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Blog: ODP Region I Girls in Russia

US Youth Soccer Assistant Coach Darren Marshall traveled to Russia to coach the ODP Girls U-17 Region I team in the Kuban Spring Tournament. Check out his blog entries which recount their experiences on and off the field!

Hello Everyone!
My name is Darren "Big D" Marshall and I am the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) Girls U-17 Region I Assistant Coach. We have taken a wonderful group of young ladies on a trip of a lifetime to the Kuban Spring Tournament in Sochi, Russia! Along the way I will write updates of how we are doing, but also, please like our Facebook page to see pictures and videos from our trip!
We started out spread all over Region I, the eastern region of the country, and yesterday we all made the trek to JFK Airport in New York. Smiling faces and excitement surrounded the group as we were ready to board the flight. This year we are accompanied by an all-star staff. Our head coach Ken Krieger is the Girls U-19 Region I Head Coach. Along with his vast knowledge about the game and extensive experience he has to offer these girls, I think he is mostly noticed as he is the dad of USA National Team Member Ally Krieger. Chris A. is our athletic trainer from Boston, and he’s on the verge of starting medical school when we get back from our trip. Kelly Grant came along as our administrator, who’s worked with Region I for the past five years. And once again, I am the assistant coach for this event.
Our flight to Moscow was very good, a quick nine hours. On arrival we had the honor of meeting the last two members of our team, Ally and Sam, who joined us from US Youth Soccer ODP Europe. This is the first year that we have had girls from London and Germany join us and we are very excited for their involvement. 
Walking out of the airport we were reminded of why Region I gave us warm winter-stadium jackets! We were informed that yesterday Moscow was going through a "heat wave"- it was 23 degrees! Wwhhaa! A little cold for my bones! We took a bus to the hotel, got lunch and then went out to explore the heart of the city - Red Square. We were able to see the Kremlin Wall, the National History Museum, Lennon’s Tomb and the iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral. To escape the freezing temperature, and to explore some more, we took a tour inside the Cathedral and learned about its history, as most of the building and its artifacts were from the 15th and 16th centuries. Afterward, we took a quick stop to the souvenir vendors and then we were back on the bus and headed to the hotel for the night.
Dosvedanya everyone (which means "goodbye"), and I’ll be back tomorrow with the next update!
- Big D

We woke up early to get the day started and got breakfast at 7 a.m. The night before I had received a call from our opponents’ coach and he suggested that we shorten the game. He said since the girls were playing outside and the temperature was supposed to only be 8-10 degrees, any longer than an hour could be dangerous. You can imagine how I felt! Five minutes would have been too much for my sensitive skin let alone the girls! For the girls’ safety, all the coaches agreed to cancel the game in Moscow. To keep the girls active however, Chris ran them through a small workout circuit in the hotel. Although our game was cancelled due to the cold weather, the good news is I did find out that our ODP team is scheduled to play at one of Russia’s brand new stadiums against last year’s Russian Women’s Football Champions - WFC Rossiyanka.
After the light workout, we headed off for a little Russian adventure before heading to the airport again. We had a 4:30 p.m. flight to Sochi where we would settle and start to prepare ourselves for the tournament at hand. We got lunch at a local restaurant in a mall in Moscow. There was a lot of food. We didn’t know what any of it was and no one spoke English so through smell, sight and lots of pointing, we were able to order and enjoy lunch. On the way out of the mall we saw a Starbucks! Lead by our coaching staff, we all proceeded in to order our teas, hot cocoas, frappuccinos (or their version of it) and lattés.  With that experience, we were off to the airport!
After a short two and a half hour flight, we left the single digit degree weather in Moscow to be welcomed 1,200 miles south by the warmth of the 43 degree weather in Sochi! We headed to the hotel, got dinner and then went straight to bed.
Teams from the U.S., Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan all came in today and tomorrow the rest arrive. Tomorrow we have training and tournament preparation. On March 6 we have a showcase game in front of a 1000 person crowd - USA vs. Russia! Wish us luck as we are excited and ready to take this tournament by storm!
Good night everyone or "Spokóynoy nóchi!"
- Big D

Hey Everyone,
"Dobre Utra" (Good Morning)!
Wow, what a beautiful day! Today is the first day of the event, which consists of training and preparing for the tournament.
To get the girls moving and working up an appetite, we decided to take them for a run on the beach on the bank of the Black Sea (they didn’t realize how close we were to it last night because it was dark). Afterward, we went to get breakfast and then headed off to training. After a good work out session, we got lunch and then had a second workout session later in the day. The girls are excited. They’re starting to work out the kinks and are ready to get on the field. 
In the evening we attended the opening meeting of the tournament. I was impressed at what a great job this tournament has done to improve itself year after year. This year there will be updates about the tournament on Facebook (link), where there will be pictures and highlights of all of the games.
On the Russian Federation website (link) there will be a live stream of the USA vs. Russia game tomorrow morning. The match will air on March 6 at 8:00 a.m. EST, and opening ceremonies will start at 7:30 a.m. EST. For us here in Russia though, that will be 4:30/5:00 p.m. Although the site isn’t in English, you can translate the page using Google Chrome. I will try to post the exact link in tomorrow’s blog.
Every year this tournament has been over the top, and this year it is keeping pace as our soccer game is going to be held at the center of Sochi at the Sochi Olympic Stadium, broadcasted across the city and streaming live on the internet. There is an expected crowd of about 1,500 spectators, 250 players and staff attending the match, plus press from the city which means a lot of fanfare. 
Hope you all enjoy the game. Wish us luck! Look forward to the next update tomorrow night!
- Big D