Monday, June 16, 2014


It’s been a shitty few weeks.  I feel like I say that a lot.

I’ll talk about the games in a bit, but before that I’ll talk about life off the field.  Things have been going well and now I’m looking for ways to better spend my time.  Believe it or not, lounging around all day can get really boring after awhile.  My nights of course are taken with World Cup matches for the next three weeks or so.  It’s been a decent start to the tournament and I’m loving it so far (except for Mexico winning).  
Fuck Mexico.
Spain against Holland
Maybe you wouldn’t know it by watching me play, but I know a ton about the game and really consider myself a tactics junky.  I love the World Cup mostly for the passion that comes through in every game, but also because of the fascinating tactical battles that the tournament produces.  It is the only soccer tournament where countries from different tactical backgrounds are thrust together.  It’s fun to watch the stars of France have to solve the puzzle that is Honduras, a team unlike any they’ve probably played in years.  Later in the tournament, it’s awesome to see tactical adjustments or gameplans for teams that you only learn you’ll be playing a few days in advance.  That tactical uncertainty, along with a ton of pressure, is the reason why the knockout round games are rarely as exciting as the group stage games.  But I digress…

I mentioned I had a bunch of free time, so I’ve taken to finding some ways to fill the days.  The first thing I’ve started doing is some extra training on my off days.  It was difficult earlier in the year to do anything because we had so many games and I was needed to play essentially all the minutes.  That situation hasn’t changed that much, but we have enough players now that we can rotate our team a bit.  That relief is enough for me to have the energy and confidence to get out and work on the team’s off days.  I think the extra training will show.  We players don’t often get to train our individual tasks much when we have so many games so the extra stuff I’ve been doing it pretty necessary.

In totally non-soccer related happenings, I’ve been applying (and getting accepted into) graduate schools.  I’ve noticed that a lot of players here are studying while they play, so I figured why not me too?  I haven’t decided just yet, but it looks very likely that come September I’ll become a “student-athlete”.  I won’t be leaving VPS though, so don’t worry (or sorry, depending on whether you like me or not!)

The Europa League draw is in a week, and I’m excited to see who we draw.  I had a whole writeup prepared a few months ago about the draw, but I had to throw that out the window because we were told that our draw has been regionalized to Scandinavia and northern Europe.  Before I go into who and where I want to play, I will talk briefly about my goals for the club and myself.  The publicly stated goal for our club is to advance past the first round though I think setting a goal like that is a bit silly.  The reason is that the draw could hand us wildly differing opponents.  For instance, if we get past the first round but then lose in the second round to a team from Andorra or Luxembourg, will we be happy with that result?  Happier than if we play Rosenborg and lose on away goals?  The latter situation would be a worse result, but would likely mean that we played a much better game and lost to a better team.  I think our goal should be to beat the teams from lower leagues, and show ourselves well against teams from higher leagues.  This may not fit nicely in a newspaper, but it’s more realistic.  To beat a Norwegian or Danish team would be great, but if we draw the 2nd or 3rd place team in Norway, I don’t think it’s fair that the minimum acceptable result is to advance from that tie.  Anything is possible though and, last week excluded, we’re a really good defensive team so I think we’re ideally built to play a knockout tournament.  Now on to my hopes.

I really hope to play a team from Wales or Ireland.  If we don’t get drawn to the UK, then I’d love to play one of the Swedish teams or Iceland.  I used to live in Sweden so I know all about the clubs there and I’ve been in Gamla Ullevi in Goteborg a handful of times so it’d be nice to actually play there.  I also assume Brommapojkarna(sp) in Stockholm would play in the new stadium in Stockholm (the smaller one) so that’d be cool.  Iceland is on my wishlist in all honesty because I think we could beat them.  We get bonuses for each round we advance so I’d prefer to play the worst possible teams and keep  advancing if I can be cynical for a moment.  Then I hope to play Inter Milan in the play-off round.  Imagine that, VPS playing Inter Milan (aka the “other Inter” to Finnish fans) at the San Siro!  It’s actually harder for me to imagine them travelling to Valkeakoski for a game haha.

I’ve typed so much by now that I simply don’t feel like going through our last few games.  In short, we didn’t really play all that badly but just conceded a lot of goals and we seem unable to score any ourselves.  I was going to go through all the tactical things that I’m sure no one noticed from the KuPS game and talk about what tactics we choose to use against HJK as well, but it would have all gotten quite technical and at this point I don’t think anyone cares.  I’ll break down tactics after a win sometime instead.

This has nothing to do with anything, but today I got another example of old Finnish people charm.  I was riding my bike into town for a massage and in front of me I notice an old man.  I naturally moved my bike very early to avoid this gentleman and took up a lane to his left.  He proceeds to try and jump in my path and starts shouting at me.  I stopped, which I think confused him a bit and tried to acknowledge what he was saying but he was having none of it.  In the end, I think what he wanted was for me to pass him to the left instead of right.  It seems like only in Finland do I get accosted by senior citizens and reprimanded for my behavior in public.  The only senior citizen I actually know in Vaasa is Taku Jokinen, and he’s the happiest guy I think I’ve ever met.  Why can’t everyone else be like him?

Lastly, it was Father’s Day yesterday.  I called my dad of course and we talked for like a half hour like we always do.  I’m really lucky to have such an awesome dad.  He’s always believed in me and is 100% without a doubt my biggest fan.  Scoring in front of him on my senior night in college and against KuPS last year are two of my best memories in soccer.  I rarely called him or my mother last year, but this season I’ve talked to them quite a bit and I’m happy I’ve made that change.  It may very well have a bit to do with my improve outlook on my time here in Finland.  He’s coming to visit in a few months and I’m really looking forward to that.

That’s all, folks!  The meme and then some dad humor:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Time for a break and London Trip

I know you’ve missed me, so I’m here to please the people! I'm even posting on a Friday, and you all know how I feel about Fridays!

Since I last posted, we’ve won two games in a row and didn’t concede a single goal in the process. We had our best 45 minutes of the season in the second half against Honka so the team’s confidence is high.  We always seem to do well in the last game before big breaks and it’s good because it makes the break more enjoyable.  Finishing with a great result also keeps the spirit of the team high and that’s been true into this week.  Training this week has been as good as any week all season, at least since I arrived in March.  People are getting healthier as well so it’s almost all good news. The only downside for me personally was that I got a yellow card on a play similar to this:

Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be 2014 VPS if an important player didn’t get hurt so now Timi’s out for months with some sort of ankle injury.  Regardless, we’ve now gone over three games without conceding a goal.  Vaasa is going to have to change its name to Shutout City Finland™.  That’s assuming HJK concedes a goal sometime between now and the end of time.  Now, I’m not going to re-hash the games because there’s not much to say, so instead I’ll talk about life because it’s gotten better now that the weather has improved!

The weather is pretty consistently good now, so I’ve been out and about.  I even made my first appearance at Vaasa’s beach!  There’s not so much to do in Vaasa, but my teammates and I have been making the best of it and enjoying our downtime.  The World Cup is coming up soon, so I’m preparing my house to screen the games.  I have a projector and a screen, so I’m pretty sure the guys will want to come over and watch the games on the biggest possible screen!  The USA games though I have to watch by myself, because I get really intense and don’t like to be around people when USA plays important matches.  The fact that we’re probably going to lose at least 2 out of 3 games only makes it more important that I be alone for those games.

As I mentioned earlier, we had a break for a week. It was a great week and a good chance to recharge my batteries and, more importantly, stock up on a bunch of cheap stuff that I can't find in Vaasa.

The highlight of my trip was visiting Wembley Stadium, one of the biggest and nicest soccer stadiums in the world. The game wasn't very good, but the atmosphere there was amazing. The funny thing was that more people were entertained by throwing paper airplanes onto the pitch than the actual game. We also were seated a few feet away from the people who started a wave that miraculously made it's way around the stadium five times! I got to see a lot of the stars that I watch every week on tv play in person, so it was a great experience.
The walk to Wembley

Stadium empty

Stadium full
I won't bore you with details of the rest of my trip, but I will post some pictures.

Me with my man-purse

Victoria and Albert Museum

Tooting Broadway station.

After the vacation was finished, it was back to reality.  I had to be at training on Monday morning, but didn't leave London until Sunday night.  Unfortunately, that meant flying to Helsinki and spending the night at the airport.  I was worried that I'd not be allowed to do it, but I wasn't even the only person sleeping at my gate.
The view from my seat.  It was 1am.
The plane to Vaasa.  Like something from the 1950s.

I made it back in time on the plane in the picture and went straight from the airport to training.  It must have been good preparation because I did well in that day's training and the rest of the week as well.  Hopefully the good work leads to a good performance from me and the team this weekend in Lahti!

In honor of my going on vacation, the meme is a cheeky dog on vacation: