Wednesday, 10 February 2016

"Brodsgaard, Brodsgaard, Brodsgaard!"

We were playing against the Vancouver 86ers in Swanguard Stadium located in Burnaby. They had a direct free kick from 20 meters out, towards the right hand side of the goal if you were taking the shot, or towards my left (from the goalkeeper's angle). Dale Mitchell was lined up to take the free-kick, he was once of Canada's most renowned goal scorers of the era, in addition to Domeninc Mobilio who also would have been playing for the 86ers at the time. Mitchell strikes a right footed shot bending around the outside of the wall towards the top corner of the goal. I read/anticipated this very shot and took off, a quick step or two to my left and then leaping into the air (because of the way the defensive wall was set-up I lost sight of the ball momentarily while diving to cover as much of the goal as possible). Suddenly, the ball came into view and it was massive. The size of a beach ball. I had the majority of the area of the goal he was shooting for covered by my body/arms/hands and was lucky enough to make the save and prevent the goal.

"Brodsgaard, Brodsgaard, Brodsgaard!"

Vic Rauder and Graham Legget were tele-commentating the game, and it has to be one of the most memorable saves of my playing career shown live on TSN. That was a long time ago, in fact the VHS tape with the highlight reel used to be a show-stopper for some of the kids/coaches who I have come in contact with over the years at camps. However, I am not even sure where to find a VCR these days. There have been other great saves.  Through the years there has been a lot of training for myself, as well as training a lot of younger goalkeepers who also shared the same aspiration- to fly through the air and prevent the opponent from scoring.

I have been commuting to Powell River for many years to serve many different capacities with regard to the game of soccer. I used to watch my dad play back in the '70's. We played the Junior High Island Soccer Championships there in the '80's. I played there in the '90's as a goalkeeper with the Gorge Molson's in the VISL. I have run and continue to run coaching clinics and training sessions in the community to this day. But, let's rewind the clock to a Jackson Cup Semi-Final in which the Gorge Molson's were playing Powell River Villa to advance to the prestigious Jackson Cup Final. In fact, my father had played goal in the Jackson Cup Final in his prime, which added even more reason for us to defeat the mighty Villa. Playing Powell River at home was always tough. First there was the road trip, having to travel from Victoria and take the ferry to play the game. Then there was the crowd. The atmosphere around the field. The fans chanting and doing everything they can to help the home team gain an advantage. On this particular day, the game was undecided at the end of overtime. I was young, late teens. The game was going to penalty-shots. The home crowd circled the goal at which the penalty shots were going to be taken at. People in front, beside and behind- all around you cheering for the mighty Villa! It was a glorious atmosphere. It was one of those days in which before the final shot was taken I knew we were going to be victorious because I had a feeling that we were going to walk away winners!

We cycled through the first five shooters and went to sudden death. It was our turn first the shooter scored. The Villa player stepped up, the crowd was chanting and I was totally focused. As he stepped up to strike the ball with the right foot to my right hand side. I left a moment before the ball was struck and fully extended myself to tip the ball outside of the goal with my fingertips. It was over. The crowd was silenced. Too this day, I still recall walking into the clubhouse and seeing the look on all those faces- shocked and silenced.

While on the topic of the Jackson Cup and great saves, this would be a good time to speak about one of the best saves I never made. We were playing against the Victoria Athletics in the Jackson Cup Final, perhaps it was the game after we defeated the mighty Villa, however, it was a long time ago. So, we are playing at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria where I have been chasing balls and eating hot dogs since I was a young boy. The game goes into penalty shots and the following situation unveils itself

  • the goalkeeper playing for the A's that day was a call-up, which means that the regular goalkeeper was injured for the cup final, so they brought up a goalkeeper from the 4th division team
  • the penalty shot shoot out went all the way to the 11th shooter from each team, which means the goalkeeper was going to shoot last from the Victoria Athletics
  • the goalkeeper steps up, having played a lot less soccer than most of us playing in the 1st division and tries to strike the ball towards the goal, which sadly, dribbles over the goal line closer to the corner flag than the goalpost when he attempts to score the goal
  • this would simply be on of the best saves I never made!

There have been other moments. The art of goalkeeping is exactly that- a form of art that takes many, many years to master. I recall a save at the age of 25 years, playing in a game after a professional career in North America, a little experience in both Europe and with the Canadian national team in which I came to realize that I had been doing it all wrong with regard to one versus one situations.  On this particular day, by accident I deducted how to perform the technique and/or execution entirely different than I had been doing all through the years. The key moment of learning came when I closed down a player one versus one in a very direct and intimate manner. The key to success for this action versus the hundreds of times I had made the exact exact same save before, was a combination of how much closer I was to the player before  committing to the ground, the fact that I was solely focused on the lower half of the body and of course the ball and the fact that I was going in hard and clean. It was an out-of-body-experience coming away with the ball and cleanly challenging the attacker in a one versus one situation.

In more recent years, during one of our annual 7-aside summer soccer tournaments on Denman Island I may have made one of my last memories playing in goal. We were playing a game against a talented, much younger, stronger and healthier crew from Powell River called "The Beavers." In goal for the Beavers was a close friend, a young lad whom I had coached many years prior who also had an absolutely massive afro. It was a sight to see him tending goal in the pink muscle shirt, large afro and goalkeeper gloves the size of Mickey Mouse's hands. Anyhow, they were clobbering us in the final of the 19 + Division on this given day, younger, stronger and faster...however, I was able to walk away with one personal highlight. There was a ball floated into the penalty box which I was able to collect untested. As I landed carrying forward momentum from the catch I decided to roll the ball out of the penalty area and progress towards the opponents goal. One touch then two. Suddenly, it came to me there was no defensive pressure coming from this youthful side. So, I took another touch, crossed the halfway line and decided to go for goal. The ball was driven hard and low to the  back post and directly into the goal. We lost 6-1. I still recall the look on the goalkeeper's face to this day having realized the ball was in the back of the net.

One of my favorite memories coaching goalkeepers was the game Taryn Swiatek played against China in the 1/4 final of the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup. The game was played in Portland, Oregon. It was a day where she was unbeatable on the ground. In the air. One versus one. In fact, it was such a thrilling experience to walk-up to her on the field at the end of the game and see the smile on her face. It was HUGE! Sure, she was thrilled to be going into the World Cup 1/2 final, but I know somewhere in there she was just as excited to know that she realized that she had played the best game of her life at the precise moment that she needed to. In fact, there are other memories related to goalkeeper's from this event. One that is not about making a save, training or playing games.

In each game at the international level three-subs are allowed to be made by each team. It is very rare that a goalkeeper will be one of these subs. So, being a back-up goalkeeper can be a very demanding role mentally. It was during the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup that I recall a very special moment. We had just beaten Japan in the third game of the first round to qualify for the 1/4 finals. While rewatching the game with the coaching staff several hours later that same evening I noticed something very special. Erin McLoed burst onto the field when the referee blew the final whistle and ran straight to the starting goalkeeper Taryn Swiatek to embrace her, congratulate her and share in the moment that we had just created. It was amazing to see the back-up goalkeeper so enthused, so pure, so engaged in celebrating the success of our team by acknowledging the success of the player playing the position I know she wanted to be in.

There was in fact another rather significant game which presented a rather important teaching moment for the back-up goalkeeper in my national team coaching career. We were playing in the 1/4 final of the 2004 FIFA Women's Youth World Championships in Thailand. The game kicked off and we had possession of the ball (we played the ball forward from the opening kick-off into the opponents half- from which they countered and for some reason there is a lone Chinese player heading to our goal all alone in literally the first or second minute in the match). The Canadian Goalkeeper approaches the player in a one versus one situation, goes to the ground to collect the ball and while making the save the player flies over top of the goalkeeper and tumbles to the ground in a heap. Penalty-shot and red card for the young Canadian goalkeeper in the first moments of the game. Oh @#$^! My initial thoughts are not to protest the call, but does the back-up goalkeeper have their gloves ready to go, shinpads on and realize exactly what has occurred? Into the game goes the back-up goalkeeper with little time for a warm-up as people scramble on our sideline to help her get ready.  She is inserted into the game and will directly face a penalty-shot in the 1/4 final of a Youth World Cup Final. WOW! What a moment! To this day I have not rewatched the game to see how badly the player was or was not taken down by our goalkeeper to produce the red-card and penalty shot. However, I sure would like to know what ran through the back-up goalkeepers mind the moment she was getting called into the action.

Years ago I was approached by a friend who thought I might like to be involved with the making of a beer commercial. Sadly, there was no beer involved in the transaction, however, I do recall being paid rather handsomely for the days work. The days work consisted of making the same save over and over and over and over for the photographer to capture the right shot. In fact, on this day, I probably threw myself into the air, to the right side, diving at full extension to make the same save 50+ times and landing on hard ground. At first we tried to have the ball served into the air, however, as I was the lone soccer player at the shoot, I had to rely on the camera person's assistant to toss the ball into the air for me to save which did not work out very well. The ball would have to be served into a precise location in order for the photographer to catch a fully extended goalkeeper about to make an amazing save. The next step was for me to hold the ball myself and pretend to be making the save while floating through the air holding the ball in my hands from start to finish. In the end they got the shot they needed and I have a brilliant photo that was displayed on billboard out east promoting Carlsberg beer.

These days, my body is run down. I am so sore after trying to recapture my youth. It was a lot of fun flying through the air in training and games. However, I get really excited when I see kids, of all ages stepping forwards into their goalkeeping career and making great saves. Flying through the air. getting up of the ground with huge smiles and a great feeling after stopping the ball from going into the goal.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

My First Professional Contract

You know, I still remember the day the phone call came through. We Were sitting upstairs as a family in the tv room in our house in Victoria, I was 15.  "Hello Shel, this is the General Manager of the Edmonton Brickmen in the Canadian Soccer League and I would like to talk with you about playing for our team!" I am pretty sure that I almost fell over backwards, as this is something that I had dreamed about for years- the opportunity to play professional soccer. Which also meant moving away from home at the age of 16 years.

The first stages of my time with the team included staying with a 30+ year old Brazilian player in a one bedroom apartment while the team was away on a road trip. Since I was still in junior high, I had to wait to finish school for the year until I could make my way to Edmonton. After a couple of weeks of living on my own the team was kind enough to relocate me to live with Ross Ongaro, who was a former professional in the NASL with the Edmonton Drillers and finishing his career with the Brickmen. It was a much more suitable living arrangement, as I now had the benefit of living full-time with a former pro and his family. There was also another well travelled professional living with the Ongaro family by the name of Tony Peznecker. This would be the beginning of some invaluable mentorring, as during the season I became very close with John Baretta, who was a goalkeeper for the Brickmen with NASL experience. He treated me like a son, we would golf together, laugh together, train together and most importantly he provided guidance and security in a professional environment. The training was demanding and intense. It was a tremendous challenge each and everyday to train and compete with both the level of play and physical standard of the much older and experienced players. But it was so rewarding.

The team played in Clarke Stadium, which would eventually play a massive role in my coaching career with the Women's National Team Program. Fast forward to 2002 for the FIFA U19 Youth World Championships, as this is where we trained when we were based in Edmonton and played games at Commenwealth Stadium. Back to the Brickmen. I still remember the bright yellow or gold umbro shorts and training gear that we used to wear. Funny thing, I have always kept a lot of the training gear from my travels, however, since this was now 30 years ago I am afraid that I do not have anything from the Brickmen days. During the season, there was a tornado which ran through the city, destroying anything and everything that it came into contact with. I do remember the day Tony and I were witting and watching tv when all of a sudden in the middle of the day a storm rolled in. It became very dark outside and then started to hail. As we were keeping an eye on the tv and the change in the weather we noticed the size of the hail increasing and strong winds. So we turned on the radio. It was a full-blown tornando! There were people on the radio screaming as they explained the damage that had been done to their homes and community. It was scary. I have never seen so much rain fall in such a short period of time nor hail fall from the sky the size of golf balls.

The summer with the Edmonton Brickmen would turn out to be an apprenticeship, one which introduced me to the pro game, experienced players and provide the idea of travelling down to the US when I graduated in pursuit of a scholarship at an American College. Times were changing and I was soaking it all up. I remember coming home from the experience at the end of the summer and going to school at Shoreline Junior High. I felt like I had grown very fast and became a part of a very different world my friends that I would be playing school soccer with had known. I started to train and play with men. I started to dream bigger. I stopped playing other sports to concentrate more on soccer. It was an amazing experience to spend the summer training and competing at the highest level and I was super-motivated to carry on. The training. The games. The culture, The experience moved me, I wanted more and would do everything I could to continue forward with a professional soccer career.

My next opportunity to play in the Canadian Soccer League would come in 1998-1999 when the Victoria Vistas became a part of the league. I was selected to the team along with Grant Darley, who was a lifelong friend, mentor and one of the instrumental goalkeeper trainers in my youth. We competed for the starting spot each and every week. It was great playing at home, back at Royal Athletic Park where I spent much of my youth watching my father play, chasing balls and eating hot dogs! There were many great experiences in the two years the team was in the league, most enjoyable was seeing my family in the stands enjoying the games. It was also this summer that I would be selected to play for Canada in the Francophone Games. This would be the first time I met Craig Forest.

The Francophone Games were held in Morocco, Africa and it was the experience of a lifetime. The opening ceremonies made a lasting impression on me, however, so did the fact that my luggage was lost and would not appear for several days. It was a gong show trying to find out if and when my luggage was going to arrive because the airport luggage terminal was in constant chaos. For the first few days I wore the clothing supplied by the Canadian Contingent morning, day and night. Plus I was able to access as much of the team training gear as required, however, I missed having my toothbrush. My deodorant. My own clothes. Maybe a book to read. Who knows back then, maybe my walkman and taper were stowed in my lost luggage. All the comforts of home were absent and I was a long, long way from anything familiar. We stayed at a compound outside of the capital, it was an old school with dorms, a pool and cafeteria. There were guards rimming the perimeter of the area with machine guns. We were well protected. The food in the dining hall was difficult. We all had diarrhea. It was a combination of bad water, high fat content in all dairy products with little or no refrigeration and a massive cultural shift when it came to the food that was prepared and presented. We came to avoid anything that was washed in water. Most fruit and veggies. we came to avoid all items such as yogurt and milk, as they were rarely refrigerated and it was hot. We were in the middle of a desert! In fact, there is a photo taken in which I have my arm over the shoulder of one of the armed guard and for the one and only time in my life you can see my ribs.

We all lost a lot of weight. It was a combination of diet and poor sanitary conditions. There was no air conditioning and we used turkish toilets. For fun, google a photo of a turkish toilet and imagine yourself running back and forth from your bed to the bathroom at all hours. Tearing off your adidas polyester and hoping to find the target. Enough said. The opening ceremonies were fabulous. For hours we were stationed in an arena with many other countries and athletes awaiting our turn to enter the national stadium. The African countries performed all kinds of dances, songs and chanting while we soaked it all in. The entrance to the stadium which held 60,000 was amazing. I remember seeing soccer players from African countries wearing soccer boots as they circumnavigated the stadium with their contingent. It was a moment I will not forget.

The markets in Morocco were frightening and I loved it. The smells and the poverty were quite challenging. However, the people were friendly and the crafts were remarkable. I could spend days walking around these markets enjoying the sights and smell now, but back then it was an adjustment, I remember children following us, asking for money and trying to sell plastic bags to carry our stuff.
The soccer experience was phenomenal. I remember training in 40 degree heat with long sleeved jerseys and pants because the fields we were playing on were not grass- they were very hard and unforgiving. Can you imagine training in that heat, with all those clothes and coming off the pitch to find warm-water? It was hilarious, all you wanted was a bucket of cold water to throw over your head, and of course, due to a lack of refrigeration there we were consuming warm water in plastic bottles. The event was spectacular. The Canadian team was remarkabley successful. We won the gold medal with a 4-2 victory over the host nation. I was lucky enough to play in the 1/2 final in front of 45,000 fans. It was a moment I will never, ever forget. The team was inducted into the Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame a few years ago.

Following the collapse of the Victoria Vistas I was drafted by the Nova Scotia Clippers in 1990-1991 as the starting goalkeeper. "Shel Shocks the 86ers!" was the headline after the first game. We were a first year team with a lot of young players and we managed to gain a draw against the defending champions, the Vancouver 86ers in the opening game. This would turn out to be a remarkable season, One in which I would meet Lewis Page and play with Kevin Wasden. It was also the year I fell in love with bandanas (used as headbands) and rainbow colored goalkeeper jerseys. Perhaps this was also the time I inked my first personal services contract with Umbro to receive free gear, although it had been a few years since I had paid for soccer stuff. The season in Nova Scotia was awesome. We were a tight nit group and we had a lot of fun. I also started running goalkeeper camps while visiting communities in the area, this would be the first time I would come in contact with the PEI Soccer Association thanks to Andy Cameron. Lewis Page would eventually take over for Andy and I have visited PEI many times through the years. The Maritimes was a lovely experience, awakening to see how friendly and genuine the people were. The team only lasted one season, we played out of Beasely Park. It was  astadium with a track around it, the nearest lights were for the baseball park beside where we played. In fact, we had a game called during the season because there was not enough daylight. However, the recreational youth baseball game beside us carried on as they had lights.

After the successful season with the Nova Scotia Clippers and upon my return to the west-coast I was anxious to find more competition and wound up at an open trial for the Tacoma Stars in the MSL. This was going to be a change, indoor soccer! Both myself and Kevin Wasden packed our bags and made our way down the I-5 to try out with the Tacoma Stars. It was a very successful campaign for myself, as I made the team and spent the year playing professional indoor soccer. Kevin and I became close friends in a short period of time, we first made contact playing for the Victoria Vistas. In fact, following the 1989 season with the Vistas Kevin and I made our way overseas for european trials. I started in Colchester, England, where I wintessed first hand the passion and desire for the game. The team was playing in the second division at the time, a mix of young hopefuls and older players towards the end of their careers. I recall watching a few games and thinking "Am i ready for this?" The style was very physical and the challenges on the goalkeeper very aggressive. I was 18 years old and thinking for the first time that this might be a little above me. Anyways, the time in Colchester was rewarding, it was an introduction into a passionate and intense environment. I would then make my way to Bournemouth, Scotland to meet up with Kevin and train with the first team. It was a lot different than Colchester. The club hosted us very well on and off the field. We were able to board at a home familiar to the players in the youth team system and train with the reserve team. Each morning the club bus would pick us up in front of our lodging and take us to training. It was a really fun and exciting time. We made good friends and worked hard, very hard. I remember a training session for the goalkeepers, it was one of the wettest and muddiest sessions ever! We trained for what felt like hours, soaking wet and covered in mud. We did take a break part way through to prepare a cup of tea in the clubhouse at the field, however, we warmed up and went back out for more. At the end of the session I remember crawling back to the stadium and trying to get cleaned up in the changeroom. There was a choice of cold, black, dirty water in the form of a tile tub suited for 20 or a single stream of water, cold water, acting as some form of shower. This was a character builder! We had a great time in Bournemouth and grew to love our time there. I still had one more stop before returning to Canada and that would be my first trip to Denmark.

I was able to stay with close family friends in a Munkebo, Denmark which was very close to Odense. I was able to arrange a trial with B.1909 who was coached by Richard Mueller Nielsen, who would later go on to coach the Danish National Team when they won the European Championships in 1988. This was a dream come true, to be playing in a professional environment in my fathers homeland. The combination of events training in England, Scotland and Denmark at the age of 18 years was inspiring. I had played the game at a fairly high level in North America and found myself well below the standards of my European counterparts. This would be a motivating factor in returning back home to work harder to create further training and playing opportunities.

Sadly, my good friend Kevin Wasden was tragically taken away from us at a very early age. I still remember the day after a game playing for the Nova Scotia Clippers, the entire team was circled around the tele in a pub, arm and arm rewatching the game and enjoying the halftime show with Graham Legget and Vic Rauder. They were going to do a story on Kevin and where he grew up. They started the story with a picture of Canada, and zoomed in on BC, then Vancouver Island and then this tiny little remote First Nations Community called Alert Bay. I never had the chance to visit Alert Bay with Kevin, however, the first time I did manage to get there was for his funeral. I was dumbfounded at the experience. My relationship with the community has and always will be one of the most amazing experiences I will carry with me. From this initial visit on a very sad occassion we established the He'et tla las Memorial Soccer Camp in memory of Kevin. His brother William created an awesome logo that we placed on the camp t-shirts and I would see hundreds of kids through the years. So many memories, the warmest of which are how they always made me, my family and my friends feel so welcome. It was an absolute pleasure to visit Kincomb Inlet and conduct a soccer camp for the children in this remote village. In fact, I have now extended the opportunity to work with Inuit children on the exact opposite side of the country, having visited the remote community of Iqualuit, in Nunavit on 1/2 dozen occasions to work with the children.

Back to the CSL, and the demise of the Nova Scotia Clippers after one season. The offseason saw me enjoy a year in the MSL playing for the Tacoma Stars and then get drafted by the London Lasers of the Canadian Soccer League for the 1991 season. The team was owned by Bob Facker, who was a construction company owner and thought that by having a professional soccer team in the community it would help him gain access to a contract buidling a new recreational facility in the town. Well, we landed, had a team meeting, tried to run a few training sessions and flew back home. The team folded in less than a week. I remember the team meeting in which the owner wanted the players not dressing to sell then uniforms out of the back of his truck at the stadium and he simply could not believe that we would require a physio and medical supplies. This was when the CSL was near it's demise. It was not a pleasant experience. The summer holiday was unexpected, until I received a call to finish the season with the North York Rockets, as their starting goalkeeper was injured and out for the remainder of the season. Out of something bad comes something good.

Playing for the North York Rockets was a lot of fun. They were a tight team. Tomas Razinski was 17 years old and playing for the team. He would go on to have an extensive playing career in Europe. Jack Coppetti and I became lifelong friends, in fact, we still keep in touch to this day. The owner of the team, Tony Fontana always had a thermos full of espresso post game and the club served the best italian sandwiches in the clubhouse after everygame. It was a lot of fun completing the season with a lot of player's I had played against for years. Nick Dasovic was also playing for the team. The last time we played together was the BC Provincial Team in our youth. He would go on to have a successful playing career in Europe as well as coach in the Canadian National Teams Program and MLS. We still see each other on occassion and chat on the phone occassionally, It is amazing how the web weaves itself together.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step!"

I have and will always admire this phrase, as the initial contract with the Edmonton Brickmen in 1986 lead me down a path full of memories, experiences, friends, ups and downs- all thanks to the beautiful game!

Monday, 1 February 2016

Cindy Lauper "Time After Time" FIFA 2003 Women's World Cup Pre-Game Columbus, Ohio

One of my Junior High School highlight's was playing the drums in an airband with a few friends to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by Cindi Lauper. Who would have known that experience would have made such an impact so many years later. Of course, I have always had a soft spot for female singers. Sarah McLachlin was certainly one of my favourites. Anyhow, during the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup we started with our first game against Germany, who were the defending champs playing in Columbus, Ohio. The stadium was gorgeous! The game got off to a great start, which saw us take the lead 4-minutes into the game. I have said this many times now, but I strongly believe that early goal awoke the "sleeping giant." We ended up losing 4-1 against the Germans which set us up for our second game in the tournament against Argentina.

The Canadian Women's National Team had never won a game at the World Cup and leading into this game against Argentina we needed a result if we were going to meet our pre-tournament goals. The preparation for this event started in 2000, when Even Pellerud took over the team and entire Women's program. As a program, we were just coming off of a fabulous result at the 2002 FIFAWomen's U19 Youth World Championships hosted by Canada in which we finished second. Several players from this successful youth team were also playing in the Women's World Cup. Erin McLeoad. Christine Sinclair. Brittany Timko. Kara Lang.

Interestingly,  we made a move to select another goalkeeper for the second game in the tournament and started Taryn Swiatek. Taryn is more mouse than monster, at least that is what we assumed going into the event, which would of course be severely altered once we advanced beyond the first round. Back to the game against Argentina. As with most international games, the time on the field is limited to 22-minutes. So, we had devised a plan to best utlilize this pre-determined amount of time to prepare Taryn for the match. We made our way to the goal and proceeded with the goalkeepers warm-up in the penalty area when I noticed "Time after Time" by Cindi Lauper was playing. It was hilarious. There I was warming up Taryn for what would likely be her most important game to date while under a tremendous amount of pressure. As I was singing the words of the song quietly to myself with a smile on my face and smashing balls at her she asked "what's up?" So, we quickly game together and I explained how in Grade 8 we had performed an air band to some of this music and that this particular song was one on my all-time favorites. This was an interesting moment, as we absorbed the humour amidst the chaos. With all this pressure to perform, we were able to take a moment to have a laugh. The game suddenly became less of a distraction, all be it momentarily while we savoured the opportunity to enjoy the moment.

The games ended with a victory for Canada, followed by a much needed victory in the next game over Japan to advance us to the knock-out stage of the World Cup.

The next game against China in the 1/4 finals was to be played in Portland, Oregon. It was satisfying to see how many Canadians had made the road trip south to support the team.  The atmosphere in the stadium was electric. There were Chinese Dragons running up and down the stairs in the crowd when we scored the go-ahead goal in the 7th minute. It was a phenomenal moment, a ball cleared away from the opponents goal followed by brilliant ball played in behind the backline for Charmaine Hooper to run onto and head into to goal. 1-0 Canada. WOW! The rest of the game saw us defend and counter. Swiatek made save after save after save after save. She completely dominated the box in the air. She was invincible one versus one. It was one of the best games played by a Canadian Team GK to date. The pressure absorbed by our team defensively trying to slow down the Chinese attack was remarkable. The feeling when the final whistle blew to advance to the 1/2 final was AWESOME!

For the 1/2 final we were up against Sweden. It was an amazing experience walking into the stadium while Germany and USA were playing in the game before us. As we unloaded from the team bus inside the stadium we could hear the crowd enjoying the game  and made our way to the team dressing room. Most of the players and staff made their way to the concourse to check-in on the game, while a few of us remained behind to unpack and prepare. The sound of the game coming through the stadium was brilliant, we had to go see some of the action. In the end, the Germans were victorious and advanced to the final leaving the US to play in the consolation game for third or fourh place. Our game against Sweden started remarkably well, as we went ahead on a strike from a free-kick by Kara Lang in the 22-minute. I remember watching the game clock count down minute by minute thinking this is too good to be true. In the 78th and 80th minute sadly we were scored on and lost the game 2-1. It was an unfortunate result, however, we had accomplished a tremendous amount support and the success was recognized by many.

The consolation game was played at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles in front of 24,000 screaming Americans. "USA! USA! USA!" For for the first portion of the match this was all we could hear and then it stopped. The game produced a favourable result for the US, however, we all received medals and the tournament was complete. We had finished fourth in the world. We had a remarkable journey with memories that will last a lifetime. Each and everytime I listed to Cindi Lauper's "Time After Time" I think of the experience warming up Taryn in Columbus, Ohio and what it lead to.