Silver Lake Adriatic is a team that draws mixed feelings with us. We have experienced defeats that were crushing but ever since that game in Staten Island over a year ago, we have gone a long way. It's true that we didn't expect such a passive opponent and although everyone can have a bad day, their lack reaction was as surprise to us all.
On the other hand, we played a great game. We built our game little by little as we gained confidence. With the perfect mix of physicality and intelligence with the ball, we created great plays and goal chances to the extent that we scored 4 goals in the first half. It deserves a special mention that we had 3 U12 guest players since we were missing some of our own due to Spring Break. This did not affect us at all and they proved to be the right players to help us.
This is the kind of game we should always play. Despite the opponent, we should always focus on improving our game and controlling the ball. Winning is important but winning playing well is priceless. Congratulations to the goal scorers: George 2 times, Sader and David.
This post is really a second part of the previous one. A new day, a new game for us. What a relief to see our players play the way they do. As we were getting ready for our game, some players showed signs of pain. However, this did not worry me because those scars of a previous battle are the ones that makes us stronger. I think our players came to the field more determined to show a different image from yesterday and prove it to themselves that they could play much better.
Before the game, we had a long talk about things to fix this game. It's important to be mentally ready and always aware of our surroundings. Thinking ahead is also key to creating good chances and not losing possession.
From the very beginning, we controlled the ball against a very team that had to be aggressive to win balls. Although we suffered many times, we never lost our composure and created many plays from nicely constructed passes. We were able to rotate our players as we usually do and they all performed above average. This was also David's first game as captain and he didn't disappoint us, as he scored the only goal of the game.
It certainly feels nice to win a tough game playing well, stressing "playing well".
The second round of the State Cup was played against North Babylon in Long Island. We can talk about the cold, wet day and the long drive but what concerns us is the game itself. We tried to quickly erase the memories of the past weekend where we lost against Cosmos and won a game almost without deserving it and playing below our level.
The opponent had very strong and fast players that never lowered their guards. Their aggressiveness slowly tilted the field for them. We had a hard time recovering the ball and keeping possession. Our players looked very static and did not find a way to check to other players and to protect the ball when no options were available.
It becomes very easy to point out weaknesses in this type of games so it's not fair to our players. Instead, I would like to point out the leadership of our most experienced players that tried to lift the rest of the team and tried hard until the end. We cannot stress enough the importance of staying in shape, working individually to be able to perform better as a team. Soccer is not a pastime and it's a sport that needs dedication, self-respect and sacrifice among other qualities. It can take a lifetime to achieve them so for the serious players, soccer should be a life style.
As a final thought, a loss does not mark as a losing team. The beauty of this game is that there is always another game so we cannot afford to give up. All players are expected to quickly recover and put all efforts in the next game, where everything starts again.
This weekend proved to be a busy one with 2 games scheduled on Saturday and Sunday. Interestingly, we played against our Gold team the second game. It was a weird experience and in some ways, it felt like a friendly game, in other words, a game against friends. But the beauty of it is that a game of soccer has to be played no matter what.
The progression of the game was at moments frustrating and we did not display our usual game. We were more concerned about scoring than building plays to score. The Gold team showed aggressiveness and demonstrated how a game should be played. Probably the last thing imaginable happened and the only goal of the game came from an own goal.
I think we can quickly forget this game and move to work on making improvements.
Our Spring season opened with a home game against Cosmos. After a good win last week in our first game of the year we were all confident but aware of the opponent. There was a feeling of uncertainty because we had only played one official game so far.
We found ourselves quickly pushed against our goal and struggling to defend and create some chances. We knew that we couldn't pressure a team like this consistently so we waited on or half. This proved not to be the best answer. They controlled and moved the ball very well and patiently and made a big difference physically. But the second half was a lot better, maybe our players changed their attitudes and believed they could still play their normal game. We even had a great chance to tie the game.
Playing good soccer can sometimes be something very simple, just keep the ball away from the opponent and move the ball as fast as you can. Unfortunately, we could only sustain this for only a few minutes. Every game should also be a learning experience and this has definitely been one of them. We played a great team, individually skilled and very strong as a team. We have a long road to go and this has just been part of the journey. Let's keep it up team.
We kicked off our Spring season with out State Cup game against Lake Grove in Lake Ronkonkoma. Unfortunately, we didn't play any full field scrimmages so it was uncertain how we were going to perform. Two new players, Sader and Alex, joined our team recently so the anticipation and anxiety were definitely building. On top of this, we were missing three players due to the school break.
We arrived at the field early enough to get used to the grass field. The ground was hard and not even at all so we had to be concentrated. From the moment of kick-off we controlled the ball and quickly put the opponent in their box. This gave us the confidence that we needed and were able to display our usual possession game. Our first goal came from a nice free kick by Ville at a moment where we could not find an opening in their defense. At the end of the first half, they had a similar shot and in their first shot on goal, they tied the game.
In the second half, we were able to maintain our game and went up 2-1 with a goal by Edgar. After missing a penalty on our side, another one was given to Lake Grove in a questionable call. But they were able to score and tie the game once more. For a couple of weeks we worked on pressure and we used it as if we have done it for years. But the game ended 2-2 and we were forced to go overtime.
In the first 10-minute-half, we quickly scored the 3-2 with another great free kick by Ville. Sader quickly scored the 4th goal and game was done. The season could not have started any better. We performed nicely with new skills we have been working on and as a team, we looked solid. There are many things to improve and we will work on them in the next few weeks but for now, it's time to enjoy a good win. Congratulations.
Congratulations to the boys. Since winning the MSC Tournament on Sunday they are current ranked by Got Sport.
The team is ranked 37th in the Nation. Ranked 19th in the Region and 4th in New York East!
From the moment you arrived at Guatemala, I had a sense of friendship. You all accepted me in the group and I felt that anything you do is as a team and if you keep working this way, you'll reach very high.
This was a cultural exchange project that through soccer, it helped create just one. The Guatemalan kids that are poor and mostly indigenous were very happy to have played against a team on New York that has a different style and technique and that are part of a club. They all played not out of competition but to have fun. They could forget their problems for a little while.
It was an honor for me to be part of this project and would like to thank everyone for that. Thank you all for coming to my country and sharing with the people of Guatemala.
As opposed to every other day, we had a late start in our last day in Lake Panajachel and left for Guatemala City at 10. We all wished we could stay a little longer in this piece of heaven. This kind of nature is hard to grasp in only a few days but the adults on the trip new we were there for the players and could not afford to be selfish even in our thoughts. For some, this will be the last time they'll see the volcanoes, for others, it was only a simple "hasta luego".
Tracing back the same steps has a meditative quality. For some reason it makes one think of all the adventures we lived together. Now every scenery becomes a familiar one. We recognize houses, hills, curves and look back as they are left behind. We try to take mental snapshots and try to keep them for as long as we can. We have all gained so much from the rich Guatemala land and it's people. By the last day, we were comfortable enough to walk like any other citizen, with no fears.
The players reached the inevitable end line with a high note. They have come a long way since the first day in every way. We can now look at them and talk to them in a different way and with a mutual understanding. Vincent and I have given them everything we had to give and with no doubts, I feel that the grounds started to shake. This has been a powerful experience for the 11 of them.
When we reached Guatemala City to spend our last night, all players had a video session where they gave their testimony of the trip. It has been an intense couple of hours and for that, they have not made any entries today. Our apologies for those who expected their comments. By this time tomorrow, we hope to be safely back home with our loved ones. The stories and experiences of this trip will certainly be shared in the next few days and our players will have to repeat the same stories over and over. But they won't get tired of doing that. To the contrary, these adventures will be shared for years to come.
Thanks to all who supported this trip and made it possible. Thanks for those who checked our blog day after day. Thanks to all parents who trusted us. Thanks to Linda for the extraordinary effort in making this a reality. Thanks to Luis Enrique de Leon, our guardian angel (especially for the sick ones such as myself). Thanks to all Guatemalans. Gracias totales.
Today was our last day in Panajachel. We went to the traditional "chi chi" market, an hour and a half's drive away from the hotel. It was quite the experience. People selling all sorts of things were hounding us through the streets. These people were treating twenty dollars like gold. After that we ate a yummy lunch. We then got the chance to relax and hang out in our rooms. Then we played a game. The adults were up against the kids. It was interesting to see Adolfo and Vince play alongside the parents. In the end the kids managed to tie the game at ten all. Overall it was a good day, everyone had the chance to get souvenirs and we got to enjoy some soccer.
We have done a lot of different activities over the trip, and we played with many kids. It was a fun way to see how many kids lives are different, and we should be grateful for what we have. The kids had many different skill levels, and it was amazing that they had the skills that they had. We had the luck to be able to see the carnival,with all of the kids running and throwing eggs. Many kids were poor, but some were also wealthy. Every place was very different.
Yesterday we went to Chi Chi, and we all tried to bargain as much as we could. We had to bargain, and bargain, until we got a good price. Many people were trying to sell us things from hair clips, to rugs and hammocks. It was crowded, and many people had similar things, but they were all slightly different. After we mat, we ate lunch at a place above all of the stores. After we went back to the hotel, we went to a turf field where we were going to play against each other. Before we started, we watched some older players finish a game. The players were all serious when they played, but friends after they played. When we played, it gave us a chance to show all of the skills that we learned from the trip. We finished with a tied score, and went to dinner. We all experienced how poor some places were, But also how they play soccer no matter what.
This morning we drove to the regional market at ChiChi to do some shopping. It became competitive rather quickly, as each of the children tried to out do each other with bargaining. After a morning of shopping we had lunch at the market, then returned to our hotel for some rest. Most of the boys watched the Manchester United vs. Ajax game. Then we all walked to a local turf field for a final match. Just when I thought I could not get sucked any deeper into the soccer world, I was pulled into an adults vs. kids scrimmage. My first ever soccer match. It was also the first game for Carin, Randy and Marcia, so Adolfo and Vincente had their work cut out for them. Carin did a great job in goal, blocking several hard shots by Henry, Eyob, and others, but interestingly, every time her son took a shot, it went into the goal unscathed. Jared, not normally a high goal scorer, accounted for at least 3 of the 10 kids' goals. Vince never gave up on me, sending crosses my way all night, despite the fact that not a single one made it into the goal. I did, however, manage to connect with at least two of them. I was also able to nutmeg Danny once, despite all his fancy footwork, and I plan to remind him of it as often as possible for the rest of the trip. It was a hard fought match on both sides, and was the source of great amusement to the local townsfolk. Ultimately, the game was tied at 10 - 10, after which we adjourned to a local restaurant for a well deserved meal and a couple cold cervezas. We are back at our hotel now, showering, packing, and preparing to depart for Guatemala City in the morning.
We have spent a few days packed with activities and could finally spend a day to ourselves. We visited a market in a nearby town called Chichicastenango, "Chichi". This market opens only twice a week so our timing could not have been better. The market extended for a few blocks and surrounded a church from the colonial period. As soon as we got off the bus we were bombarded with natives trying to sell all their crafts. The colorful roads were filled with different kinds of products that didn't leave any open space. Tourists, mothers carrying babies, beggars and kids moved around the narrow streets like ants.
Today was a very special day for us and for all Guatemalans. This was the Mayan New Year and it was celebrated with special rituals. A group of elders were performing a ritual repeating it four times, by giving thanks facing the cardinal points. We were lucky enough to witness this moment. I won't mention anything else about their calendar.
Soccer could not have been out of our schedule and we had planned a game between our U13 players and adults. Gold and Blue players against Vincent, Luis, Linda, Marsha, Karen, Randy and myself. Us coaches at least wanted to show our players how the game is played with passion regardless of who is the opponent. We all had a blast and played an intense 6v6 match. The final score was 10-10 and everyone left the field satisfied and with a smile. We felt the players had an extra motivation in this game and it showed and it made us proud. Soccer is a game but it should be played without any baggage, one should forget about everything else that happens outside the field. That's pure soccer.
Today, we took a boat to breakfast. Seeing the lake up close was great because it was such a beautiful blue. Also, the ducks close to the shore were diving under the water to get food. Watching them was interesting. Breakfast was tasty. BACON!!! After that, we took the boat to see a school. We climbed up a steep hill to get to the school. We saw the classrooms and the teachers. Then, we played a soccer game. The team we played was fairly young and they mostly just cleared the ball. We should have beaten them easily, but we weren't playing our best soccer and the ground was uneven. We ended up winning on penalties. Coach Vince bet against us and lost money (but I never saw him pay the kids whom he made the bets with). We took another boat ride to a restaurant. The food was decent, but there were lots of annoying flies. We walked through a city to get to a different port. During a bathroom break in the city, Marcus tricked Evan into going into the women's bathroom. Once we got to the port, we walked on several boats in order to reach the one we were taking back to the hotel. Overall, the day was quite fun.
This morning I woke up to the sound of someone knocking on the door. It was my dad telling me to get up, we were leaving to go to the docks. We walked down to the docks to catch the boat to bring us to the restaurant where we will be eating breakfast. The boat ride was amazing, we caught to see all the volcanoes surrounding the lake. When we arrived we saw that the restaurant was really like a buffet. At the buffet there was this gigantic dog, but he laid down the whole time. There was also hammocks where we ate, but my brother Evan wouldn't let me go on the hammock. But later after breakfast we then walked to the school. The school was on top of this mountain and we had to climbed up the steep road. It felt like we were walking forever. But at some point we arrived at the school and got ready to go back down the steep road and to the field. After we went down the hill we arrived at the field and played a pretty even game. But we won finally won in the penalty shootout. After the game we went down by the docks and took a break at another school. There Evan went into the girl's bathroom by mistake. Then we took another boat back to the hotel.
This morning we took a boat across the lake to the town of Santa Cruz. We had a wonderful buffet breakfast of crepes, fruit, eggs, potatoes, bacon, juice and coffee -- all for the price of a Starbucks coffee. The restaurant was right on the lake, and we ate on the patio seated on pillows and hammocks. Then we walked up, up, up, up and up some more to the center of town and toured the school. The children sang greetings to us in Spanish. We distributed some uniforms, then walked down, down, down to the soccer field. We played against the town team and for once, we were evenly matched. It took some time for our kids to figure out how the ball responds to the bumps and gullies in the hard scrabble dirt, but with some tips from Vince, they adapted. Many of the children from the village speak very limited Spanish, so Vince coached in Spanish, and one of the older children translated into the local Mayan language. If you think the offside rule is difficult to explain in English, try explaining it in Cakchiquel. Luis led the cheering section, comprised mostly of the village girls in their traditional clothing. Most were cheering for Santa Cruz, but Elisha (Jared's sister), had her own group of fans chanting her name. DUSC scored the first goal on a PK by Eyob. Santa Cruz equalized a short time later. DUSC won in a penalty shoot out, thanks to some fancy goalkeeping by Maria. Antoni scored the winning goal, giving us our first international win. After the game we took the boat across to Santiago for a BBQ lunch on the lake and a walk around town. We were back in Panajachel by 5pm for a swim followed by dinner at the hotel. Tomorrow we go to the market in ChiChi. We will divide the group into 3 smaller groups to make it easier to navigate the market. Friday we drive to Guatemala City for our final night of the trip. Hard to believe we will be returning to NY in just a few days. We reviewed some of the video footage tonight, and it seems so long ago that we were fresh off the plane, looking for our first meal in Antigua.
Today we were blessed doubly: first, by the majesty and beauty of lake Atitlán with its surrounding volcanoes and dark blue waters, and second, the generosity and incredible spirit of the staff and children at Santa Cruz. The symbiotic relationship was not lost on the parents, coaches or the kids, as all of us were impressed. After a short early morning boat ride and a wonderful hippie style breakfast at La Iguana Perdida, we hiked up a steep narrow path until we arrive at the escuelita. On the way up we did our best to keep the children to one side of the road so that the ultra popular Tuk-Tuks (motorcycle with a little box attached that seats 2 people) didn't run us off the edge of the mountain. Evan and Marcus for some reason stick out as being always in the middle of the road, but i am sure that they weren't the only ones. There was also a sprint up one of the steeper slopes and I am proud to say that i haven't lost my stamina as Henry ran out of gas half way up.
Once we got to the school, Adalberto, the director of the school, introduced all of the children out in the common area to us and to the kids, and after that we handed out the uniforms to the "selección", and those lucky kids got changed and waited for us to tour the school before heading off the the "campo". The soccer game was just unbelievable. The Santa Cruz kids played with spirit and joy that the dusc kids had a difficult time matching. They made up for with some nice displays of skill and a noticeable size difference. Several of the kids in the stands referred to the Americans as "gigantes." The cheering by the kids from the school -- mostly pro Santa Cruz --- created a great atmosphere, with oohs and ahhs after every close scoring opportunity. The game went to penalties and my daughter, who hadn't played goal all game, stepped in at the behest of her teammates -- alas to the dismay of one of the Guatemalan players who helped out in goal in the second half -- and did not disappoint. Two big saves helped the US squad squeeze out its first victory, and probably only, on foreign soil, but did not dampen a bit he enthusiasm or joy of the Santa Cruz team, who put forth a great effort for their first official game of the year.
I finally was able to go out after a day in bed. Not fun. I was excited about crossing Lake Atitlan which we did twice but more than anything because we were going to meet kids from a local school. This school is located 10 minutes from the shore of the lake. The view from the hills was fantastic and it was inevitable to get a sense of peace. We visited some classrooms where kids were having their lunches. Some looked at us with surprise but knew some words in English. We proceeded to deliver uniforms to their soccer team and got ready for a friendly game.
Their field was not the best but the view of the volcanos, the hills and the fresh air did not compare to any field in New York. Our players were very well behaved and did not even mention the bad condition. Maybe they were also overwhelmed by the whole place. It's inevitable to feel how an area so beautiful can hide such lack of resources. The game was played with the most intensity on both parts. We even had about 50 spectators that cheered mostly for the local team. The game was tied 1-1 and we won it by penalties after Maria stopped 2 shots.
Our players showed throughout the day a great attitude despite sickness, weather or just being tired. As day 5 comes to an end, I can only hope that all these experiences give them a different view of the world.
Today we moved from our hotel In Antigua to a new hotel in Panajachel. We rode on the bus for 3 hours but stopped midway to get up and walk around. To get into Panajachel we had to go down a road on a steep cliff and looking down at the city is beautiful. The city is on the shore of a giant lake and in the background there is volcano. When we got down to the new hotel we got our rooms and relaxed. we were hanging out in different rooms. After a while a woman named Susie came from an organization called Mayan Families. She left for 30 min and came back to take us to the Mayan Families. During those 30 min we ate lunch at the hotel and got ready to leave. Susie came with a pick up truck and we all packed into the back. Their was a metal cage around the back of the truck so we could all stand up. We road the truck up the road and down to the place where the people lived. It was an amazing experience and not as scary as we all thought. We arrived at the place and all the little boys started yelling and came running happily after us. We got out and we split into small teams with some of us in each team. We scrimmaged for a long time and finally we stopped. We took a group photo and then brought out the equipment that we were donating. All the boys ran to the bag and 20 of the little kids took the heavy bag on their backs with really big smilies and brought it to their small classroom. We talked for a while and then left on the back of the truck. We got back to the hotel and we all were relaxing and some people went to the pool. Finally later we went and ate dinner.
The experience today at San Jorge, a small village about 10 minutes outside of Panajachel, where we are staying, was absolutely incredible. There are no words to describe the scene when we arrived at the makeshift soccer field. Upon seeing us arrive about 40 kids from the pueblo, who had been waiting for over an hour and a half for us to arrive, leaped from where they were seated and ran towards us shouting and gesturing with a happiness and exuberance that impacted us all. I talked to William, the sole physical education teacher for the whole town (500 kids), and we decided to divide the kids up into teams of 8, with 2 or 3 of our players playing with each team. The kids, most of whom spoke Spanish as a second language, made an effort to communicate with me and we got the ball rolling right away. The games were competitive and fun, and the rocky and dirty terrain --- a huge contrast from our game in the stadium --- did nothing to deter the children from becoming completely absorbed in the game. As usual we experienced the same enthusiasm and joy that we have come to expect from Guatemalan children. As a coach I enjoyed speaking with William as he explained that the girls here just recently are participating in sports, and that except for maybe 2 per cent, all of the parents have agreed to let their daughters wear more Western attire so that they can play. Although i still noted some timidity by the girls, eventually they jumped in and held their own, just as they did at when we played at Safe Passage. We concluded the day with a picture on the stairs of the Church steps, which ironically bore witness to the new religion of the 20/21st century: futbol. The mayor even got in the action, and although it cost us about 10 Quetzales, it was great to have him in the picture with all the kids and coaches who participated in the game.
Another fantastic day in Guatemala. We checked out of the hotel in Antigua at 9am and drove 3 hours to Panajachel, stopping along the way at a nice coffee shop where the boys impressed the staff with their juggling skills. After checking into Cacique Inn we had a quick lunch, then went to San Jorge to play pick up games with about 75 local children. We divided the entire group into teams of 8, divided the dusty courtyard area in front of the church into two fields, and played scrimmages. After the games, we took photos on the steps of the church with the town Mayor, and made our donations to the school. Coach William is in charge of the entire sports program for about 450 kids, so we know our uniforms will be well used. Today is Carnival, so we will be going to dinner shortly, and then will walk about the town a bit. The tradition is to throw eggs filled with flour and confetti, so we may have some colorful hairdos later tonight. This is a quiet laid back town; nothing like Carnival in the cities. Tomorrow, we take a boat across the lake to Santiago and Santa Cruz. Luis is quite well known in Santa Cruz, as the Mayor came up through his NGO, Xela Aid. I'm not sure it would be possible to be treated any better than we are already, but if so, it is sure to happen tomorrow.
In the morning we went to visit the Guatemala City dump. When we got there it was an impressing site to see all the trash and all the people working there. It was sad to see them working there. When we were at at the top of the cliff overlooking the dump there were a lot of weird smells coming out fall the trash. After visiting the dump we went to go tour the Safe Passage center. We learned what the organization did to help out the poor families working in the dump and living around it. We then toured a jewelry store that was started by the volunteers of Safe Passage. After all of that, we went to play soccer with younger kids that went to school at Safe Passage, it was a really fun experience and I had a lot of fun.
This day was truly touching I didn't know that kids could live in such a bad environment such as the dump. The safe passage really touched me in the way that they could help the kids so much. I was sick most of the day but when I saw the kids I forgot all about it and started to play. I had so much fun with the kids and they learned so many tricks so fast. Their skill was really good, and I felt bad for them and all of the mothers because I know that they don't have even half of the stuff that we have back in New York City.
To see and play with those kids is an experience I'll never forget. Even yesterday when we donated the shirts to the little kids, they were so happy. I couldn't believe that they got so excited about getting a shirt or a pair of shin guards. I felt like we all made friends with the kids there, and gave them a bit of support that they really needed which was very satisfying. In the end, all of the kids were running over to us trying to play with us. I had a little group of kids who I was teaching tricks. After we had a quick announcement, they came running over wanting to learn more tricks. Life is hard in Guatemala. I didn't know actually in what bad situations they had to live in. I can't imaging having to LIVE in a place where I can't go to the sink and pour myself a glass of water right out of the sink. The food in Guatemala is amazing. Tonight we ate at this amazing restaurant, and I am SOOO full right now. The people in Guatemala live in tiny little shacks less than the size of one room in Manhattan. I really don't know how they survive and look so happy. When I was playing with them, I got a completely different feeling.
Soccer is a language, not only a sport. Everyone was having so much fun, and I saw that they didn't care what type of shoes they were wearing, or who they were playing against, everyone just participated. It was awesome to see them pick up the skills so fast. I have no idea how they did that. They must practice a lot, and a lot of the kids were truly talented. Today was a truly touching experience.
Soccer is a passion for many of us and we feel it in the bones. Yesterday has been one of the most intense Sundays in a long time. Coaching becomes a way of reaching the ideal of a good soccer player and team all around. After a day full of emotions on the field, we moved to our next destination. Safe Passage was going to be the main course. This organization helps in creative and realistic ways to improve the lives of those with no resources. No resources means having to live of the garbage of others.
The vocation of those who dedicate their time and effort is remarkable and one wonders what it takes to do it. This little ecosystem is self-suficient and it can be seen in the faces of the hundreds of kids it serves on a daily basis. They are provided with education, food and physical activities as well as a safe place where they can flourish.Our players had the unique experience of playing with 4th grade children that lived in the surroundings of the dump. They showed us kindness and welcomed us with big smiles. Another demonstration of how soccer opens doors that one didn't even know existed. The experiences throughout the day surpassed everyone's expectations. At least, that's how I feel.
Tomorrow we move to Lake Panajachel. More adventures await us.
Pictures by Randy Enochs and Adolfo Lee