The world of Women’s Professional Soccer has officially converged upon the greater Atlanta area and it is doing so in style. Not everyone can be in Atlanta – well, let’s give Kennesaw, Ga. the proper recognition – so I am here to take you through the happenings of everything going on with All-Star festivities Monday morning straight through the game Wednesday night and even into Thursday. With 36 of the best players in WPS and indeed the world making their way to Georgia for this showcase of skills, the next few days promise to be spectacular. Here’s a brief account of my day, which will be updated throughout the evening and each day to give you insight into all of the events around Atlanta.
3 a.m. – Yes, that is a.m. and it is not a typo. I slept about three hours and woke up for the early morning flight to get out of the house by 3:30 a.m. The White Plains Airport (HPN) in White Plains, NY offered the cheapest flight, but it is usually about a 90 minute drive. With nobody on the road, I made it there in less time than that. Night travel is really the way to go. Traffic does not exist at the wee hours, not even in Westchester.
4:45 a.m. – Arrival at White Plains. It’s been a little while since I have flown (my last trip was to the Home Depot Center from Newark, NJ (EWR), which is a much different experience), but I know that this is a very small airport. I like it though. I got right into the terminal and sat down to wait for boarding to start for the 5:55 a.m. direct flight to Atlanta. I’m sitting there doing my homework on some of the All-Stars and flipping through team media guides and who taps me on the shoulder? Tonia Taylor, mother of Brittany Taylor, Sky Blue FC rookie defender and 2010 All-Star. Taylor and I grew up in towns about 30 minutes apart, so White Plains was the destination for Tonia as well. It was refreshing to see a familiar face headed for the same place so early in the morning. Brittany, I was told, was on a red eye flight to Newark returning from Sunday’s 2-0 win over FC Gold Pride. She was then going to transfer to come down to Atlanta.
5:45 a.m. – Seats are a hard to come by on this small plane. There was confusion among about seven of us who had the same seat numbers. Thankfully that got sorted out and I had my seat. I wasn’t about to get off the plane, I will tell you that. Crisis averted.
6 a.m. – Take-off. I’m slightly freaking out. It really has been a while since I have been on a plane. Thankfully, take-off would end up being the most stressful part of the plane ride.
8:15 a.m. – Arrival. That went quickly. I fell asleep for about an hour and woke up to the announcement that we were beginning to land. Even with the late take-off we were five minutes ahead of schedule. I’m just happy to be back on the ground.
8:45 a.m. – I finally found my way to baggage claim to meet up with Ashley and Tyler of the Atlanta Beat, who were my contact point to connect from the airport to Kennesaw. Thankfully, there were no bags to claim. I was smart and stuck to a carry-on with the laptop.
9:30 a.m. – After downing an egg and cheese sandwich with an iced cofee from Atlanta Bread (admittedly it is an exact replica/rip-off of Panera Bread), we wait for the first batch of folks to arrive. By now, it feels like lunch time after waking up at 3 a.m. One woman comes up to us to say she will be at the game Wednesday. There are tickets available, so if you are still looking to come last-minute, do it. We’ll see what attendance is like Wednesday. My guess is it may be about consistent with the league average. Kat Galsim of Bleacher report arrives and shortly after, the Air Tran flight from Boston arrives with Kelly Smith, Alex Scott and Lauren Cheney.
10 a.m. – The five of us depart for the hotel in a very nice, small black bus with a TV, leather seats, air conditioning (I could get used to this). It’s a pretty quiet ride. All of us had early mornings. I am told that FC Gold Pride players are already here. Seriously? That had to be one miserable red eye flight.
10:45 a.m. – Arrive at Embassy Suites Hotel in Kennesaw, Ga. We are just down the road from KSU Soccer Stadium but I have not seen it yet. This place is nice – really nice. The entire lobby is decked out in WPS swag. Pretty awesome stuff. Check it out here:
1 p.m. – Ran into Paul Riley checking into the hotel. He is in chipper spirits for getting up at 2:45 a.m. for his flight. It seems like pretty much everyone is in the same boat on the early flights. No time for complaining.
2:30 p.m. – After scrambling for Internet (since Embassy Suites charges $10/24 hours), I have come to Panera across the plaza to access the Internet. This is the popular place for players. Sky Blue FC players, who have finally landed and checked into the hotel, are grabbing a late lunch before heading downtown. Surprisingly, the Chicago Red Stars players are yet to arrive.
3 p.m. – Off to Centennial Park and then STATS for the Pick ‘Em event. Listen live as I host: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/women-s-professional-soccer
4 p.m. – Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta is the site of the fan festival for fans to check out some fun with the Atlanta Beat.
4:30 p.m. – We begin to prepare for the Pick ‘Em event at STATS Sports Bar in downtown Atlanta. One big problem: The Internet is not working. After the wireless connection craps out multiple times and UStream gives us hell, Karyn Lush lends me her Internet stick and the audio stream is working. Most of you reading this probably listened into that, so I hope you enjoyed it. I am open to feedback. Things were truly a bit nuts. Most of it was on the fly with one headset not working and Internet getting sorted out only shortly before the event.
6:50 p.m. – The audio webcast begins with me, Paul Riley and then Albertin Montoya chatting about the gameplan for making picks. Right up until the webcast began, Montoya and Riley were at a table talking picks, trades and everything in between. It truly welt like draft day, but with a fun and friendly feeling. I have to say that the players, coaches, league officials and everyone involved showed some great spunk and energy considering most of them came in on very early morning flights.
7:30 p.m. – We wrap things up at the Pick ‘Em event and after some mingling with the players and just relaxing a little bit, it is time for the players to depart and fans begin to clear out as well. Time for this guy to head back and grab a bite to eat also.
11:30 p.m. – Somehow I, along with roommate Giovanni Albanese, have accessed the Internet without paying for it. Thank goodness. I ran into Montoya in the lobby, which is a common meeting place for us. When we met in the lobby in Boston May 14 his team had just switched hotels after its hotel was mis-booked, and then two weeks ago we met in Philadelphia the day after his team had its flight delayed and was forced to eat ham sandwich dinners at 1 a.m. This time he was trying to check FC Gold Pride into the hotel just minutes before the team arrived, and he was at the desk for quite some time. “Don’t tell me you are having more hotel problems,” I said. “You might be cursed.” His rebuddle: “I think we are cursed. I am going to be here a while.” FC Gold Pride is staying in the rooms right next to mine. Don’t spread that hotel luck this way, please.
Tuesday morning brings the one and only chance the All-Stars have to pracitice with each other. I’ll be sure to bring you in-depth coverage of everything from that. As always, feel free to share what type of coverage you would like to see.
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