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!
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
"Dobre Utra" (Good Morning)!
Wow, what a beautiful day! Today was the first day of the event, which consisted 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.
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
Wow, what a fun filled day! We started this morning with a pool work out to stretch and get our muscles ready for the day’s events. After a little complaining and coaxing, the girls all got in and started out the day. Afterward we got breakfast, and then had a little downtime before the game.
Coach Ken and I went over to the fields to watch the North Korea vs. Krasnodar game (Group A), and the Turkey vs. Slovakia Game (Group B). In the North Korea game, North Korea went up 1-0 on a great goal created by the team, and then ended the game by winning 2-0. They were surely the dominant team. We left the fields at the halftime of the Turkey vs. Slovakia game to get back to the girls. The score was 0-0 at the time and Turkey was the stronger of the two teams. When we all got back, we heard that Slovakia had beaten Turkey 2-0. That was an upset for sure.
We got lunch with the girls, had a quick tactical meeting and then went off to the opening ceremonies and the game. The stadium was excellent and right in the center of Sochi, Russia. There were about 1,000 people in the stands and we were ready to play. We started our warm-up and then stopped to see the opening performance, but we missed most of it because we were preparing.
It was now game time, and we started to play against Russia. The game went back and forth. You could tell the girls were a little nervous about the environment as they showed moments of real quality, but also allowed Russia to start to play on our side. After a half, it was a well-deserved 0-0. Russia had about five good shots, all from the outside, but none really troubled us as we had Darien D. towering in goal and calmly dealing with all of them.
We talked in the locker room about the things we needed to do in the second half, and then we went back out to fight and try to take the game. Unfortunately, the half did not start out as well as we wanted, and Russia put us under pressure and had a close range shot which they hit wide. They also got two free kicks outside of our box that were dangerous, but thankfully we had Darien in goal to keep us the game. Fifty minutes… 60 minutes… we were getting tired and Russia was getting stronger. Darien came out to collect a ball at the top of the box and a crafty Russian forward beat her to it and we watched the ball heading towards the goal. Out of sheer commitment and desire to have us succeed, our player Peyton raced back and launched herself into the air to barely tip the ball wide giving them a corner kick instead of a ball in the back of the net. Whew! Close call! They almost broke us down, but they were not able to get the one killer ball due to our committed back line and keeper.
We started to make a few subs to change the game, and we started to get a little stronger. We put in Tina in the back, and she did a good job of keeping up the pressure on the left by continuing to attack from that side. We added Rachel U. to the mix and started to give them a little trouble on the outside. We then put in Sarah M. in the midfield. With her first few touches, the game started to change in our favor. She brought a calmness to the game which we were lacking, and we started to dominate things on the field. At the 75 minute mark, Ken’s experience showed through. In a masterstroke of a move he added Kylie to the outside to run at their outside back, and moved Rachel U. to the middle to utilize her pace. Within seconds that switch started to pay off, and Sarah joined Emma and Amber to send Kylie down the flank with a ball. Rachel looked like a threat. She got the next ball but had a shot right at the keeper. Time was running out…78 minutes… 79 minutes. The referee then shows that there are five minutes of added time. We have only gotten three shots off in the last three minutes and in my mind, we needed to preserve the point as one point for the tie was good.
Then all of a sudden, Rachel got put through on a ball, splitting the two backs. She ran on to it, took a small prep touch, and before the backs were able to close her down, she cracked a thunderous strike to the far side of the goal and it whizzed by the keeper in the 84th minute!!! The bench erupted! Rachel went wild giving out hugs and screaming to all of her teammates. Peyton, who was in the back all by herself, looked up, raised her hands, and let out such a joyous scream, I am sure everyone in the stadium heard! What a wondrous moment, due to the desire, commitment, and great work of the team as a whole. One more minute passed and then we heard the final whistle blow! We won! Joy and hugs surrounded the team! It was a great win!
We all went back to the hotel, the girls took an ice bath, we all got dinner and then we had some downtime. The girls started to talk to the Estonia and the Ukraine girls to make friends. Tomorrow is a slower day. We get to train, go to the study hall, and then relax a bit for the first time since we have been traveling.
Next up, Turkey in 2 days.
Currently the groups look like this:
1) North Korea – 3 points
2) Moldova – 0 points
3) Iran – 3 points
4) Krasnodar – 0 points
1) Slovakia – 3 points (they have 2 goals, we have 1)
2) USA – 3 points
3) Russia – 0 points
4) Turkey – 0 points
1) Ukraine – 3 points
2) Romania – 3 points
3) Azerbaijan – 0 points
4) Estonia – 0 points
If you'd like to check out photos from the game, click here
or check out our Facebook page. Now we are off to bed; training tomorrow to prepare for our next opponent. Turkey here we come!
Note: I apologize for the delay in this note, the internet has been acting funny and I have not been able to send it until now.
Today was a light training day. We made sure we had everything ready for our next game against Turkey. We have watched their game, we have seen them train and now we are ready for the battle.
In the afternoon we took the girls to a study hall. We got a room on the beach overlooking the sea.
After dinner, we had a short meeting to get the girls’ minds focused for the upcoming task ahead. That night, Turkey’s head coach came up to us and said hi to a few of the girls. Then we realized he had studied our team so much he knew everyone’s name and position and was creating a plan to counter us.
Off to bed, and we will see what tomorrow brings.
- Big D
Day 6: Friday, March 8, 2013
"Dobre Utra" (Good Morning)!
We headed to the pool in the morning to start our preparation. There was an excitement in the air; we were getting ready for the battle ahead. Then, it was time for us to depart. The bus schedule was a little screwed up though. Our bus arrived, but our opponent’s didn’t. Since Turkey’s bus was 25 minutes away, we all squeezed into one bus and allowed them to travel with us to the game.
It was a beautiful day outside! It was about 55-60 degrees, the sun was out and it was a great day to play. We were playing on field 1, the "prized" field. Warm-ups looked good. The teams were ready. We heard the whistle blow and we were off!
The game was a little cagey for the first few minutes as we were trying to feel each other out. They had done their homework and were trying to stifle every touch from our towering center midfielder Amber S. As the game started to calm down we started to take control. About 20 minutes in, with a beautiful flowing move started by our fullbacks, Eva G. was released on the left flank. Slalom-like, she broke down three defenders and let loose a fierce strike towards the goal. Aahhh, save! Their goalkeeper just barely got a hand to it and tipped it over.
We started to play again and a girl on the opposing team got hurt. The doctor on Turkey’s team ran onto the field, and it was nothing but a knock and the player was fine. The weird thing was we then saw that the doctor ran directly to their team’s goalkeeper. Her hand had still hurt from Eva’s shot so she got it checked out.
Three minutes later we had another move down the right and Kylie H. was not taking any prisoners. She took on their right back, cut inside and then struck a hammer blow with deadly accuracy as she scored the opening goal of the game. It was 1-0! Excellent!
Halftime was approaching and we had a lead. Turkey got a mini break and got a free kick on the left side of our box. With the sun in her eyes and wind in her face, Turkey’s forward put in a bent ball just outside of the six inch danger area for our goalkeeper Meg "Stu" Hinz. Our keeper leaped into the air on a full extension, and got a hand on the ball to make a brilliant save in the midst of traffic. As she got up and was trying to clear the ball, a Turkey midfielder poked the ball into the back of the net.
The score was now 1-1 and we were not having that! We started to press. We had broken down their back line a few times and fizzed shots wide or at the keeper, but we were keeping the pressure on. The clock was ticking and we were getting stronger and stronger. With about 10 minutes to go, we received a free kick about 15 yards outside of their box on the left side. Christina I. was playing left back. She picked up the ball confidently as she was going to take the kick. The referee started to walk back the wall and things were going in slow motion, all falling in to place. You see every game we’ve had a fan or two that comes to watch and cheer us on but today we had someone very special in the crowd. Christina told me that she wanted to play well for our fan today because it was his birthday and she had dedicated the game to him. What a sweetheart. Turkey was ready, lined up on the top of the box. The ref blew her whistle. Christina paused for a second, took a deep breath and then started her run up to the ball. Seeing her standing over the ball reminded me of Cristiano Ronaldo. As she struck the ball we heard a "crack" as the ball was perfectly hit. A beautifully bent ball went towards the back post. Their goalkeeper launched herself into the air and could not reach the ball, defenders and attackers jumped and none touched it and the ball sailed in to the top far corner of the goal! Wow, what a thing of beauty! As the team ran over to Christina to give her a bear hug she looked at me with a smile on her face and a tear in her eye. What a great kid. The celebrations wrapped up and Christina headed back to her position. She glanced up to the stands and looked at our fan as if to say, "That one’s for you."
The clock was winding down. We had four minutes left in the game and we were still in control. We were in Turkey’s end. Every time they got the ball they were just clearing it out time after time again. We were doing well but they seemed as if they were desperately defending and just kicking the ball down the field. Almost over; it was the 89th minute. They cleared another ball down the field. It was headed towards their forward. Our center back pressed her and gave her a little room to receive the ball so then she could contain and win the ball, but then Turkey does the unexpected. Twenty-five yards away from the goal, their forward didn’t control the ball, and she winded up and hit a wonder strike to the far post that hit the side netting about an inch from the post. WOW! There was nothing Meg could have done on that one. It was now 2-2 with four minutes of added time. We were tied. We tried to rally together to get things done, but anytime the ball went out, Turkey started walking and acting really slow to waste time and run down the clock.
The final whistle blew. Turkey jumped and cheered for joy as they got a point vs. USA and to them that was a victory. Their hopes of progressing were still alive! For us there was a somber mood. We got a point that put us on top of the group, but we felt that we should have gotten so much more out of that game.
We went back to the hotel where we were celebrated National Women’s day and were presented with flowers by the staff of the hotel. It was also Payton’s birthday and the staff that knew how to only say "Hello" in English, came over and sang "Happy Birthday" to her in English. She started crying. When we got upstairs, the team gave her a hug and got her a piece of cake. She was so overwhelmed she started to tear up. Then, in a very surprising but kind move, the Turkish coaches heard it was her birthday, quickly ran back to their rooms and came back with a gift for her - a little Turkish teddy bear. Yep… she started gushing as she smiled from all the love she had received.
Off to bed now. Tomorrow is a relaxing day as we start to prepare for the last group game vs. Slovakia.
Good night everyone, "Spokóynoy nóchi!"
Day 7: Saturday, March 9, 2013
On to a new day, today was a rest day for us so we decided to train in the morning and have the rest of the day free. Training went well, ready for Slovakia. After training, we went back to the hotel for a quick workout in the pool for regeneration, and then we went off to the center of Sochi for some sightseeing.
We got the chance to do a little shopping downtown as well which was nice. We had a special treat for the girls as we took them out to dinner in downtown Sochi.
We had "Shahslik," which is a grilled version of meat cooked over open coals. We also ate local bread, amazing hummus, pork and chicken, grilled veggies and fruit for dessert. The girls devoured the meal and loved it! We got back to the hotel and it was an early night for the girls. They started to practice for their cultural night on Sunday.
The girls also got together to help Coach Ken get technologically updated. It was entertaining. They taught him how to use face time on his iPhone, and who do you suppose his first call was to… to his daughter Ali Krieger in Portugal where she was with the U.S. Women’s National Team just after their game vs. China PR. The girls went crazy as they got the chance to see Ali Krieger, Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn. It was a great way for the girls to get pumped up for the rest of the week.
Day 8: Sunday, March 10, 2013