Thursday, April 25, 2013

4 Wins

It’s been quite a week.  Since the last time I left you we’ve won two games and I’ve been generally active out and around town.  I’ll start with the stuff you care about.


Last Saturday, we opened our league season in just about the toughest fashion possible, away to TPS.  The highlights are on Youtube for those who care to watch.  TPS finished 2nd or 3rd last year and are heavy favorites to finish 2nd this year behind HJK.  The generally consensus seems to be that HJK is head and shoulders above everyone else, and TPS is at a level below HJK but above the rest of the league.  Perhaps we challenged that notion a bit, because we came out and dominated the first 25 minutes of that match.  To be fair, we did have a strong wind at our backs in the first half, but that cannot fully mitigate how well we played.  In that early period we created 3-4 good chances, even though the TPS highlight package only shows two of them.  I had a great chance to score, but slammed my shot a few feet wide.  I should have done better and you can see in my face after the shot that I knew it.  The second half didn’t go our way so much, but we held strong and Jarno scored right at the very end to get us a 1-0 win.  It was a great way to start the league and has surely put other teams on notice.  We intend to be a top team in this league, and now everyone knows we mean business.


The mud pit between Kemi's locker room and turf pitch.
Last night we won another Finnish Cup match, this time against 2nd division PS Kemi Kings.  They had at least two Americans, though I didn’t know either of them nor did I speak to them after the game.  Anyway, the game was pretty under control and boring to be honest.  Kemi had some early counterattacks that were dangerous and put the ball in the net, though it clearly was never going to count since they fouled Henri well before taking the shot.  We were 0-0 at halftime, but scored within two minutes of the second half starting and pretty much cruised from there.  I played the last 15 minutes as a winger and pretty much just ran around not doing anything.  We scored 2-0 immediately before I came in so at that point the game was effectively over.  Long story short: No one got hurt and now we’re in the last 8.


Backtracking a bit, I was relatively busy in the days between games.  I say relatively because I’m never actually busy in the way normal people are.  Instead, my definition of busy is having more than 1-2 things to do in a day.  On Sunday, I went to a IFK Vasa game against some terrible division 2 team.  VIFK won 3-0 and that was flattering to the other team.  The game easily could have been 8-0.  During halftime of the game I went into Botniahalli to see the flea market they were having inside.  Unfortunately, everything was closing down and people were just staring at me like I was a crazy person for walking around a closing flea market.  My enormous coat surely didn’t help me look inconspicuous.


Tuesday I went with a couple of the guys to do a little presentation at a school not far from VPS’s home stadium.  I’ve done about a dozen of these things in the past, so I knew what to expect and had a good time with it.  Kids always love a) seeing big, tall professional athletes and b) getting out of class to go to anything happening in the gym.  There’s not much more to say about the event other than that a few of the kids pulled tricks that I can’t even do, so it’s probably good that I wasn’t asked to show my best skills haha!  Also, Jarno shaved and got a haircut so he looked like he went to the school rather than being a guest.  Call it a gift or a curse, but Jarno can shave and look like he’s literally half his age.  If he told you he was 15 you wouldn’t even question it!  Maybe if the police ever need someone to go undercover at a high school they’ll call him.


The last thing I’ll note is something of pretty big importance I think.  The win of Kemi Kings was my 4th in official competitions this year.  We’ve won every official game that we’ve played thus far which is quite an achievement in itself.  The reason that fourth win is so important to me is because I was only on the winning side of official matches three times all last year.  That may sound impossible, but out of 28 official games I played between Enkoping SK and FC Haka I only was a winner in three games.  And two of those were the last two games I played lol.  Looking from that glass-half-full perspective, I’m riding a six game winning streak!  Hopefully we can make it seven in the home opener on Sunday.


The meme:

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Calm Before the Storm


Only one thing has happened to me since I left you guys last week.  Me and Anthony have now moved into our new apartment, the nice one that is 100m from where we were staying the past three weeks.  This is a big deal for us, as we are both now relatively settled and ready to prepare ourselves for the season.  It’s been kind of a long time coming, but now that the season is upon us the games will come thick and fast.  So it was very important that we got into our permanent place before all of that happens.


I took some pictures of the place before we moved anything in.  I’ll post the pictures of how it looks now another time, as it’s almost 10pm and our place is pretty dark at the moment.  But you’ll be able to get the idea based on these photos.
living room

living room

my bedroom


Now all I need to do is add some of my own touches and this place will be home!


In other news, I have to make a confession to being an idiot.  I’ve been waiting for my first paycheck for a few days thinking that something was wrong since I didn’t receive anything.  Finally I went and spoke with the people who handle that stuff and they reminded me that I needed to get a tax form!  I would have been paid awhile ago, but I completely forgot to do 5 minutes worth of work to get my tax info.  The club offered to essentially pay the salary in advance, but I declined for now since I’m fine moneywise and I’d forget to ever go to the tax office.


As for the team, tomorrow is the big day and our first game.  It’s a tough task going to TPS and trying to get a result, but it has to be done so we’re up for it.  We’ve played quite well at times and if we can show the good form we’ve had in other games then I fancy our chances.  Veikkaus obviously doesn’t as we’re something like 6.05:1 to win.  If I was a betting man (which I am, just not on any league I’m a part of) I’d like those kinds of odds for VPS to win.  We have a strong team and we’ll be very excited to play in front of a good crowd on what is effectively a neutral field.  If any VPS fans make the trip, make sure you’re loud and don’t be afraid to come say hi to us after the game J


The meme (and GIF):


Friday, April 12, 2013

First Game Canceled and Helsinki

So our first game got postponed.  That sucks.


As you may or may not know (or care), the game this Sunday against FC Lahti is now scheduled for July 31.  So we wait an extra week to start our season.  That’s definitely a good thing for the team, though not necessarily the greatest thing for me.  I’ve been starting every game in large part because Sebastian has been hurt/sick and we don’t have any strikers.  An extra week will probably go a long way to settling both of those problems.  Still, the interest of the team is obviously most important and I think we’ll be happy to get another good week of training in before the result start to count.


I’ll talk only very briefly about our last game, a Finnish Cup match against PK-35 Vaanta.  I played the full 90 as the striker and did ok.  We won 2-1 and Jarno scored both of the goals.  The first was a penalty kick and the second was a really good chip finish over the advancing goalkeeper.  We played great in the first half and were in total control.  We played awfully in the second half and were lucky not to go out of the tournament.  But, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good and now we’re in the last 16.


To be honest, the most exciting thing about this game was going to Helsinki for the first time.  I’ve spent a grand total of five months in Finland to date, and I’d never set foot in the capital.  That may not seem so weird to you, but for me –  a globe-trotting, big city-loving 25-year-old with disposable income and a hilarious amount of free time? – it’s almost criminal.  Anyway I finally made it down there and took some time before the game to walk around a bit of the center.  For some reason I only took one picture, but you get the idea.  It was a beautiful day even though it’s still very cold in Finland.  I can’t wait to go back to Helsinki, and a quick look at the calendar says that will happen in about six weeks.


Changing gears a bit, I’m very happy with how I’m fitting in with the group right now.  Of course I’m happy with how much time I’ve been getting on the field, but more specifically I’m talking about how I get on with the guys off the pitch.  I could legitimately call just about everyone on the team my friend, not just a co-worker.  At Haka it wasn’t like that, though I got along well with everyone there.  Ummm…..except for two or three guys who will forever remain nameless.  While it’s not necessary to be friends with your teammates, I do think it’s important.  Every season has its ups and downs.  Hell, every game has its ups and downs.  As a pro you’re supposed to take everything in stride and continue being professional every day.  But I can tell you for a fact that a team that is divided into cliques will crumble under adversity.  At Haka we were fortunate to be very together and we fought until the very end, with two wins and a loss at the death to the silver medalists of the league in our last three games.  A less together team would have thrown in the towel.  That said, the fact that VPS is so together and I fit in so well allows us to freely criticize each other without things getting personal or people holding grudges.  If you get into an argument with a friend at work, it’s easy to put that aside once you’re back home.  If you get into an argument with someone you simply know but don’t care for, then an argument can simmer for months and destroy any relationship that was there.  At the kickoff event we did a few days ago a lot of the players mentioned the unity of this team.  That wasn’t just a cliché, it’s a reflection of just how well this team gets along.  I think that bodes well for us.


Ok soccer-related stuff is over for now.  Everything below this point has nothing to do with soccer or VPS or anything else you probably care about.  You’ve been warned.


I started watching Spartacus a few weeks ago and I have a, um, unique problem.  Before I get into what it is let me ask: Have you ever been watching a tv show or movie and noticed that one of the characters looked like someone you know?  Did it completely ruin the show for you?  Well, that happened to me as I tried to watch Sparticus.  I’m only telling this because I think it might be humorous to some people.

Anyway, for those who don’t know, “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” is a cable tv show in America.  Essentially the plot is that a once great warrior from the times of Sparta (obviously) pisses off the king or prince or whomever and gets eventually sold into slavery as a gladiator and his wife is taken from him and presumably sold into a different, more rape-ish type of slavery.  Now besides the fact that this is literally the exact plot of “Gladiator”, one of the greatest movies of my lifetime, it had me interested at this point.  Then the doppleganger. 


The freaking main villain of this show is a fellow gladiator named Crixus (sp).  Crixus is a total asshole, but is the greatest freaking gladiator ever.  He wants to murder the main character, but can’t because the people in charge won’t let him.  That said, he’s super ripped and all the women love him.  And he just so happens to be a dead ringer for my ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend.


Now let me be clear.  I don’t care at all about what any of my ex-girlfriends are up to in the romance department.  In fact, I have a girlfriend of my own anyway (sorry ladies ;).  I’m also sure that this guy is really cool and nice and I’m sure if I ever met him we’d get along and all that.  But now “Spartacus” is essentially a show about my ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend being a general badass and totally dominating the main character whom the writers of the show intentionally make you relate to.  I’m not interested in watching a show that makes me feel like someone in real life is kicking my ass all the time.  I kind of want to keep watching to see Crixus eventually get defeated, but I saw something on facebook that implied that he’s still around in like season 3.  No thanks.  I’m done with “Spartacus”.


I told you that had nothing to do with anything.  Sucks for you that you stuck around and read the whole thing!


The meme (and GIF):


Saturday, April 6, 2013

The End of Preseason: Preseason Matchday 3

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted, but to be honest that’s because not very much has happened over the past week.  When I last posted we were on our break and I was preparing to do some extra training during the holiday.  I did that, and I believe it helped since I felt very fit in our most recent game, a 1-0 loss to Haka.


Speaking of the match, it was yesterday in Valkeakoski and was not a very great performance from us.  I played roughly 80 minutes as a right winger.  I wouldn’t say that I was overly dangerous, but I think I was one of our brighter players.  Even though we lost, I was happy with my performance and especially happy with my fitness level.  It sucks to lose, but to be honest it’s preseason and the focus is more on preparing for Veikkausliiga than winning every match.  Because of that we started with a team that while strong, probably won’t be the same 11 that start the season opener next weekend.  I haven’t looked on the VPS website, but I’m sure it has a better write up about the game than I care to give, so you can go there if you want to know more.


In off the field news, Anthony Dafaa and I are both still living in an intermediate apartment while we wait to move to our new place.  The place we’re in now is nice and has everything we need except a working washing machine for our clothes.  Unfortunately, the current apartment is literally 100m away from the new place which we’ve already seen and is amazing.  Imagine how antsy you’d be if someone drove you one day to a mansion and told you, “You’re gonna live here soon,” and then took you back to wherever you live.  After a few days, you’d go crazy wondering when exactly “soon” means.  That’s what is happening to me and Anthony right now.


Outside of the apartment, I’ve spent quite a bit of the last week walking around Vaasa.  You’ll be happy to know that I’ve finally taken a few pictures so I’ll put them in here.  I’ve also gotten to know my way around the town quite well, so I’m really excited about summertime.  I love living near water, and Vaasa seems to be just about the ideal place in Finland for that.  Turku and Helsinki don’t have so much uncluttered coastline.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that once summer comes it should be easy to spend a few hours just hanging out by the water without being surrounded by a huge crowd.  I used to do that in Harrisburg, PA when I lived there and that was just a river.  I imagine it will be so calming to look out at the sea here.  Maybe it will help prevent me from getting homesick.


By the way, thank God the preseason is over.  From here on out, every game has real meaning.  I can’t stand preseason, especially once I’ve reached a decent fitness level.  Obviously I’m not 100% ready to play a crazy up-tempo game yet, but I’m exactly where I should be fitness-wise at this point.  I’ve only been doing preseason here for a month, but I was doing preseason by myself in Indianapolis from the middle of January.  That’s just about four months of training just for the sake of training.  From our Cup game Tuesday until the end of October, all of our games will be meaningful in some way.  Important games are the reason that we play.  I understand that preseason results may be a source of pride for some fans, but for the players they are just a tool to prepare for the actual season.  No trophies are handed out in preseason (ironically as I typed that I realized that in Finland they actually do hand out a trophy for the preseason League Cup.  The final is today, no less!).  I’m ready to spend the next six months playing games, getting goals and assists and winning.  Our team is not perfect, but we should be able to beat any team in Veikkausliiga.  That should make for some exciting times in Vaasa this summer and autumn.


I told you there was nothing going on!  But hey, you sat here and read everything I had to write so maybe it helped the obvious boredom that brought you to my blog.  Things should get more interesting as the games start.  I travel to Helsinki for the first time on Monday so hopefully I’ll have a chance to get out into the city for a bit.  That should make for a half decent blog post.  Who knows though.  Today I’m going to put a GIF in with the meme.  Hopefully it works.  If not, then I guess I just won’t be putting GIFs into my posts.


The meme, from my favorite truth-telling duck (and the GIF):

 If you're having a bad day, remember...