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WPS All-Star Journal: Training Day

Day two in Atlanta and today is training day.  It is the only day that Abby XI and Marta XI get to train together and there is a lot going on.  Let’s get right into how the day is shaping up:

7:45 a.m. – Wake up.  Somehow, I woke up within two minutes of my alarm and realized that it was off.  Good thing my body knew it was time to get up.  I head down to breakfast in the lobby by around 8:30 a.m. and all of the players, coaches and league staff are down there.  With a 10 a.m. practice, I was surprised to see some players eating as late as 9 a.m. given the heat.  The heat index was up around 85 degrees at 10 a.m., but that is Atlanta, Ga. for you.  I can’t say I expected anything else.

9:30 a.m. – Arrive at Kennesaw State University Soccer Stadium.  KSU is absolutely beautiful.  I expected big things out this stadium, but it is so much better in person than it is on television.  I will have behind-the-scenes video up later that shows just how nice the inside of the stadium (as well as the outside) is.  The locker rooms are top-notch, the suites are luxurious (and air-conditioned) and the stadium has a presence about it that commands attention.  With a capacity of 8,300, it is obviously not the biggest soccer specific stadium in the world, but it sits much larger than it is.  I would expect Wednesday’s attendance to be about even with the league average of just over 4,000.

10 a.m. – Training begins for the All-Stars.  After a few of us media members got a behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium, we make our way over to the training field next to KSU Soccer Stadium.  The field is nice and includes drainage around it, but there is no need for that.  The hot Atlanta sun beating down on the field everyday has made it a bit dried out.  Training was very loose and relaxed.  Both teams split the practice field and just played small-sided, shooting-oriented games.  There were honestly a lof missed shots from close range, leading Paul Riley to joke that we may be in store for a 0-0 draw Wednesday.  Also, Karen Bardsley hurt her shoulder during training and left the field to ice it.  No word on the severity of the injury.

12 p.m. – Players are done training and it is time to chat with them.  The main player I want to chat with is Marta, who I was able to get a hold of.  I have been in some group chats with her previously, but it was good to get my own questions in.  She certainly seemed excited to have had the power to pick her team Monday.

12:30 p.m. – Inside on the stadium field, Hope Solo, Abby Wambach, Amy Rodriguez and Heather O’Reilly are shooting a feature video for Fox Soccer Channel’s broadcast of Wednesday’s match.  WPS Sunday hosts Jen Hildreth and Mark Rogondino are interviewing players and Wambach, Rodriguez and O’Reilly are taking shots on Rogondino, who is playing in goal as a cool little feature for the game.  Wambach takes the first shot and drills it right at Rogo.  A few minutes later, she admits that there is a bet to see how many times they can hit Rogondino in net (she would send some blasts right at him a few more times, which he did well to save).  Rodriguez shot second and chipped Rogondino beautifully at the far post and O’Reilly placed a shot just inside the near post.  Look for that feature in Wednesday’s pregame on Fox Soccer Channel at 7:30 p.m.

1 p.m. – I make my way over to FC Gold Pride training along with Giovanni Albanese of Tri-City Voice and, a guy who does great work covering FC Gold Pride.  I came a bit late since I stayed in the press box to do some work, but the mood at FC Gold Pride training was up-beat, especially for a team that just lost 2-0 Sunday to Sky Blue FC.  The team is in town to train for Saturday’s match against Atlanta chatted with Tiffeny Milbrett and Camille Abily after the game, both of which are really just enlightening to be around.  Tiffeny is just a great soccer mind and Camille does not go anywhere or do anything without a smile on her face.

2:30 p.m. – Back at the hotel and everyone is watching the Spain-Portugal game.  FC Gold Pride players, staying in the rooms directly around us here at the Embassy Suites Hotel, are all watching the game together.  All-Star players have gone out to watch the game.  I am multi-tasking with work, and I dread to tell you all that the videos I took at the stadium are taking two hours to upload.  Props to Ray’s New York Pizza here in Kennesaw.  Great slice of pizza from my home state (well, the style at least).

5:30 p.m. – Just wrapping up some work and getting ready for dinner.  The one thing about this All-Star Game, which may not totally be the case with other leagues, is that players, coaches and everyone here can actually have fun and take advantage of free time.  Fun is a word that may have already become overused this week, but it is the word of the week.  Even I can feel it with what I do.  The season can get long, grueling and repetitive, but the All-Star Game is a nice way break up the season and create a special environment.

7 p.m. – Dinner at Elevation Chophouse with some fellow WPS journalists and a few WPS staff members.  The restaurant sits right next to a runway at a local private airport and the view is incredible.  Lots of fun and there were actually a few WPS names of note at the restaurant, just sitting in various places.

9:30 p.m. – Back to the hotel and I am just mingling in the lobby.  I am really not used to the sun staying up so late.  There is still light out at 9 p.m. in Atlanta, which is totally absurd to me.  That sun is strong too.  It burnt up my neck a bit today between FC Gold Pride training and the All-Star training sessions.

11 p.m. – Sitting at the lounge in the lobby brings about more familiar faces than you could imagine.  It is pretty crazy to think the WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci and superstar Marta can just walk through a hotel without being bothered.  I think many hope for a day when they do get pestered for news and autographs.  Well, maybe they find that we pester them, so I should really say mobbed by large numbers of people.

1:30 a.m. – A late night snack calls.  A granola bar, baked Lay’s and Ben & Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream will do.  I bought that in the little hotel store in the lobby.  And of course, being in the lobby, I ran into people.  Karyn Lush and the ever-energetic Amanda Vandervort were in the lobby putting in late night work just like Giovanni and I are.

2 a.m. – Bed is calling.  Must….sleep….

There is a media scrimmage scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, which is totally great.  I still play, so I love to kick around.  Mark Rogondino will also be playing, for those interested.  Check back for more updates.  Wednesday is the big day.


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