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Friday, September 12, 2008
Season's greetings of sorts


It seems like seasons are now starting to blend together. A natural fusion of games, goals and drama have led me to believe that there isn't a season-by-season account anymore -- instead it's when you start and finish your career. It's funny to think that I'm actually starting my fifth professional season, and my recollection of events is beginning to get murky.

No, I scored that goal in this game, wait, we were in the Premiership that year because I'm wearing the patches. No, I didn't play against him then because he didn't start playing for Leeds until the year after. Throw in a few years on the national team going to foreign lands and I can't even distinguish between my holiday camps and U.S. camps anymore. It's a beautiful life, but sometimes when your career starts to consume you, you forget about the other wonderful things that happen when you're not always concentrating on your day job.

For instance, this past international break I wasn't involved, which was disappointing. However, I got to do something I haven't been able to do in a while because of it -- that is, I had a few days off! Because of the break, we didn't have games with our clubs for two weeks, which meant that my coach gave us Watford boys a four-day weekend. I'm a big believer in that if you get the time to do things, do them. So I immediately booked a flight to New York to see some friends, and then a connection to Pittsburgh for the weekend. It was opening weekend in the NFL for us football fans, (remember I'm from Green Bay) so I was pumped to go see a Steelers game at Heinz Field.

I work with a technology company called Songwhale, which brings digital content to people for live events such as concerts and sports, and we just happened to get the gig for the Steelers in their new stadium. Think of having a free interactive game-day program on your phone when you get to the stadium -- that's basically what Songwhale provides. It's still new, so it was just a test launch for the first game, but the fans who used it really enjoyed it.

Sitting there, I'm laughing to myself, thinking how cool it is to be there with my other partners in the company, working in the middle of 65,000 Steelers fans going mental over a video they can download about their team. It was an amazing experience. Then I get a call from my brother saying that his wife had just given birth to a baby girl named Olive! Even though I couldn't make it to Minneapolis to see the new arrival, I did feel a little bit closer to home -- especially considering I wasn't in Cuba with the national team or in London. All in all, it made me appreciate all the other capabilities we have in our lives and that sometimes having a break isn't a bad thing.

Getting back to the job at hand, another season is upon us and the World Cup is now in sight. For Watford, people have been writing us off so far this season and that's not a bad place to be in some minds. As a group, we are not as big as we have been -- selling a few of our better players and the club is also up for sale -- which means we won't be spending any money to bring too many new players in to strengthen the squad. So far though after four games, we find ourselves seventh in the table and looking much stronger than pundits expected. Of course it's still early and if injuries come, our thin squad could be in trouble. At the moment though, we are looking very together and united. No real superstars, just 11 guys who all want to be at the club and work their tails off for each other. That can go a long way in achieving success.

I compare us to a team like Derby, which has a wage bill probably three times ours, a squad of about 30 guys, and still hasn't won a league game in almost a year. Derby seems to have no identity, no unity, which leads to confusion, which leads to losing. At Watford, we all know our roles and want to play them, which in the end makes us stronger. For me, my role as captain will be a challenge, but hopefully I can lead the team to a fantastic season. I just hope we can continue our form over 55 games.

As for the U.S. team, we're looking very strong in our group with wins over Cuba and T&T this past week, and a win over Guatemala away on Aug. 20. I definitely see a unity in the U.S. squad, which I think will lead to great things for the future. Every time I come into camp, there's a buzz about the players and the whole setup. I think it's really starting to show on the field as well, considering how well we have played over the past year.

Guatemala was a true test for us, considering we hadn't won there in over 20 years. The Guatemalans tried everything to disrupt us. From messing up our training schedules, to the fans throwing beer bottles at the bus on the way to the stadium, and also not letting us through the entrance gate. Even two hours before the game, the stadium was packed with fans booing and whistling at us. When we checked the field to see what studs we would wear for game time, they even launched coins and other projectiles. They also had Gatorade girls positioned right next to our benches for distraction. I know I was distracted! They tried everything, but to be honest, no one was fazed and we weathered the storm as a team, seeing off a 1-0 win, and a great start to our bid for 2010. Hopefully that can continue into the later rounds and maybe I can even be there to take part in the pinnacle of my profession.