybe even a bit of swagger.  I’ll be working this week to get my starting job back, but I think it’s unlikely considering we won.  Coaches don’t like to change the lineups that much after wins.  We’ll see.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Meet ESK! Part 2


Meet ESK part 2: Midfielders and Strikers

Rasmus Fries (1992) – Winger/Left Back.  I’ve included Rasmus as a midfielder, but he splits time between winger and outside back.  Rasmus is one of the fastest guys on the team, along with me and Heradi.  I know nothing about his personal life, except that he lives in a really small town about 20 minutes from Enkoping.

Tom Noden (1989) – Our captain.  Center Mid.  Tom is a very level-headed guy, even though this picture makes him look like a serial killer.  He gets along with everyone and works hard everyday.  He’s not your typical captain, meaning he isn’t a very vocal guy, but he sets more of an example.  I think his young age might have something to do with that.  Nobody wants to hear a 22-year-old telling them what to do, even if you’re 17- or 18-years-old.  He’s the right choice as the captain though.  He does a good job.  He’s spent a few games as a right back as well.

Linus Bylin (1990) – Center Mid.  For me, Linus and Tom are linked in my head.  For every preseason game and the first couple regular season games, they played next to each other in the middle of midfield.  Linus has been on the A-team for ESK for five years, making him the elder statesman of the team even though he’s only 21 or 22.  In fact, Linus is the only person other than the front office staff that has a key to the locker room.

Kerim Mrabti (1994) – Center Mid/Winger.  The baby of the team.  Kerim is freaking 17-years-old and one of our best players.  He, like Gustaf and Kevin (and maybe Joel), is still in high school.  He’s another winger and has started every game.  He’s a local kid and has played his whole career with ESK from the time he was a little kid.

Alex Persson-Njie (1991) – Center Mid.  Another local talent.  I don’t know where he spent his entire youth career, but I know that he did play for a time with the youth teams of ESK before signing for the A-team.  He played a big role in the promotion last season, but hasn’t played as much this year.  Even though he lives in Enkoping, I rarely see Alex in the town.

Emil Strok (1986) – Center Mid.  Emil is a player that I first met on the Turkey trip.  He’s kind of a strange player; sometimes he can’t trap a ball, other times he’s a midfield maestro.  We get along well, but he’s pretty quiet and doesn’t say too much.  He lives in Enkoping and I see him occasionally, but we don’t really hangout outside of training.

Mtaka Simba (1986) – Center Mid/Winger.  Mtaka is one of the guys who has played 3-4 positions this year.  He prefers to play as a center mid though.  Mtaka is one of my closest friends on the team, in part because we were roommates in Turkey and we play the same position so we train together quite often.  He lives in Balsta, the biggest town between Enkoping and Stockholm.  Also, he is the older brother of Heradi.

Ernesto Ferreira (1980) – Attacking Mid.  ‘Nesto’ as he’s called, signed with us on the last possible day.  He hadn’t trained with us at all at that point, but he did play with ESK last year.  Ernesto is originally from Portugal and he played there for Boavista.  He’s been in Sweden six years now because he has a girlfriend here (or actually in Uppsala, about 30 minutes to the northeast), but he doesn’t speak a word of Swedish haha.  Ernesto and I agree on a lot of things soccer-wise, so we get along quite well.  We also both hate the cold weather, so that bonds us a bit.

Daniel Alund (1992) – Attacking Mid.  One of my best friends on the team along with Robert (and Fabian, though he’s not exactly on the team).  I’ve already profiled him so this will be a recap.  He went to Holland at 15 to play for the youth and reserve teams at Feyenord.  He also had trials at Manchester United and Fulham among other clubs.  He trained with AIK, the biggest club in Sweden, last year and is still being tracked by them.

Alexander Alan (1985) – Attacking Mid.  He goes by his last name ‘Alan’ and is one of my favorite guys on the team, even if I don’t see him much outside of training.  I feel like I’ve known Alan for years, but that’s mostly because he looks exactly like a guy I went to college with.  I mean an uncanny resemblance.  Alan reminds me a lot of the typical USL guy, meaning he doesn’t really harbor grand dreams about being a star in Allsvenskan, but instead has staked out a little niche in Division 1 and is happy there.  He, like most of the players on our team, has a day job so soccer is more of a fun thing to do than a livelihood.  That’s not to say that he or USL guys don’t take their job seriously or professionally, it just means that they have other, sometimes greater, priorities.

Strikers:

Joel Rajalakso (1993) – Pronounced ‘Euell’, Joel is another young guy.  I’m not sure if he’s still in high school or not.  Last season he scored 14 goals in Division 2, a very impressive total considering the season was only 26 games.  He has a brother playing in Allsvenskan for Djugarden.  His brother is a winger, so I can’t imagine that the brothers’ playing styles are too similar.  Joel is what a call a ruthless striker.  He’s hellbent on scoring goals and often does.  It would be interesting to see him play side-by-side with Erik, but we’ll see if that happens.

Erik Andersson (1987) – Erik is your prototypical striker.  Big, strong, good in the air and reasonably fast, he has all the attributes most coaches look for in a striker.  In fact, with him being 24-25 I’m surprised no Allsvenskan team has come for his signature.  I know for a fact that half the teams in MLS would be willing to pay good money to have him in their team.  I’ve never asked him about why he’s stayed in the lower divisions, but I assume it’s just lack of opportunity.  Maybe in that way Sweden doesn’t differ all that much from America.



There you have it, the playing squad for ESK.  We don’t have any points, but we have plenty of character!  Hopefully we get some points though because this is starting to get depressing.  The game is tomorrow so hopefully I have some good news to report in my next post!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Meet ESK! Part 1


Hey everyone.  I don’t have too much to say so I decided to do a little write up about the players at ESK.  I’ve mentioned many of them before, but I thought it would be good to have a place to reference in case you don’t remember who is who.  First a little bit on our next game though.

I don’t think that I will be starting on Saturday.  We played 11v11 yesterday in training and I was on the 2nd team.  I did score and assist though, and we won 3-0 so maybe there will be changes.  I don’t think so though.  I just hope I get in the game if I don’t start and have a chance to help get us our first points.  Also we’ve made a bit of a tactical shift that we will implement in the next match.  I don’t want to give anything away on the off chance that our opponents come across this blog.  Besides, the change was only explained to the first team prior to the scrimmage, so I don’t exactly know what it is!  Once I figure out what the changes are I’ll be sure to fill you in.  It’s kind of like last game, where I didn’t find out that we were playing 4-5-1 until I read  Per Ake’s (our assistant coach.  I guess I should do a write up on the coaches as well) quote in the newspaper the next day.  I guess some things get lost in translation.

Anyway, without much ado:  Meet ESK.  I’ll start with just the goalies and defenders.  Middies and forwards will come next time!  PIcs are from www.esk.nu, not me.  I don't think I'll be getting sued over using them, but figured I should give credit where it's due.

Goalies:

Gustaf Persson (1993) – He was our number 1, but has gone to the bench recently.  Gustaf is one of our really young players.  He’s a 1993 which means he’s either 18 or 19.  I don’t really see him ever outside of soccer, but his locker is next to mine so we talk from time to time.  He’s still in high school as well, so he has to do that before training.  But, as he told me, “I don’t like that place [high school] so much,” so he never goes.

Markus Hedstrom (1986) – At the moment he is our #1.  I literally know nothing about Markus other than he’s one of the only players on the team old enough to grow facial hair and that he looks like Albert Einstein.

Defenders:

Philip Zamayeri (1990) – Right back.  Philip is a jokester and has fun.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen him yell at anyone or get angry.  When I met him, the first thing he asked me was if I would be offended/annoyed by his constant joking.  I told him no and he’s been cracking jokes ever since.

Adem Kucukgol (1989) – Right Back.  Adem is what you would call the team clown.  I mean that in the most complimentary, least condescending way.  He’s our 3rd choice right back, something akin to being a backup punter.  Despite the prospect of maybe never playing, he keeps a borderline wacky demeanor and is a favorite amongst the players.  Adem has previously played at higher levels with Hammarby and a few other clubs I don’t know.  He was actually at Hammarby at the same time as Charlie Davies.  The last thing about Adem is that he drives 100km each way to training every day.  I think that’s crazy.

Robert Kjellman (1992) – Center Back.  Robert is one of the people I spend the most time with outside of training.  That’s in part because only about half the team even lives in Enkoping.  Like I’ve mentioned before, Robert loves to play the guitar and sing.  We tease him a bit about it, but it’s a pretty good talent to be able to play guitar.  He has a younger brother who plays for the Atletico Madrid reserve team.  Robert is a good guy and one of my closest friends on the team.

Heradi Simba (1988) – Center back.  I don’t have much to say about Heradi.  He’s one of the only other black guys on the team, but other than that I don’t know anything notable about him.  He lives in Balsta, which is about halfway from Enkoping to Stockholm.  He also has a brother on the team, Mtaka.

Dillon Ismail (1992) – Center back.  Another guy whose background I know nothing about.  I know he used to play at Sirius, a club near the top of the table of our league.  I don’t even know where he lives, but I know it’s not Enkoping.  If I learn more about him maybe I’ll update this, for the for the sake of this blog that’s not necessary at the moment.

Kevin Sharro (1994) – Left Back.  Kevin is another one of the babies in our team.  He’s in a similar position to Adem in terms of playing opportunities, but at his young age that’s not really a huge concern.  When I was Kevin’s age I was 4 years away from my first professional game.  He’s also a neighbor of mine in the locker room.  Between him and Gustaf I feel like Father Time!

Micael Tuhkanen (1990) – Left back.  Mica is kind of a strange character.  He’s a really nice person, but I’ve only heard him talk like two or three times ever.  He comes off as a bit of a loner.  I think he just is not much of a talker, which betrays the fact that he’s actually really easy to get along with.  He lives in Enkoping, but I get the feeling that if I saw him walking in town he wouldn’t even acknowledge me.  Don’t expect to hear too much about him in this blog.

There you have it, the back side of our team.  The important players will come in the next post!  (I kid, I kid…defenders are people too.  Even though their job is to prevent what the fans come to see!) See ya then!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Matchday 5 - Still No Points


Valkomen!

See that there?  I’m dropping some Swedish knowledge on you.

We played another game yesterday and lost yet again, 2-1, to BK Forward.  The match was played at an Allsvenskan stadium, the home of Orebro SK.  I played 60 uneventful minutes.  At least they were uneventful for me since I did almost nothing during my time on the field.  This game was the antithesis of our loss to IK Frej; Against Frej we were the better team and deserved more.  Against BK Forward though we were dominated from start to finish and were lucky to have the respectable scoreline that we got.  I don’t really have too much to say about what could have been.  I don’t think that BK Forward was much better than the other teams I’ve played against, but on this day they were simply better than us.  I don’t feel any shame saying that.  In fact, the next time we play the game could go the complete opposite way.  In a league like Division 1, most of the teams seem to be pretty equal.  In our league it seems that, aside from Vasby and Sirius, all the teams are pretty level.  Every team has 3-5 very good players that could find a team in Allsvenskan, but every team also has their weak spots.  I’m just working to be in the former category for ESK, not the latter.

On that note, I will now make excuses for my poor play.  Deal with it.

My last two games have been very different from each other.  Against IK Frej, I was all over the place.  I ran at defenders, gave good passes and even made a few tackles here and there.  Yesterday against BK Forward, I hardly ran at anyone, gave away the ball too much (especially at the beginning of the game) and didn’t tackle anybody.  Essentially my last two games have been my best and worst with Enkoping, speaking strictly of my personal performance.  While personal responsibility plays an important role in any match, but I think that as a winger my performance is much more strongly affected by the performance of the team than almost any other position.  If we’re playing well, like we did against Frej, then I can get into the attack and receive the ball in a position where I can attack.  If we’re not doing so well, then I spend all of my energy chasing on defense.  Once we win the ball, I receive it in positions where all I can do is hold it up and retain possession, not necessarily my strong suits.  Also, because all the other players are tired from chasing, I don’t have many options to pass to when I do receive the ball.  Conversely, I don’t have the energy to go support my teammates either.  As a result, we did a decent job defending against BK Forward, but once we won the ball we just booted it forward to our striker or me or the other winger.  If we actually maintained possession of that pass, there was almost always nothing to do from there but go on a hopeful individual run.  We had our moments, but mostly the match yesterday was just frustration.  We didn’t string more than four or five attacking passes together the whole match.

It’s a shame how things have gone so far, but we only need 4 points to get out of the relegation zone, so things aren’t so bad.  I honestly still believe that promotion is a possibility, but at this point we can’t possibly be thinking about that.  We just need to get our first win or first point and fight our ways to a safe part of the table.  Once we get there we can set some goals for where we want to finish.  I’ll leave you guys with a few random pictures of our locker room.  It’s empty because training was canceled and nobody told me or the equipment manager.  This is the 2nd time this has happened!  Oh well, that’s life.  Talk to y’all soon!
My locker.  Two lockers, really.  I'm a superstar!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Random Thoughts


Welcome back!

I don’t have so much to talk about so I’ll just throw out some random stuff I’ve been sitting on for days or weeks.

First, I read the soccer blog BigSoccer.com almost everyday and I noticed that in the forum about me there were some match reviews posted.  I had absolutely no idea that this existed, but I did some searching and found the website.  It’s a newspaper called unt.se, which covers Uppsala.  For my first three matches, I got (on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the best), 1/5, 2/5 and 3/5.  My first game I got the worst possible rating!  Haha I’m not too concerned though.  It seems more like the writers have very high expectations for me than me actually playing poorly.  For instance, in the match where I got a rating of 3, the explanation said that I was going to be an important player for ESK all season long and that I dominated the left back.  Pretty glowing description for a middle of the road rating lol.  I tried to avoid these types of reviews because they don’t do me any good to look at, but now that I know about it I’ll read it after every match to see what they have to say about me.  I just can’t help myself.

Next, I swear Fruit Loops here are different from America.  I’m pretty sure that all four of the O’s on the box are supposed different colored.  The Fruit Loops I get from the grocery store here though double up on the purple loops.  Kind of shady.  I think Sweden gets the defect Fruit Loops that Americans won’t eat!



In the couple months that I’ve lived in Enkoping, I have watched an absurd amount of Netflix.  There’s no real follow up to that.  I’ve just watched more Netflix than any person who claims they are employed should.  Here's not-so-great picture of my setup with the projector.  It looks really good even though my phone camera doesn't show it so well.



Here in Sweden there is a strange obsession with USA and UK flag things.  Everything from clothes to purses to pillows to wallpaper are covered in the red, white and blue.  In fact, I saw this display at one of the home furniture stores.  I don’t know why it’s this way, but I can only assume that it’s because everybody loves America.  And if they can’t get American stuff they’re willing to settle for UK gear.


I have a bike that Robert let me have for the season.  It makes a huge difference in my day-to-day life, but there’s one big problem: There is a 100% chance that I fall off this bike at some point.  I haven’t ridden a bike in probably 15 years and every single time I get on it I come close to falling immediately.  I also tempt fate every time I turn, carry groceries, look behind me or go on/off the sidewalk.  I just hope that when I do finally fall that nobody is around to see it.  I’m pretty sure that when I fall though it will be in front of a bunch of judgmental middle schoolers.  They can be so cruel and they’re just getting good enough at English to really make the insults stick!

I’m glad I got this stuff off my chest.  None of it has any relevance but oh well, it’s my blog I can write about literally anything I want.  We’ve got our next game on Saturday so I’ll have some more to write about then.  Take care!  I leave you with a picture of my niece, Amani.  When I left America she was so small, but now she's growing into a little lady.  She even has teeth!  In this picture, she has wiggled her way into the space on the side of her bed and gotten herself stuck!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Another (depressing) Loss and Celia Visits


EDIT:  I've added a link to the match highlights: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVOd12SysNg

Hey everybody, I’m back.  Sorry for the delay, but my very pretty friend Celia came to visit for few days so I didn’t want to take the time I normally would to write the blog.  We went to Vasteras and also became sadly familiar with Sweden’s public transportation system.  In news you may actually care about, we played our fourth game and sadly suffered our fourth loss.  Let’s recap:

I’ll start with the match because that’s what most of you will care about.  Normally I don’t go much into games, but I will talk a bit about this one.  We lost the game, 4-2, to IK Frej.  I’ve now played three games this season, and they’ve been against the teams in 1st, 2nd and 3rd of the current table.  And guess who’s in 4th? None other than our next opponents, BK Forward.  The first two games were probably deserved losses, even though we had chances in both.  The past game though hurts a lot because I think we should have won the game.  We were winning the match 2-1 with about 25 minutes remaining but then got a red card and pretty much fell victim to that.

The reason the loss to IK Frej was so depressing was that it was entirely avoidable.  I rarely blame a referee for a loss, but I have to pin this one on the ref.  He handed out 7 or 8 yellow cards to us in addition to the red card.  IK Frej had maybe one or two.  He also ejected Siggi in the first half.  Even I got a yellow card, the first of my professional career and only the third or fourth I’ve ever received.  I don’t know if the ref had a bad week or maybe he broke up with his girlfriend because he seemed very eager to show that he was in control.  He called fouls at a pretty equal rate between both teams, but only our players received cards.  As a result it made it very difficult to commit to tackles since by halftime most of our team had cards.  It changed the way we played and made the game more difficult for us than it needed to be.

On another note, I actually played pretty well yesterday.  I created the first goal with a free kick that hit the crossbar and was headed in by Kerim Mrabti.  The picture on the right is my free kick hitting the bar.  I also played a less significant role in the 2nd goal.  I lost possession of the ball, but sprinted back 30-40 yards and nipped it away, which sent the left back, Robert Kjellman, forward.  He ran forward about 30 yards then sent in a great low cross that Erik Andersson finished really well.  Those two goals gave us 1-0 and 2-1 leads.

Aside from the crazy referee, the loss sucked because we had such bad luck.  When we were up 1-0 I made a good run to the endline and laid the ball back to Daniel Alund, but his shot from about 10 yards hit the post.  He had the keeper beaten and was literally six inches away from putting us up 2-0.  Unfortunately from that same passage of play IK Frej took the ball down the field and scored to tie the match 1-1.  Later, when we were up 2-1 but down a man we did a good job of holding our lead for maybe 5-10 minutes.  We were keeping an okay amount of possession and doing a good job keeping them away from our goal.  When they finally did get a chance they hit the post, only for the rebound to hit our goalkeeper and go in the goal.  It was a terrible bit of luck.  Ironically, had the shot been on target our ‘keeper probably would have saved it.  Later, with the score 2-2, I had a good chance from a corner kick, but my header hit first the goalie, then a player on the line before being scrambled away.  The goalie knew nothing about the save; he just threw his hands up at the right place at the right time.  The pic above shows the play.  The guy on the post with his eyes closed ultimately made the save after the goalie deflected my header.  All of these factors I mentioned worked in unison to deny us any points from the match.  The fourth goal came with the last kick of the ball while we had our whole team pressing for a goal.  It made it 4-2, a very harsh scoreline based on how the match was played.

Moving on from soccer, my friend Celia came to visit this weekend.  I initially met here years ago in Baltimore when I was playing for CPB.  She was studying at a college there at the time as part of a student exchange program.  We kept in touch and have seen each other a few times since then.  Last year she visited me in Harrisburg while she was vacationing with her friends in the US and then a few months later I visited her in her hometown of Sway, England.  I’ll use this opportunity to throw in a picture or two of me in London.
That's me punching a bust of Hitler.

Anyway, Celia was only here for like two days, so there wasn’t so much we could really do.  I went to get here in Vasteras which is the closest city to Enkoping with an airport.  Unfortunately once I got to Vasteras via train, I learned that there were no airport shuttles running.  That meant I had to take the city bus to the closest stop and walk the rest of the way.  The closest stop was over a mile away!  Once I got Celia at the airport, I had to pay 200SEK to go back to the train station, even though the airport shuttle would have only been 50SEK.  Since there were no shuttles running, I was forced to pay the taxi price.  Anyway we spent a few hours in Vasteras before finally heading to Enkoping.  The next day I wanted to show Celia the town so we walked into the city center and found that some sort of festival was happening.  Actually it was more like a huge flea market with a carnival at the end of it.  Still, it was great that so much was going on.  Celia is living in London now, so I’m happy that Enkoping showed a little hustle and bustle while she was here.  The carnival was notable for one ride, which scared me to even look at.  Why anyone would get on a ride like this when it was installed literally a day earlier is beyond me.  It did lead to a big crowd watching though.  Sadly, there wasn’t much more to Celia's visit since she was here for such a short time.  We did learn however that bus tickets to Vasteras are twice as expensive as train tickets, even though the bus takes twice as long to get there.  I assume the train system must be subsidized to allow their prices to be so much cheaper.

In my final piece for today, I’ll mention that I’ve started the “classYfication" of my room.  I bought some wallpaper and that’s going up now in a quite cheap way.  I don’t want to buy wallpaper glue so I’m just taping the wallpaper up with the tape you use to tape ankles along with some clear tape.  Laugh if you want it’s working well!  I also now have a working stove AND sink-gate is over after roughly two weeks.  Still no shower, but I bought a shower sponge that I can use to clean myself easily from the sink.  It’s not ideal, but my place is getting better everyday!  I've also been paid, so that's great.  Less than I wanted but more than I expected so I can't complain.