Friday, March 29, 2013

Preseason Matchday #2: Finnish Cup 4th Round

One official game, one win.


We played a Finnish Cup 4th Round game last night against the local Division 2 team, IFK Vasa (or maybe they’re called Vasa IFK).  We won 2-0 with goals either side of halftime from Jarno and Patu.  Of course I don’t really do in-depth game recaps, but I will make a few points about the match before inevitably talking about myself since, hey, it’s my blog.


Now on to the game.  First of all, Vasa IFK Vasa (I’ll just call them that or VIFK so that I get the name at least half right) is a really good team.  I didn’t have any familiarity with the level of teams in Division 2, but from the looks of it it must be a decent league.  That’s surprising to me, since I trained for a day with a Division 3 team last February right after I was released by MYPA to stay fit for my trial with ESK in Sweden.  That Division 3 team was terrible and resembled a youth club.  Vasa IFK Vasa on the other hand had a bunch of players that honestly wouldn’t look out of place in Veikkausliiga.  I don’t know how it looked from the outside, but on the pitch it felt like we were just chasing shadows while Vasa IFK Vasa calmly moved the ball around for the first 15 minutes or so.  We were making all the chances, but it seemed like we were just getting counterattacks and not controlling anything.  Even though Jarno scored in about the 40th minute, I felt like the game was very even going into halftime.


This was my first halftime with VPS, since I didn’t start the previous game and was warming up during that time.  It’s always interesting to see what teams do during the interval.  I won’t get into tactics and stuff since that stuff’s not important to this blog.  Instead I’ll talk a bit about a few of the things that go on during a professional soccer halftime.  While you guys are out getting hot dogs or whatever food they sell at Finnish sports events, we’re underneath the stands doing the most random things ever.  I think that people believe that halftime consists of a 15-minute team talk from the coach.  In reality it’s more like a church, with 75% of the time spent on personal reflection and 25% spent by tactical/motivational discussion.  Most of the guys took their jerseys off because honestly those things are like straight jackets.  When I saw that VPS had long sleeve jerseys last year I thought it was so cool.  But then again it was -3 degrees and the field was frozen.  It’s a totally different story when you’re playing in a climate controlled hall.  I didn’t take my jersey off, mostly because the previous #19 for VPS had a medium jersey meaning that I have the same and I simply couldn’t easily take the jersey off.  I guess it’s all those big muscles I have!


Aside from stripping, there are other things going on.  A couple of guys were doing sit ups and/or push ups, something I would never dream of during halftime.  I think I even saw a player get a coffee which is crazy to me.  Personally, I just sat in my spot in the locker room on the floor so my legs could stay extended.  I was quite tired at halftime as this was only my second competitive game since last October.  Anyway, after the 15 minutes were up and Oka (the coach) had given his speech we headed out for the second half.


In my opinion (I shouldn’t use that phrase.  It’s obviously my opinion since I’m writing it, but I can’t really think of a better way to start this sentence right now.) the second half was much better than the first from our point of view.  We did a better job of controlling the pace of the game and didn’t give up any chances that I can think of.  We also created a bunch of chances of our own.  While I didn’t really have any chances, I did help create some things and opened up the field with my pace.  Great for the team, terrible for my lungs and legs.  By the 60th minute I was just about completely gassed.  Luckily for me and the team, Patrick Lomski scored in the 72nd minute or so and from there it was a stroll.  Vasa IFK Vasa had to change their formation and it allowed us to dictate the rest of the game.  2-0 to the good guys!


I guess I did end up doing a sort of recap of the match.  I’ll finish up by just mentioning a few things that I took from this match.  First, I feel very confident that I can help solve the striker problem at this club.  I know I didn’t score any goals and honestly did pretty poorly with the few chances I received/created.  That said, I have all the tools to be a good Veikkausliiga striker.  Given some time I think that I could make that position mine.  Of course I’m prepared to play anywhere.  I’ve spoken to Oka a few times about this and he knows that I’m a willing to play anywhere for the team.  Let’s just hope that nothing happens that forces Oka to have to put me at center back or something!  I’ll do it, but I can pretty much guarantee that we’d lose that game and that Henri (our goalie) will want to kill me afterward.  Second, I’m really excited about this team this year.  We played a game without a signed striker and with a handful of important players missing, but still managed to get a comfortable win against a team that I would guess could easily play in Division 1.  And while they had their moments, I think a neutral fan would admit that we could have won by 3-0 or 4-0 with a bit of luck.


Ok enough about the game.  The team has four days off in lieu of the Easter holiday.  I find it kind of ironic that all of Finland shuts down for good Friday despite the fact that I’ve seen two churches the entire time I’ve been here.  In America, there’s a church on every corner and we swear we’re the most religious people ever, but on Good Friday you take your ass to work.  Same with the day after Easter.  Anyway, I’ll be here in Vaasa training and getting my fitness up since I’m a model professional.  Haha clearly that’s not the case, I just don’t have enough money to travel anywhere.  I wasn’t lying about getting my fitness up though.  If you see me walking in Vaasa (I’m not hard to miss around here) offer to drive me to the gym!  It’s like a 40 minute walk from my house and I’m afraid to jog there because there’s still quite a bit of ice outside.


That’s all.  Sorry again for no pictures.  I’ve been doing a really bad job at that but it’ll get better I promise.  I might look around and see if there’s any pictures on the newspaper websites or elsewhere and post them.


The meme.  It's explains my writing style perfectly:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Preseason Matchday 1: Really? My old team for the first game?

Ok I didn’t expect this. 


My last blog post, which I honest to God thought would get less than 10 views, got over 3000 views in the last few days.  I wouldn’t have started it with a random curse word if I knew people would be reading it!  I’d like to say that this blog is better when I’m actually trying, but it’s probably not.  I guess that’s up to you to decide!


But back to business.  Today we played Haka in a friendly match and won 3-0.  I played the second half as a right winger and played ok.  I had 2-3 pretty good moments but just as many poor moments.  From a professional point of view the game was simply a good workout and time to get to know my new teammates a bit.  From a personal point of view though it was much more meaningful.  That’s because Haka is my former club (for those who didn’t know).  This game was the first time in my entire life that I played a former team of mine.  It was strange in the buildup to the game seeing people I fought so hard with and shared a lot of memories, good and bad, now on the other side of the field.  I can’t think of another profession where this happens.  Most companies don’t compete in such a face-to-face way as soccer teams do.  If I switched accounting firms, I’d never have to sit in a room with my former co-workers doing whatever it is accountants do (And don’t say they do accounting!).


During the game though life was much simpler, as is often the case.  We made pretty wholesale changes at the half, and it showed in the first 10-15 minutes of the second half.  Haka had us on the back foot and I spent the early parts of my preseason debut cutting out passes and chasing a fullback.  Once us subs got our legs underneath us we started to do well and create chances.  I had a few moments where I was able to show my skills a bit, but mostly I was just working on getting my defensive work right.  My performance today was very similar to my early performances with Haka, when my teammates didn’t really know me that well and vice versa.  I think that after a few months here in Vaasa my teammates will figure out how to best use me and I will be a bigger asset to the club.  That’s not a criticism or anything, just a fact of assimilating new players into a club.  If you want to know more about the game itself, I’ll warn you that this isn’t really the blog for that.  I’ve gotten some feedback and found that people by far want to know more about off the field things and my personal feelings about matches rather than a summary of VPS’s games.  Match reports will be on VPS’s website,  The only other thing I’ll say about the match is that it was the first game I’ve played in my entire life where I was happy not to score.  As for Haka, they have a really good team and probably didn’t deserve to lose 3-0.  I am friendly with all of those guys still.  I really hope that they win their league this year and return to Veikkausliiga where the club belongs.  I also hope they make the Finnish Cup final and lose to us.  Then if we finish in the top 4 then Haka can have European football next season.


Up next for VPS is a Finnish Cup game against Vaasa IFK.  They are a 2nd division team, but they must be quite good since they beat SJK in the previous round of the Cup.  We are taking them seriously and already have started gameplanning for the match Thursday.  I’m hoping to get the start for that match, but if not I’m happy to fill any role that I’m asked.  What’s most important in a Cup is just getting a win and progressing.  I think we have a good team so it’d be a shame if we slipped up in the first game.


That’s it for now.  Sorry about the lack of pictures thus far.  But if you want to see what I’ve been seeing just look outside.  There’s snow everywhere so I haven’t been taking too many pictures yet.  Once color comes to the trees and ground of Vaasa, pictures will come to my blog!  Until then you'll have to settle for pictures of my niece, Amani.



The meme:



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Return of the Yank

I’m back motherfuckers!

(Sorry for the language, that’ll probably be the only f-bomb I’ll drop this entire year.)

Almost five full months after I became a free agent, I have signed with my new club VPS in the Finnish Veikkausliiga.  It is a one year contract, or really a 7-month contract to be exact since it only runs until the end of October 2013 and pays 1300 euros a month + a club provided apartment.  There is also a team option on the contract after four months, so if I disappear around August 1 you’ll know what happened!  If you were wondering, this contract means basically two things:

1. GITS is back in effect. (You don't get that because you didn't play for the Harrisburg City Islanders in 2011)

2. The blog has (barely) survived the winter and will live on another year.

That’s about all I’m gonna write for today because I’m quite sure that absolutely nobody will be reading this blog post.  I’m sure that after a month of not posting anything nobody checks this blog, so I might as well put a few up before they start getting long-winded and whiny like you guys are all used to J.

Now before I go today, I’ll mention that I spent the better part of this winter collecting hilarious GIFs to put as my memes.  Unfortunately, I have no clue how to save a gif and transfer it to this blog so for now you’ll have to just deal with regular memes.  Til next time!

The meme: