Notre Dame women's soccer head coach Randy Waldrum currently is in Norway as part of his role as the head coach of the United States Under-23 Women's National Team, leading a 17-player roster that includes former Fighting Irish two-time All-America forward and 2010 Honda Sports Award recipient Melissa Henderson.
The Americans are scheduled to play three exhibitions in the coming days, facing the Sweden U-23s (noon ET, Friday) and the Norwegian U-23s (noon ET, Sunday; 6 a.m. ET June 19), with all three matches to be played in Stjordal, Norway. During his trip, Coach Waldrum will offer his unique insights on the United States' highest youth level national team (one rung below the Women's National Team that will compete in the London Olympics later this summer), as well as the sights and sounds from an unforgettable trip to Scandinavia.
Sunday, June 17
Champions!!! The US U-23's defeated Norway 4-1 today to win the Three Nations Tournament. Norway had defeated Sweden 4-2 earlier in the week, we tied Sweden 1-1, so the championship came down to today's game. We played very well for most of 90 minutes and you can see that we are getting better each day we are together. Our tie against Sweden was the first time we had played this team of players together and we got better in the second half of that game. It continued on today and we look much more comfortable with each other today.
We went ahead 1-0 with a goal from Sarah Hagen who intercepted a pass out from the Norwegian goalkeeper. She did a great job of finishing it off and punishing them for that mistake. Norway came back a few minutes later to tie the score at 1-1 off of a counter attack when we turned the ball over in midfield. Then Amanda DaCosta put us ahead shortly after Norway had tied the game with a goal that came after several shots of ours was blocked by the goalkeeper and Norwegian defense. Then later before halftime Morgan Marlborough broke free down the flank and scored from a very difficult angle to put us up 3-1 at the half.
We played very well in the second half continuing to build on our performance and we were rewarded with a fourth goal late when Courtney Verloo tracked down a lose ball and beat the onrushing goalkeeper to the ball. She cut the ball back from the endline and found Stephanie Ochs who curled a left footed shot into the upper 90 from about 20 yds out. The rest of the game was managed very well by a team that had the look of a true professional team! Very proud of these young women...
We will train light in the morning and then go into the town of Trondheim where we will shop and have dinner out. Then on Tuesday we will play Norway again in a friendly game before we head home on Wednesday! I'm looking forward to an afternoon away from here and seeing a different part of Norway. I am hoping to go see the men's professional team of Rosenborg train tomorrow while in Trondheim...I can do without the shopping!!!
But thank you to all of you that had us in your thoughts today, and for all the well wishes I received before the game! As I've always said, there are no better fans than those of the Irish Nation!!!!
Friday, June 15 (part 2)
Well, we met a very determined team from Sweden today and the game ended in a 1-1 draw. We started off strong with two great chances early, one by Morgan Marlborough who hit it over the crossbar from about 18 yards out, and another by Amanda DaCosta who didn't get enough on the volley off a cross from Cammie Levin. Then, there was a period of time, around 15 minutes or so, that Sweden came back and were on top of us a bit. They scored during this time after we mis-cleared a ball out of the back and they slotted the miscue back to a central forward, who took a couple of touches and smacked it in from about 18 yards out. We managed to get hold of the game again after that, and pulled one goal back after a corner where Toni Pressley headed it home to knot the score. Halftime, we went in at 1-1.
We've not had this group together and this was the first time we played 11 against 11. It showed in the first half. However, it's a very talented group and we were much better in the second half. We pretty much dominated the second half, only conceding a couple of chances during this time. We missed several great opportunities, outshooting the Swedes 11 to 5. However, as is the case in football, the best team doesn't always win.
With this result, though, were we at least got a point and we eliminated Sweden from any chance of winning the event. They lost to Norway 4-2 on the opening day, and with this tie they are now out. Norway has a win and we have a tie, so if we beat Norway on Sunday, we will win the event. We'll play Norway a second time in a friendly match before we head home but it won't count in the tournament. So, we are now preparing for Sunday's championship match. This is what it came down to in La Manga, Spain, (earlier this year) as well -- us and Norway on the final day for the trophy!
I have faith in this group of players and I'm sure we will be ready to take it all....
Friday, June 15
I was out for my morning walk thinking about the game today against Sweden, and thought I'd send some pictures that I either found humorous, or that I thought the Irish nation may enjoy seeing a bit of what it looks like here.
I've included pictures of a couple of "signs" that I found to be a bit funny, and then I took a couple of pictures of the sites around our hotel. One I found interesting was a circular gas station in the parking lot of a strip shopping center. Reminded me of the old one hour photo stores that use to be in parking lots throughout the states. Anyway, hope you enjoy the pictures, and I'll write more for the blog after the game tonight against Sweden. Hope all is well in Irish Nation and back on campus in South Bend.
Thursday, June 14
Today was a light day of training with the game against Sweden tomorrow night at 6pm. We are six hours ahead of ET in the US, so kickoff will be at noon back home. Unfortunately there is no live online or tv for the game, so keep up with the tweets and blog to get the results. Norway ended up beating Sweden 4-2 in the opening game yesterday.
We got up and took a long walk and stretch with Joan, our trainer this morning. So the players got to sleep in just a bit and had a light morning with the walk. This afternoon we played some 5 vs. 5 vs. 5 possession and I must tell you they look fantastic. We played unlimited touches, then two touches, and then one touch and even the one touch was something special to see. Man I hope my Notre Dame team can simulate this passion and level for the fall season. I love the training of this team! After this we reviewed all of our attacking and defending corner kicks and free kicks. Then we had Kat Mertz our other assistant put all of these set pieces down on paper and she handed out to all the players to have them look over tonight and tomorrow prior to the game.
Tonight the girls are watching the Euros which has been a great thing for them to do here every evening. What a great learning tool for young players to watch soccer at a high level. I'd encourage all young players to do so.
I'm really looking forward to the game tomorrow. Without having numbers to play 11 vs. 11, I'm not quite sure what to expect. However, if our 5 vs. 5 and 6 vs. 6 activities are anything like the game itself, then I think we will be very pleased as a staff!
Wish us luck for tomorrow, light a candle for us at the Grotto, and keep the US in your hearts!
Wednesday, June 13
I just finished scouting the Norway - Sweden game which surprisingly was 4-1 to Norway when I left with about 25 minutes to go. Norway looked much better than when we played them in Spain in March. They are in the middle of their season, so their form was good and they look very organized and physically fit. Sweden has about 7-8 new players from when I saw them in Spain, and weren't quite as sharp on the day as Norway were. Both teams are extremely dangerous and can cause us problems if we are not prepared to play.
Training went well today except for the fact that we lost Meredith Speck from Yale for the rest of the tournament. She fractured her collarbone in training this morning, and it was confirmed by x-rays this afternoon. I feel so bad for Meredith as it's her first time to be called into camp, and she gets and injury before the games even begin. However, she's shown well in training, and she is young so I'll certainly have her back in future camps. This now puts us in a huge bind with our numbers due to the fact that Melissa Henderson had to back out the night before we left, as her car was broken into up in Boston, and someone stole her backpack which had her passport in it! Go figure...so now we are down to 16 players, two of which are goalkeepers, so we have only 14 field players. So, we have to be smart as we move forward into the tournament games.
I continue to be impressed with this team. It is so difficult to single out players that have impressed me, because they all have. The level of work and intensity as well as the level of quality is simply amazing. The team seems so ready to play a game. Hopefully we can transfer that energy into a positive performance on Friday when we play Sweden. Just look at the talent in each of the positions: Morgan Marlborough, Stephanie Ochs, Sarah Hagen, and Courtney Verloo up front. Amanda DaCosta, Ingrid Wells, Christine Nairn, Amber Brooks, and Mana Shim in midfield, with Natasha Anasi, Toni Pressley, Cammie Levin, Ellie Reed and Kika Toulouse make up a pretty strong team I'd say. I would gladly take this team and feel like this group could beat many of the WC full national teams that I saw in Germany given some time with them. To round out this lineup, the goal is anchored by Adrianna Franch and Brittany Anghel. That is not a bad team at all. Those that know these players can now tell you why I'm so excited about this group.
Off now to watch the Euro's, so it's been a great time to be overseas during this event...soccer is everywhere here! Until tomorrow...
Tuesday, June 12
Well, the first full day is now complete and we had two training sessions today. This morning in the rain we focused on some 5 vs. 5 play, and this afternoon we focused on some patterns of play. We are getting ready for our first game against Sweden on Friday. I am extremely impressed with this group of players. The level of talent is so impressive, but more impressive is the competitiveness of the players and their love of simply playing the game. I hope my Notre Dame team this fall can duplicate these aspects of the U-23's!
Having Ingrid Wells, Sarah Hagen, Kika Toulouse back into camp from their experience of playing in Sweden and Germany professionally is a huge lift. Also, having Christine Nairn, who came to us from the full national team, has simply brought about a new energy and professionalism to the squad. I sit back after practice and, along with my assistants Rudy Meredith from Yale and Kat Mertz from Saint Louis, just admire how good these players really are. I don't know if it will translate into wins this week, but I love what we are doing so far. This has simply been a great team to work with!
The food continues to be a bit of a chore for me, since I really don't like change much, nor do I like trying new things. But the desserts are amazing!!! My gosh, I'm going to become the Goodyear blimp before I return home to South Bend. I also found out there is a button on my wall in my room that controls the floor temperature in my bathroom! Isn't that awesome? I can walk in to shower on a heated floor -- wonder why we don't have that in the States ... hmmm. I also get a new message written on my mirror every day by the cleaning lady. I've included a picture of what she wrote, and it means "have a wonderful day"! I must say I've never stayed at a hotel where they have done this either.
All in all, it's been a very good trip so far. I'm really anxious to watch the team play on Friday! I think we have the ability to be very special. My hope is to transfer some of the things we do here to my team at Notre Dame once I return for the fall season. So, in the meantime ...
Monday, June 11
Well, we arrived after a long night of traveling to our destination in Norway! Surprisingly, it's called HELL....really! That's no joke. The hotel itself is called the Rica Hell Hotel, but contrary to the name it's really very nice.
Once we arrived at the hotel, it was time for lunch, which consists of a lot of different kinds of fish. I love shrimp so thought I'd try that, and was doing ok until I noticed it was the whole shrimp....the eyes were looking at me so that was the end of that. I did find one dessert I really like, so I'll guess I'll live on that the next 10 days.....Jenny Craig here I come!
We went out and trained after lunch for about an hour just to get the jet lag out and such. It was amazing how good the training was, and the intensity of the players. What an impressive group of players, especially considering some have been on a plane from the west coast for over 14 hours!
I'll keep everyone up to date as we actually begin our training tomorrow morning, and included here is a picture of our training area which is a small sports club in the city of Hell.
It was actually nice though, and I'm looking forward to spending the next 10 days here.
- Randy Waldrum