The season never ends, it just shifts
Just a week after the WPS final, I've already had two quasi-rematches against players from the Western New York Flash, who defeated my Philadelphia Independence team for the league championship. In one blink, I was in Rochester cheering on the Independence as we took on Whitney Engen, Becky Edwards and the rest of the Flash. The next, I was in Stockholm playing against those same two players and their new respective Swedish clubs.
Here's the schedule: I had the WPS final on Saturday, returned to Philadelphia on Sunday and was on a flight to Stockholm on Monday. I arrived in Stockholm on Tuesday morning, drove two hours to Örebro, the home of my new team, KIF Örebro, and was shown around town a bit before jumping right into practice.
The next day I was busing back to Stockholm with my new team to face Engen and Tyresö, and Saturday I was heading up to Stockholm once again, this time to play Edwards and Hammarby.
How about that for action-packed?
Going straight into a game with a brand-new team in a brand-new country was interesting. Prior to warm-ups, I had a piece of paper with the starting lineup so I could memorize names.
The girls told me to stick with speaking English during the game since they can understand it for the most part, so I thought fighting jet lag might be my biggest obstacle.
But in the heat of the moment, when I came out with commands like "squeeze" and "pinch in," I realized that my opponent Engen was probably the only one who knew what I was talking about.
And even though I'd memorized the names on that piece of paper, our substitutions threw me for a loop and had me calling out random names to the players who had come in. Not really my fault when the player's nicknames are words I can't even pronounce. "Hey, what's your name?" "Öl." What??
Even though that game was a whirlwind for me and probably for Engen as well, we're just a wave in the tide of WPS players who've headed overseas for the final months of the European leagues. Philly forward Danesha Adams is now playing in Norway, Boston GK Alyssa Naeher is in Germany and the Beat's Angela Salem is in Finland, just to name a few of the 20 or so players who've taken the leap.
The majority of us have come over to Sweden to get in a couple more months of games and to strengthen these teams as they battle for points in the last stretch of their season.
If you follow some of the WPS players on Twitter, you'll see that they're partaking in activities such as "playing" with moose, barbecuing reindeer and watching bandy, a sport on ice that the Swedes call "winter football." Everyone is jumping right into the culture and the new teams' way of living, and they're having a blast.
As for me, I'm proud to be here with a great group of Swedish players and to join the list of quality American players to have competed for Örebro -- including Kristine Lilly, one of the best female footballers to ever step onto the field in any country.
I've been set up with a nice apartment in the city and with a bicycle, which I use to navigate to and from practice. I've met teammates for a fika -- a little break over coffee and sweets, aka Sweden's way of getting together and enjoying one anothers' company -- and have gone to the forest to pick nypon berries for a popular soup called nyponsoppa.
I'm excited to be here in a city with cobblestone streets and a castle, no Starbucks (but a McDonald's) and a whole lot of healthy, happy people who love soccer.