Assistant Coach Darren Marshall traveled to Russia to coach the US Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (US Youth Soccer ODP) Girls Under-16/17 Region I team in the 2014 Kuban Spring Tournament. Check out his blog as he recounts their experiences on and off the field!
We have arrived on the first leg of our journey. We'll be in Istanbul for 48 hours before traveling to Sochi.
We all met at JFK airport, checked in and got ready for our flight. We lost one player, Sam, due to illness just hours before the trip, and she was crushed! Sam you are with us in spirit and we want you to get better soon. Keep your fingers crossed for us as we take on this adventure!
We landed in Istanbul, went to get our visas and then proceeded to passport control. As we looked around, we saw a friendly face, Alper. It was kind of weird to see him inside at customs but maybe things are a bit different than what we are used to in Turkey. Alper greeted us with a smile and a hug. We walked towards baggage claim and there was a police man following us watching the girls. Nervously I asked Alper what he was doing. He laughed and said, “You are guests of the Turkish Federation, so we want you to feel welcome and safe while you are here. We have the Turkish Federation Bus outside waiting for you. You will have a police escort with you during your trip.” We grabbed our bags and started to proceed through customs. The airport police officer walked us through and stopped traffic so we could walk to our bus. We loaded up, got on the bus and saw that we had a police car in front of us with its lights flashing, and a car behind us with two traffic officers in it. They really rolled out the red carpet for us and made us feel very special.
It’s now 7:30 am. We get to the hotel, get breakfast and drop off our bags. Now it was time to see a little of the city. As we drive to our first stop, Alper tells us about the road we were on - a part of an aqueduct from ancient times. Then he points across the Miramar Sea to two towers. He tells the girls, “Do you see that over there? Right now you are in Europe and over there is Asia.” We were literally driving on the border of Europe.
We get to the Blue Mosque and wow what a site! It was one thing to have heard about this but it was even more impressive to be at in person. We stopped for a second to take a picture outside of it and then proceeded inside. We all had to take off our shoes and all of the girls had to cover their heads. We walked inside to see the beauty of the mosque, which has been there since 1616. There was an area where we were allowed to take pictures, but there were also parts that were sectioned off and we were not allowed to enter. We only looked from afar. In the back we saw a section that said ‘Women’s praying area.’ One of our security officers showed us a guide to the mosque. He took us through as a group and showed us the detail, beauty and history of the mosque. Wow! They were so welcoming and hospitable to us, inviting us and treating us like this. Talk about impressive and touching. It was incredible. We then proceeded outside and headed to the Turkish Bazaar for some shopping.
We went back for lunch and then headed off to training. Ian, the girls’ head coach, had a light session. We are excited to see that we have a very good team here. It is important for us to get things right as we have a great chance to make a run for the title here at the tournament.
After a great session we headed back to the hotel and found our friend Muge there. We knew her from last year's Turkish National team. Now she's working for the Turkish professional club Galatasaray, with their youth boys team. She is the first woman physiotherapist in a men’s professional club in Turkey and she is doing great things! She also brought the staff and the girls gifts from the club! How awesome!
We had a wonderful day of sightseeing and training and now we are back at the hotel to crash! We have dinner to go to and then we're off to bed! Tomorrow we play against Turkey for a friendly, and then we will continue our trip to Sochi to play in the Kuban Spring Tournament.
Having all slept like zombies, we woke up today to a beautiful day in the city. The city of Istanbul is a city of rolling hills along the sea banks filled with flats and beautiful mosques. We ate breakfast and took some time to pack up our stuff. Our game is scheduled for about 1:00pm. It’s now 10:30 am and our security shows up. I get a call from the Turkish Football Association because they want to review our roster. The general secretary of the Turkish FA comes to the hotel, we give him our roster and find out he is going to ride on the bus with us to the game.
At 11:40am we board the bus to the game and have security there with us. At 12:05pm we pull up to the stadium. Our bus enters the back gates as it opens for us. It looks as if there are about 15 people there working the game that day. We walk in to the locker room and see water, fruit, a countdown of the time for us to line up, exchange gifts, etc. I look around the stadium and count 37 people from the Turkish FA working this game. It feels like a true international game.
As we start the game, it’s a cagy affair. Turkey sits in a little and allows us to play with the ball. We go back and forth and halftime comes and there is no score. We have had a few chances and they have a couple as well but nothing is clear. It’s evident we are working off all the travel, shaking out all the kinks. We go in to halftime, make a few slight adjustments and then go out for the second half. Right away Turkey starts to press us. About 10 minutes in, they get a ball to the right and a girl crosses it to the back post. Their forward jumps and heads it in … goal. We lost them for a quick minute and get punished.
We came back out and started pressing hard to get the equalizer. With about 20 minutes left, Coach Ian made a sub and all I can say is Turkey got ‘Schnurred’! Kristen Schnurr stepped on the field and decided to show Istanbul that they could not catch her. We got a ball and Nat up top did excellent work to win it and lay a ball off for herself as she ran through the defense. She passed the center back like she was standing still, got in on a breakaway and got tripped just before taking the shot. Two minutes later the ball comes back to Jade and she sees Schnurr running down the flank. She played a perfectly placed 45 yard ball to split 2 of the backs. Schnurr took a touch then let loose a fierce strike that the goalkeeper tried to catch (tried being the key word as it powered through her hands). As soon as the ball hit the back of the net, Schnurr spun around, head cocked to the side loose at the sideline, smiled, winked and points out, “That was for you Coach.” Then she proceeded to walk back to her teammates with a little swagger in her step.
We have about 15 minutes left to play. Then there goes Schnurr again, flying down the flank like her shoes are on fire. She gets to a ball and lays it off to Jules. Now Jules has a little bit of salsa in her feet and she decides not to be shown up. She was going to let the world know what she could do. Near the corner of the 18 yard box on the left side, she received the ball from Schnurr and started to dance. I could hear the “Joga Bonito” song start to take beat. She paused for a second, hand on her hip, watched as a Turkey player was flying at her feet first in a slide tackle, and she coolly touched the ball to the side and watched the girl fly by. Another was right behind the first and Jules started to shake her hips like it was the samba. The girl went right, the girl went left, the girl went down and Jules was still standing there with the ball. Jules looked up saw three more Turkey defenders and the goalkeeper running at her and she calmly bent the ball to the far corner to hit the winning goal! Wow, that was awesome! Six minutes pass and the whistle blows! We win 2-1. After over 30 hours of traveling, jetlag, and lack of sleep these girls put in a great performance!
We head back to the hotel, get cleaned up and check out. We then head to dinner at a Turkish kebab house restaurant where our friend Alper from Turkey set up dinner for us. Wow what an amazing meal! It was awesome! We now head to the airport as we have a 12:20am flight to Sochi. We meet the Turkish team at the airport when we are checking in. We go through passport control and get to the gate and we see the Romanian team at the gate going on the same plane as we are. After boarding the plane, we see the Hungarian team come behind us. One third of the tournament’s teams are all on the same flight. With the two hour time difference, we land at 4:30am. We get through security no problem and head off to the busses. We pull in to the hotel at 6:45am, check in and go straight to bed.
"Spokóynoy nóchi" (good night everyone)! We will talk to you tomorrow!
- Big D
Here’s a recap of the day:
- Played game 2-1 win
- Back to Hotel to shower and meeting
- Kebab Dinner
- Happy birthday to waiter
- Travel to airport
- See Hungary, Turkey, Romania on flight
- Land pass through security at 4:45am
- Check in to hotel
- Go to bed at 6:30am