Monthly Archives: March 2011

Camp Nou!

Today, we visited Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona. We paid 19 euros for a stadium tour, and it was well worth it. The team has been around for 110 years, and is a symbol of Catalan identity. There were cases and cases full of trophies, and interesting displays about the players, the team’s identity, and its history.

It’s hard not to be a Barca fan after visiting their home stadium. During the Spanish Civil War, the team was persecuted for being associated with Catalan identity. Its president was assassinated and the team was forced to change its name to be spelled and pronounced in a more Spanish fashion. After Franco’s death, fans smuggled the Catalunyan flag into the stadium and displayed it.

Fan favorites include Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol, both of whom, I believe, are of Catalan descent. Puyol is awesome. He is one of my absolute favorite players. His goal for Spain during the World Cup match with Germany was amazing. He came out of nowhere and headed the ball straight into the goal, propelling Spain into the final.

It’s no wonder that Spain won the World Cup in 2010 — eight of the national team’s players were from FC Barcelona. In 2009-2010, FC Barcelona won all six cups it was eligible for. No wonder this team is the best in the world!

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Touchdown Barcelona!

First, it’s really difficult to blog when Firefox automatically translates instructions on webpages into Catalan. I remember a little bit of my high school Spanish, but Catalan is completely different in some ways. I brought my little Netbook for blogging, and even though my language is set to English, Firefox still translates everything!

Anna and Smiley’s Most Excellent European Adventure has officially begun! We are in Barcelona, Spain, after about 15 hours of traveling yesterday. My key to beating jet lag is to sleep as much as I can on the plane (thank you, Tylenol PM) and then to stay up as late as I can once I get to where I’m going. It worked pretty well, except I started fading around 5 PM local time.

We took a bus to our hostel, the Hostel Sant Jordi Arago. It’s just a short walk from Las Ramblas, a major walking street in Barcelona. It’s a nice place, and I would recommend it to others traveling here. The rooms are comfortable and quiet.

We grabbed a tapas lunch (yum), and started walking Las Ramblas. The buildings around here are pretty interesting — they remind me quite a bit of Morocco. It’s a neat mix between Spanish and Arabian architecture. On Las Ramblas, we saw a bunch of people dressed up as human statues — butterflies, and even Gene Simmons from Kiss! Passing tourists give them coins to make them do things. I snapped a bunch of pictures.

After a nap, we went to a cafe down the street to watch the Barcelona-Sevilla match. Sports fans the world over make the same rooting noises. So I fit right in. One thing that I found really interesting happened when Barca scored a goal. Rather than preemptively celebrate, the fans in the cafe waited until the ref confirmed the goal before cheering. We all got really into it at the end of the game. Sevilla had some good looks, and at times Barca’s defense really broke down. (Just like the Sounders!) Barca was pressing hard at the end, but the game ended in a 1-1 draw. It was fun.

Today, we plan on walking Las Ramblas, checking out La Boqueria market, and touring Camp Nou, the Barcelona soccer stadium. It’s going to be an awesome day!

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Community Shield Match

These Sounders look ready to start the season! The first half saw more of those troubling defensive lapses. James Riley made a pretty sweet header to save a goal Keller wouldn’t have been able to get to. US Men’s National Teamer Brad Evans (hearby known as USMNT Brad Evans) was sprinting all over the place, although it was hard to tell if there was much point to all his sprinting. We couldn’t get a good answer out of fellow Sounders fan Justin why USMNT Brad Evans is his favorite player on the team.

Many times, I wish Blaise Nkufo has been a bit faster. He’s so slow that it looked difficult for speedsters like Zakuani to set him up. Zak or Fernandez would try to pass the ball to him, and we just knew he was never going to get to it. Sigh. It’ll be interesting to see how long he sticks around, with O’Brien White here. White’s definitely much faster, and is a very skilled player.

Jhon Kennedy Hurtado’s header was an amazing goal. He seemed to come out of nowhere, fly up over a bunch of maroon jerseys, and smack the ball right into the goal. Awesome.

I’m still learning how to “speak soccer,” so apologies if my analysis isn’t as insightful as y’all would like. I’m as much a fan of the game as anybody, but nuances still escape me. And I tend to get distracted by the chants of the ECS, whom my date found rather entertaining. My season tickets are right behind the ECS, and I know I’m going to be torn between watching and chanting with them and watching the game.

We had great seats, down on the 50 yard line. It stayed dry until about the 75th minute. And then the heavens opened up. All the clothes I was wearing got super soaked. We felt like die-hards, standing there in the pouring rain. Thank goodness the Sounders won!

Fredy Montero was on fire. I like to see him get going before the season starts. He apparently wanted to put on a show for Colombian pop star Juanes (who was in the stands). And boy, he did. Scored two goals in the second half. Great form. If he can stay strong for us at the beginning of the season, it’ll be awesome.

A bunch of players are going to have to step up. Evans is out with a pulled hamstring for 1-3 weeks. He’s replaceable, so I’m not too worried. More worrisome was the loss of Steve Zakuani, my own favorite player, towards the end of the match. I didn’t see the injury, but he was down on the turf for a while. Apparently it’s his hip. Hopefully he isn’t out for too long. Looks like Tetteh and Friberg will be seeing more time with both Evans and Zak out. They’re both good players, but Zak’s got more experience and is, in my own humble opinion, one of the better midfielders in the MLS.

Fucito will be out 3-6 weeks with his injury. Everybody root for him to come back healthy and strong! We love you Mike Fucito!

All in all, it was a fun game. Good luck against LA and Houston, Sounders! I’ll be back in the stands in April. My next update will be from England, as Dave and I recap the Chelsea-Man City match! Cheers!

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Cascadia Summit

My awesome friend Sabrina spent 40 minutes trying to get tickets via TicketBastard, and the two of us ended up sitting in the stands at Starfire for last weekend’s Cascadia Summit. On Friday night, it was pouring rain while the boys in rave green took on Portland. The field conditions were pretty terrible and the ball was rather slick, which likely contributed to Kasey Keller’s misplay on the first Portland goal.

The final score left we Seattle fans disappointed and the incredibly obnoxious Portland fans cheering. Reports from friends who ended up sitting on their side of the stadium mentioned that they were rude and uncouth. Soccer city USA? I don’t think so. Their bleachers weren’t even full!

Anyway, the final score of Friday night’s game was 2-0. Portland played really dirty football. There were quite a few missed fouls (hey, it’s the MLS), and one of Portland’s defenders physically held Blaise Nkufo’s shirt the entire game. Our attacking players just couldn’t finish though. It was really frustrating to watch. Zakuani and “El Flaco” Fernandez had a few good looks. I thought for sure one of Flaco’s balls was going to hit the back of the net at some point during the game. The man is fast, let me tell you. If we can get him going, he could definitely be a playmaker for us this year.

Sunday’s game took place on a rather nice, sunny, warm-ish day. The field conditions were still pretty gross after all the rain. It was our backups vs. Vancouver’s backups. Sabrina and I sat next to the ECS (Emerald City Supporters) so the, uh, rather salty language that often escapes my lips when watching soccer could blend in with the ECS’ frequent use of a four-letter word that rhymes with fork. Ahem. Before the game, as we were all launching into our “Clap Clap Ay” Sounders chant (you really have to go there to see it…I can’t describe it any better), the Vancouver fans were doing the YMCA dance. They were trying to do the “A” part in time with our Sounders “Ay.” Even the ECS was chuckling. The Vancouver fans were definitely acting goofy, and I loved it!

Like I said, it was our backups vs. Vancouver’s backups. And our backup goalie, Terry Boss, did not look good. He mishandled the ball on the first Whitecaps goal. Then, he ran way out of the box to try to stop an attacking player who was probably offsides, missed, and left the goal wide open. One of our defenders valiantly headed off a shot on goal, but another goal scored while Boss was struggling to get back. We were all pretty pissed. There’s a reason why Kasey Keller doesn’t run so far out of the box. The third goal was basically a one-on-one attacker vs. keeper — and I don’t fault Boss for that one.

Fan favorite Mike Fucito, who does anything he can to score a goal, pulled up limping with an injury. It looked bad. He had broken free and was sprinting down the field. All of a sudden, he started hopping and collapsed to the ground. He was on the ground for a good five minutes. This was not something that the freezy spray could have helped. Poor Mike. He got the loudest cheers of all when he was introduced (he and Ozzie Alonso get the loudest cheers in the lineup). The crowd started chanting “Mike Fucito” in support. He got up eventually, but had to be helped by two assistants back to the locker room. Word from the team is that it’s an adductor strain. Ouch. The universe needs to give Mike Fucito a break.

Backups that stood out to me included #14 Michael Tetteh. He plays a lot like Steve Zakuani. In fact, Zak later replaced him in the game. Tetteh is quick, and has a nose for making plays happen. Really solid play. Erik Friberg and O’Brian White also have a lot of potential. White seems to be quite a bit faster than Blaise Nkufo. If Nkufo doesn’t start producing, it’ll be interesting to see if Sigi goes with White or Nate Jaqua.

The Community Shield match is on Wednesday. You betcha I’ll be there! I have to miss the first two games of the season, but other than that, I should be at all the games. Scarves up, Sounders!

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Spring Training Fever

It’s official. I have spring fever. The first Mariners Spring Training game was on Sunday. I turned on ESPN radio at 12:05 and heard Erik Bedard immediately strike out two batters and get the third to ground out. He was locating his pitches. I started having dreams of a Felix-Bedard one-two punch at the top of the rotation. I started thinking “well, maybe we’ll actually be good this season.”

The Mariners are like a bad boyfriend. I know they’re just going to break my heart come the All-Star break. They haven’t gone to the playoffs for ten years. And yet I keep coming back year after year. Just to get my heart ripped out of my chest and stomped on by poor offense, shaky relief pitching, and star players who abruptly retire in the middle of the year (ahem, Griffey). Yet still, Spring Training takes me in and captures my heart. I find myself full of hope. Summer’s just around the corner, and maybe my summer nights will be filled with the sweet sound of Mariners victories.

Sigh. A girl can dream, right?

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