Winter is usually my favorite time of the year to train. Since there isn’t a lot going on with the national team, I get to reevaluate my skill level -- and for the last 10 years, I’ve been blessed to have the Evesham Recreation Facility (called Blue Barn) to go to in order to improve my game. It’s a lifesaver, since finding an outdoor field in New Jersey at this time of year would be impossible.
This year has been especially freezing, though, and I was excited to head to the Dallas area at the end of January for a game against Canada. Little did I know, it was even colder in Texas than in Jersey!
I wasn’t allowed to play in the game because I’d received two yellow cards in our Brazil game on November 10, and I had to serve a one-game suspension. So my training in Texas was a bit different than everyone else’s. I had lots of extra gym and training sessions, and our fitness trainer, Dawn, set me up with some drills that hurt -- but make you better, as the saying goes. I did a lot of circuit training that involved playing the ball wide and sprinting in for a cross, as well as shooting, passing, ladder work and dribbling. And, not to mention, some extra lifting sessions to continue to get stronger.
During the game I had to sit up in the stands and watch everyone play. But it was actually nice to watch them from a higher angle and see it all. We played great and beat Canada 1-0, which was a good result to start off 2014.
Then we headed to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. for a game against Russia, and, finally, we got the warm weather. All I can say is I enjoyed the warmth and hot weather -- a lot. The temps remained in the 80s all week, which made me so happy!
It felt good to come out and sweat, train in a tank top and sit by the pool. It changed my whole mood. Instead of being cooped up in our rooms we all got out more. We were all over the place: by the pool, shopping, getting our nails done and eating outside.
We went into the game on Feb. 8 not knowing what to expect. We knew Russia had improved recently and I was curious to see what style of play the team would bring. I’d never played the Russians before in my 10 years competing for the U.S.
We ended up winning 7-0. I felt really good in the game and enjoyed being on the field again with my teammates. Tactically, Russia sat-in defensively, so we needed to be a bit tricky and play balls through the gaps and seams. We achieved that!
After the game I got a big reaction from friends and family that hadn’t known I’d be playing with a real nasty black eye. It had happened in training a few days before, when I went up for a header and came down with a soon-to-be-shut shiner. I had butted the back of someone’s head and my eye was completely shut for two days. It immediately looked like a golf ball when it happened. After ice and compression it soon changed to a deep purple color, then later looked real black like someone had roughed me up. It was hilarious to see and hear everyone’s reaction to it.
After the game we left the Florida sun and landed in an ice storm. The bad weather has caught up to me again -- this time in so-called Hotlanta. We arrived on Monday night after training that morning in Florida, and we only got in one more training session before the city shut down on Wednesday. This storm is said to be the worst storm in a decade all up and down the east coast.
So the weather madness continues in our country, but we continue to play. The game is now on Thursday night, and at least it’s indoors. We are looking forward to getting in the Georgia Dome. It’s been a long trip, and having a great team effort tonight will be the best way to go home.
I’m crossing my fingers that I make it home to N.J. after with the foot of snow that was just dumped on us! I know I will enjoy being in the warmth of my home, cuddling up in my bed for a while and watching as much of the Olympics as possible.
I am really enjoying all the events, especially skiing. My parents used to put me in ski school when we would travel to the Poconos in Pennsylvania. I hated every second of it but now I’m very thankful because it helped me become a pretty good skier. Watching the Olympics makes me look forward to putting on some skis and enjoying the snow.
I admire all the athletes in Sochi. I know what it feels like to train every day to compete every four years in your respective sport, so it hits home when I am watching the other Olympians. Their sport becomes their life as they strive for a medal. I love supporting my fellow Olympians. Go Team U.S.A.!