Friday, December 6, 2013

Post Season

Well, we did it.

14 wins (team record), 51 points, 3rd place and a spot in Europe.  Not bad for a team predicted to finish 11th.  I’ll put on my “clairvoyant Jordan” hat and mention that I said back in March/April that our realistic goal was third place.  I never liked the idea that our public stated goal was just to finish in the top half of the league.  That seemed like stupidly low bar to shoot for.  Turns out I was right and VPS was a better team than anyone thought, including perhaps ourselves.

I won’t talk about the games other than this: Jaro was our most comfortable game of the season, which I expected considering they had given up weeks earlier.  IFK Mariehamn is a game that just as well could have been cancelled.  Neither team had any interest in being there and after seeing how the field was cutting up, no player was willing to put in a challenge and risk tearing their thigh or groin or something else.  To make things worse, we had a referee who made calls that make me wonder if he has any friends in Singapore, if you know what I mean.  That said, after the game we celebrated our bronze medals!


Those first two paragraphs were written like five weeks ago, so I’ll leave them but not finish that post.  It would be kind of useless to describe our celebrations that night and others at this point.  Last season is in the past and that team is its own entity and separate from VPS 2014 and going forward.

For those who care, I’ve been doing well back home in Indianapolis.  I see my family every day and I get to watch my niece grow up in front of my eyes.  My friends who I’ve had since middle school and even earlier are around and I’ve enjoyed seeing them and catching up.  I also love that beers cost $2 at restaurants and $0.60 at grocery stores!
not the last pic of Indianapolis in this post

A few people have given me well-wishes on facebook and I really appreciate that.  I know how it is with fans, and rightly or wrongly they support the team over the individuals wearing the jersey.  As soon as I walked off the field in the last game, the fans of the club really have no duty to support me whatsoever until/unless I return.  The fact that quite a few people wished me well anyway is very heartwarming.  These well wishes lead me to have to make something clear though: I was not homesick during the season.  I knew what moving to Finland meant and the fact that I missed my family doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not I’d consider going back to Europe.  I’ll talk a little bit about my situation later in this post, but I just wanted to say that I’m willing to live anywhere and having my family in America does not attach me to this country whatsoever.

As for the club itself, I’m impressed with who they’ve brought in this winter and also that they re-signed some key players in the club.  The boys have already started training again which is crazy to me, but it seems like most Veikkausliiga clubs are training now so I guess that’s normal.  On the flip side, I’m a bit disappointed by the players that don’t seem to be coming back.  The class of 2013 (Henri, Dafaa, Kerr, Ameobi, Smith, Seabrook, Hoivala, Lomski) did A LOT for VPS last summer.  We were by no means responsible for all of the success, but these players were the changes between 9th place in 2012 and 3rd place in 2013.  I’ll note that we weren’t the only reason the team did so well; players like Koskimaa, Fowler, Antti and Strandvall played out of their minds the whole year.  But I also don’t think that a random grouping of players would have done nearly as well as the Class of 2013 did.  You’d think that type of contribution would be something that a club would fight to keep together.  After all, there’s no reason we couldn’t dream about silver or even gold medals with that group plus Morrissey, a healthy Jarno, and a 3rd CB to rotate in to keep our defense fresh and allow Fowler (one of the best MFs in Finland) to play alongside Dafaa.
Indianapolis...also known as NAPTOWN!

That said, I haven’t loved how the recent crop of players has been treated these past few weeks.  We had the best defense in the league, and unceremoniously dropped one of our CBs.  We scored something like 35-40 goals last year, and as of now about 20 of those goals are not back.  VPS kept Henri and Anthony who were the best two players from that class, but also seem to be letting a lot of us walk.  I’m just speculating, but I think that they believe they can find another group of guys for the class of 2014 who will do just as well as last year’s new guys.  I hope they do, because I really like VPS and want the club to succeed as much as possible.  Or I could be completely wrong and they plan on bringing everyone back, which would be even better.  I also know that everybody doesn’t necessarily want to be back and that can complicate things.

As for me personally, this offseason has been dramatically different from past years.  Last year for example, I didn’t hear from any teams about a possible tryout/contract until February.  That club was VPS and it’s a good thing I impressed them, because otherwise I don’t know where I would have ended up.  This year though, my phone has been metaphorically “blowing up”.  Of course I’ve spoken with VPS, but I can’t/won’t say anything else on that situation.  Come next season I’ll either be there or I won’t, and at this point there’s no reason for me to fuel speculation beyond saying that we’ve spoken.  I’ve also had interest from random places (Asia, Australia) as well as not-so-random places (America: MLS, NASL, USL-Pro, Finland).  As a result, I’m sure that I will have a contract done far sooner than March like this past season.  That’s always good on the wallet!
Indy city center.  In a lot of ways similar to Vasaa city center.

I’ve said enough at this point.  I’ll try to update this thing more often this winter, but I don’t know how much things of interest I’ll have to say.  If you don’t see a new post, then trust me you haven’t missed anything.  Til next time!

The meme:

Friday, September 27, 2013


See, I told you that the sky wasn’t falling.  Quite the opposite.  Three wins on the trot and we’re sitting in a comfortable 3rd.

Since I last wrote, I’ve been up to a lot of fun stuff.  I went to London to visit Celia, I scored a goal, visited Helsinki and spent some time with my dad, who came over from America.  Before I get into that stuff though, I’ll talk briefly about the last few games.

We’ve taken 10 points from 4 games in September, and have gone up to 2nd in the form table behind only HJK.  For some reason that I simply can’t explain, we are simply better than just about everyone else in multiple game weeks.  Whenever we play 3 games in 7-8 days we always win the majority of them.  That said, we haven’t played particularly well this month, we’ve just gone back to winning ugly.  We drew with RoPS to start the month by scoring late after conceding a goal near the end.  Even though we only tied that game, I think it gave us confidence in our ability to grind out results again.  We used that confidence to hold on against JJK, KuPS and Inter.  On paper, those should have been easy wins based on the table, but for my money those are three of the better teams in this league.  JJK plays a style that gives us fits, but also leaves themselves open at the back.  KuPS is probably the 2nd most talented team in the league behind HJK, but they never seem to put it all together even when they win.  Inter is a team that would be really dangerous right now if they still cared, but they don’t and thus we were able to beat them.  I said a few months ago that we needed 5 wins from our last 11 games to get third and we now have 4 of them.  We need to win at least one more game this year and we have four tough opponents.  It won’t be easy, but for something so important I think our club can dig down and get the results we need.

As for off the field events, I’ve been uncharacteristically busy.  My month started out with a draw against RoPS, after which I hopped on a plane to London!  Unfortunately for me, the amount of time we had free only allowed me to spend 36 hours in the british capital, but it was still worth it to see Celia.  I took a few pictures and I’ll put them up sometime, but with this new computer I’m not really sure how to load photos from my phone to the blog since it all has to be done through “the cloud” and I’m not amazing with electronics [edit: done].  We didn’t do much anyway, but I did get to see her new place which was nice.  It’s in a totally different part of London from where she used to live to I was able to see parts of the city that I never visited before, including Wimbledon.

The trip back from London was an absolute nightmare.  Since I’m not made of money, I had to get the cheapest flight home possible.  That meant two Ryanair flights from London to Lithuania to Tampere with the Lithuania stopover being 5 hours (note: flying to Lithuania is something I would not recommend.  I’m sure Lithuania is great, but when Lithuanians are confined to a small space like, say, an airplane things get miserable).  The fun didn’t stop there though.  I arrived in Tampere at around 11pm, conveniently after the last train left for good ol Vaasa.  That meant I had two choices: stay in a hostel and take the 6am train to Vaasa to make to practice on time or, take a 1:15am train to Seinajoki, wait two hours and then take a 5:30am bus into Vaasa.  Of course I chose the second option and it was a terrible choice.  I ended up in the Seinajoki train station with about a half dozen alcoholics aka my new best friends and didn’t get any rest.  Needless to say training that day was more of a survival mission than anything else.
My train station "friends".

A week later, things looked up again as my dad came to Vaasa.  I don’t mention my dad on this blog very often, but he’s an integral part of my life.  There’s rarely a time where I make an important decision without consulting him.  He also is a sort of sounding board for me about things in my career.  I don’t have so many complaints here in Vaasa, but the ones I do have go to him rather than to my teammates because that risks causing problems in the team.  Every player has their grievances, and every player needs someone they can talk to who is not in any way subjective.  Most of the time when I’m upset about something, I just need my dad to tell me I’m right, then I let it go.  It sounds vain, but that’s what a person needs sometimes.  

Anyway, my dad was in town and came to our home game against KuPS.  I was really happy he got to see me play and even score a goal (he didn’t mention the heel-click celebration so I’m going to assume he loved it).  My dad is easily my biggest fan, but he’s only seen me play about 10 professional matches.  It was great that he got to see us beat KuPS and also went to Turku to see us beat Inter.  I was especially happy that he got to see Veritas Stadion as it’s one of the nicest stadiums in the league in one of the nicest cities in Finland.  I was also happy that I started both of those games (and all three of our wins this month, I might add :) ) so that my pops could see me play as much as possible while he was here.

My dad and I also visited Helsinki for a day and took the ferry over to Stockholm and spent a few days there, but in the interest of time I won’t go into details about that.  Maybe I can put some photos up from Sverige, but don’t hold your breath [edit: they're up].

Our next game is against champions-elect HJK.  Luckily for us, they haven’t yet clinched the title so we won’t have to clap them out in the pregame walkout.  It’s a great tradition that teams do that for the champions if they’ve won the league before the last game(s), but I would hate to do it for HJK or any other team.  I have huge respect for HJK, I would just be a little pissed off having to do that.  For the game itself, I actually think we have a decent shot at winning.  HJK will know now that they’ve won the league, and everyone knows that they are not quite as dominant away as they are in Helsinki.  We’ve beaten them before and our loss to them came on the back of two incredible shots which would be difficult to repeat.  We know that HJK is better than us, but that doesn’t mean anything if we’re better on the day.  It won’t be easy, but then again when was the last time we had an easy game?  We’ve only won 5 games by more than one goal, and of those five games, three times the “cushion” goal came in the last five minutes and four times in the last ten minutes.  The point is that we don’t play easy games ever, so knowing we have a hard game is nothing new.

That’s all folks.  I hope to see a big turnout this Monday as we look to secure third spot.  With the right results this weekend we could all but secure third spot.  It’s very unlikely, but that’s what people would have told you about us being third this time of year, so why not?  In a season of improbable results, why shouldn’t we all but clinch a Europa League spot and bronze medal with a win over the best team in the league?

The meme:

Saturday, August 31, 2013


The sky is not falling.

Things haven’t gone so well for us the past few games (or the past few months, really) but VPS is still ok.  We’ve still got games against all of our rivals for 3rd place, and we’ve beaten all of them at some point this season.  There’s no reason to think that we can’t go on a run to finish these last eight games.  Like I said in my last post I think, we only need four more wins to essentially guarantee a third place finish.  We have RoPS at home (we’ve beaten them here already), JJK away (won there too), KuPS at home, Inter away (drew there), HJK at home (beat them this year), Jaro at home (beat them here), MIFK away (won there) and MYPA away (not looking forward to that).  My point is that even though I assume the fanbase is freaking out right now, things are not as bad as they seem.  Of course, a bit better play in July and August would have us maybe talking about winning a trophy, but that’s in the past and now we need to do what’s necessary to finish in third.

Obviously the main reason that finishing third is important is that it will give VPS entry into the 2013-2014 Europa League qualifiers and the $120,000 that comes along with it.  The possibility of a big bonus motivates players to want to play these games as much as prestige, since there really is no prestige in the first round of Europa League qualifiers.  They don’t even bother sending the maroon signage to put around the stadium.  They just send you a referee from Latvia or Moldova or somewhere and match you against a team from Uzbekistan (I know, and I’m not changing it).  That said, I don’t think that VPS will be throwing around huge bonuses anyway, since getting too loose with the pursestrings seems to have been a big problem in the near enough past that people still remember how poorly it went.  Realistically, bonuses would only come if VPS progressed to the second round or beyond.

Moving away from soccer, I need to apologize a bit to people who regularly check up on the blog.  I haven’t posted for the longest time since I started the thing.  I’m sorry about that, but I’m just all out of things to talk about.  I’ve essentially holed up in my apartment since Celia left and have lived an incredibly boring life.  I even started buying more frozen foods so that I wouldn’t have to go to the grocery store as often.  Essentially, I’m just missing America.  Last year I really missed my baby niece, since I had just gotten to know her a little bit then came to Europe.  Now, I miss almost everything about America, even things that are available here but that I don’t have.  I miss SportsCenter and HGTV.  I miss driving my car.  I miss the $1 menu at McDonald’s (and every other fast food place).  I miss going to Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacer games.  I miss being able to read all the signs.  I miss all of those things, not to mention my family and network of friends.  The reason I go to London whenever I get a chance is that it reminds me of America, and as much as I like to think otherwise I get homesick every time I come to Europe.  I’d probably be less homesick if I made $1 million a year, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen.  I don’t blame Finland for my feelings - if anything Finland makes it easier because everyone speaks english and I can communicate easily.  But if I get a bit homesick in Scandinavia after a few months, I can only imagine how I’d hold up in a Turkey or Austria or China.  I’ve gone on a bit of a tangent again, but the thesis of this paragraph is that I haven’t posted to the blog because I’ve been doing nothing because I’m a little homesick.

That’s all for now.  There is no skyfall just yet.  If we don’t take points off our next two opponents RoPS and JJK though, then maybe it will be time to go to DEFCON 5 (which despite being a phrase, is ironically the opposite of what it means.  DEFCON 5 in reality is not panic, but the least alert DEFCON status.  Something like the phrase “I could care less” which in english is commonly used to mean the opposite of what the phrase actually says).  And if the sky does fall, we’ll just call James Bond and he’ll save the day somehow.  I don’t know the particulars because we watched the movie on the bus and I fell asleep halfway through and woke up during the final scene.  I assume he just shot a lot of people and jumped off ledges until the day was saved.

See you at the game tomorrow!

The meme:  

Friday, August 16, 2013

Slump Buster

I’ve got my new computer, and I’m back blogging again!

I haven’t posted any blog posts this month, but that doesn’t mean a lot hasn’t happened.  We’ve ended our losing run, strengthened our chances of finishing in the medals and I had my best game all season.

Before I talk about those things though, I will state the obvious: my option for the rest of the season has been picked up and I’ll be a VPS player for at least the rest of this season.  That’s a relief, because up until August 1 I was unsure if I’d have a job this month and going forward.  I always assumed that VPS would want to keep me, but soccer is a business and the club has to do the best thing for them.  The clubs interests may not have aligned with paying my salary for the next three months.  I’m glad that wasn’t the case though and I get to stay.

I thought about doing a long post about our chances of finishing in the top three before we started our last round of 11 games, but I got too lazy.  Instead I’ll do a brief synopsis of what I was going to write.  I figure that we’ll need 50 points to guarantee a place in the medals.  Based on the 33 points that we had coming into our last 11 games, we needed 17 points to get there.  Essentially that means that we need five wins.  I came up with these estimates based solely on how teams are performing this year.  I didn’t look at the historical numbers needed to finish in the top three, I just looked at the teams close to us and their individual situations.  Jaro just sold their best midfielder; TPS is in a terrible slump at the moment; IFK Mariehamn had their two top scorers hurt, their best player sent back to Turkey and their best current attacker inexplicably buried on the bench; MYPA and KuPS are both really good, but seem too inconsistent to imagine either of them getting the 20+ points they’d need to finish over 50.  Everyone else is too far down the table I think.  The good thing about those numbers is that we only have to worry about ourselves.  That’s a big advantage, and a luxury I wish we had at Haka last year.

Since I waited so long to write this post, I can confirm that last weekend we got our first of those five wins.  We beat FC Lahti who, under the guidance of my former coach Juha Malinen, have been playing some of the best soccer in the league during the second round of 11 games.  They also beat us 3-0 a few games ago so they had a lot of confidence coming in.  I didn’t start the game, but I came on after only six minutes after a head injury to Atte.  That caused a bit of a shakeup in our lineup, as we were already quite short on defenders.  Jesper had to play in the back and he did a really good job in my opinion.  I came on and played my best game all year, due mostly to my increased movement.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve had just about everyone I talk to about my game tell me that I was playing too passively; That I was standing when I should be running, or that I was passing when I should be shooting or dribbling.  Those words finally have started to stick in my mind.  I had those words in my head when I attacked a defender and played a pass to Atte that led to him assisting a goal against Mariehamn, and I had it in my head for both goals I scored against Lahti.  I won’t say much more about the game, besides that I was really happy with how I played and how the team responded to going behind early.  We were in a really bad slump, but still showed that incredible team spirit that I always talk about.  According to the experts before the season, we had the 11th most talent, yet here we are with a medal a realistic goal.

In off-the-field “news”, Celia came to visit me for the past week.  It’s always nice to have her around.  She really makes life bearable in the absence of my family.  We didn’t really do much, but just being around her is good enough for me.  I even managed to not bankrupt myself like I did when I last visited her in London!  I like playing for VPS, but I really wish that Vaasa was a bigger city than it is.  Exactly the same as it is now, just with 10x as many people and all the attractions that come along with a population of that size.  I kind of avoid having people visit me because I just assume they’ll be bored.  It’s not a swipe at Vaasa, just saying that if someone was gonna travel all the way to Scandinavia I’d like them to have more to do than there is in Vaasa.  Or maybe I just don’t know the city as well as I should!  And any boredom she might feel here is balanced out by the overwhelming number of things to do in London.  I’ll be going there either early next month or in October, depending on if/how much time we have off during the international breaks.

That’s all for now.  We head to Turku next to play TPS.  This is a really big game as TPS could well be our biggest rival for third place this year.  A win for us would put us 12 points clear of them, though they’d have two games in hand.  Regardless, a win for us would make it very difficult for them to catch us as they’d have to win 6-7 of their last 11 games and have us implode.  A loss on the other hand would possibly take our destiny out of our hands.  We’re making our final preparations now and we’ll see how it goes!

No meme today since I don’t have any saved yet on my new computer.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Crazy Derby

We’re starting to get to the business end of the season.

VPS is still in third place, a position it seems like we’ve held for months.  That position looks to be in a bit of danger though, as the rest of the top half of the table has effectively caught up to us during July.  We had a bit of a rough patch, then bounced back with a great comeback performance against MYPA before losing to Jaro in what turned out to be a fantastic match even though we lost.

Of the two games, I’m only going to talk about Jaro because I was at the center of a bit of controversy.  The game itself started out really poorly for us, though that was kind of to be expected with the crowd in Jakobstad one of the biggest in Jaro history.  Any game on the road is difficult in the beginning, but it’s just a matter of weathering the storm.  We did that against JJK and HJK, but we didn’t do so well against Jaro.  They put a lot of pressure on us and scored a goal early.  I have to apologize to the assistant referee in that game because it looks like he got it right not calling offsides.  I said some things to him at halftime that would have been appropriate if he got the call wrong, but based on the video I don’t think he did.  We got better after the goal and put 2-3 good moves together before things got even worse and Jarno had to come off injured.  That meant that I was in as a first half substitute for the 4th time this season, which must be close to a record in this league.

Before I talk about my role in this game, I’ll mention that I finally got my hands on some of the game footage from previous games.  Watching myself on video exposed a lot of things in my game that weren’t as good as I thought they were.  Namely, I felt like I looked incredibly lazy in most of the footage.  I always give my best effort, but it certainly didn’t look like it.  For this game I gave myself a few goals: first, I wanted to make more assertive runs and use my legs to show when/where I want the ball rather than just pointing like I’ve been doing.  Second, I wanted to keep moving constantly rather than playing so stop/start.  I haven’t watched the match video yet, but hopefully I did a better job with my movement.

As I’ve mentioned more than once before on this blog, when I play striker I’m looking almost exclusively to get in behind the defense.  That makes what happened halfway through the second half as frustrating as it is embarrassing.  I made a good run on the back shoulder of the central defender and the team (namely Tomi Ameobi) played a perfect early ball behind the defense.  I took a good first touch and was clean in on the goalie.  My striker instincts took over and I felt no nerves whatsoever.  I could have probably scored by slotting to the keepers right or between his legs, but because I was so clean through I decided to round him and score in the open net.  Unfortunately, after I touched the ball past him and went to run around, I slipped, got halfway up and slipped again, losing the chance.  That goal would have changed the game completely and I’m sure we would have won the game had I scored.  Jaro always fades at the end of games, so to tie the score with 25-30 minutes left would have been a big hit psychologically for them.  Instead that miss probably served to give them more energy.  For me personally it really sucked because I’ve been asking for that exact pass for a month, and when it came I screwed it up.  People must be wondering what I was screaming for all this time!

Anyway, after the miss life went on and after a second Jaro goal I was again involved in one of the game’s talking points.  There were about five minutes left in normal time and we were chasing a goal.  Henka played a long pass that I chased along with a defender.  The defender headed the ball then started screaming, but I wasn’t thinking about him.  I got the ball and immediately threw it in to Sebastian.  He gave the ball back to me and I one timed a low shot that found it’s way into the net.  There was no time to celebrate so I turned straight back to the center line only to almost step on the defender, who was still down on the ground.  The reaction of the Jaro players and seeing the player down made it kind of click to me that he was injured the whole time and that I had played on despite it.  That made me feel horrible because I consider myself to be a fair player.  With the exception of yelling at referees, I don’t do anything unsporting.  No sneaky elbows, no trash talk, no stepping on people’s ankles, etc.  But now I pretty much did the most unsporting thing possible without even realizing.

In my defense, it’s been a few years now since FIFA declared definitively that it is not the responsibility of any player to stop playing if someone is injured.  If the referee thought that the defender was seriously injured, then he had the authority to stop the play at any time.  Also, I didn’t see the defender so it wasn’t like I intentionally broke any unwritten rules.  To their credit, no player from Jaro blamed me for continuing to play even though they must have assumed that I played on with knowledge of the injured player.

After everything was sorted, we continued playing against Jaro’s 10 men since they had no subs left to replace the injured player.  In the ensuing 3 minutes plus an extraordinary 8 minutes of stoppage time, we seiged Jaro’s goal and had at least three great chances to score.  In the end we didn’t get the goal, but we showed great heart in how we finished the match.  That doesn’t do us any good on the day, but I promise that it matters in the long run.  It was the first time since the Honka match last month that I thought we really dug our heels in and fought til the end.  If we keep that spirit then we’ll win games.  Jaro was only able to repel us because the crowd gave them a good fighting spirit as well.  Even then, they needed a bit of luck at the end.

We’ve got two games in the next week that will go a long way towards determining what position we’re fighting for this year.  Two wins and we’d probably be the favorites to finish third.  Anything less and we’ll fall into a crowd of teams and obviously we don’t want that.  The first game is against Lahti.  They’ve been playing really well lately, but I think we’re better than they are.  If we play like we did against MYPA then we should win.  After that comes IFK Mariehamn, who are struggling to figure out their identity since losing their two top scorers.  We should be looking to win that game as well.

That’s all for now.  We’ll be looking to bounce back against Lahti this week and I hope that there’s a big crowd there to cheer us on!

The meme:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Rough Summer

Hey everyone.  I’ve gone over two weeks without posting so I have plenty to write about.  I won’t talk too much about the games in general because they’ve both been pretty awful and I don’t do that much anyway.  I will however talk about my role in those games since…well since that’s what I feel like talking about.

A picture of me...with mismatched socks.
Tomi was injured, so for the last three games I spent most of my time as a striker.  It went so well that after the KuPS game we signed another striker J.  My time was less and less frustrating with each minute I played up there, but I still had some issues.  I’ve gone over them, but it is annoying when you make runs that would kill teams and don’t get the passes.  In the HJK game I finally got some and caused a lot of danger, but didn’t score.  I guess that’s just the nature of filling in for a player that is the exact opposite of me.

One advantage of being the opposite of Tomi though, is that when we play together as strikers we work really well.  We played together during the second half against HJK and caused them a ton of problems.  We both had decent chances to score even though we were playing the top team in the league in good form.  When we play together, we always have multiple ways to attack the defense.  I almost always run behind the defense, and Tomi almost always shows in front of the defense.  While our individual runs may be predictable for defenders, when they happen at the same time they are pretty difficult to stop.  Even though HJK scored two goals on us in the second half and we didn’t score we still played quite well I thought on the attacking end.

Going back in time a bit, after the Inter game (which was really depressing) we went to a little team get together at a fishing resort about half an hour away from Vaasa.  Usually after a second consecutive defeat no one wants to look at each other, but I think the fishing trip was good for us.  There are so rarely times for a team to all get together outside of training, and that can be contentious because training is competitive and we’re not necessarily there to be friends.  I will say that I was on a roll and caught two fish in about ten minutes, but due to my ridiculous fear of anything that lives in the water,  Nikki had to dehook both fish for me.  When he refused to help if I caught another, I just took my fishing pole and went back to the lodge.  Jarno eventually won a hat for catching the biggest fish while I jealously looked on.

I’ve been doing a lot more at home now that we have whole weeks between games.  It’s given us more time to just have days to relax and hangout with one another.  For example, Steven Morissey came over to spend a day with Anthony and I.  The three of us had a really good chat about just about everything.  We talked about the games, life in Europe and life back home, our careers and everything in between.  While I won’t go into any specifics, I was really interested in hearing about Steven’s reasons for choosing to sign with VPS over other clubs.  His reasons said a lot to me about him as an individual and his character.  I gained a lot of respect for him after that visit.  Also, he cooked for us!  That makes him a winner in my book.

I’ve talked about a few things, but by far the most interesting thing has happened: a team party at my place.  We had just lost to HJK and needed to recharge our batteries, so Anthony and I hosted a beer pong tournament at my house.  Long story short, beer pong involes throwing ping pong balls into cups of beer.  If I tried to explain in any more detail I would be writing for hours.  Anyway, we started off on the wrong foot by having everyone show up an hour late.  Then we got to playing.  For some reason just about everyone took their shirts off.  I don’t have anything to add, I just thought that was really strange.  I kept my top on.  The host team (Me and Anthony) dominated the competition in group play with a perfect 4-0 record.  Unfortunately, after getting iced by having a bye into the semifinals, we lost and didn’t take home the title.  As the night went on, things got a bit “party-like”.  A few guys got into a spirited argument over who loved Finland the most and in the ensuing conversation my laptop got knocked off a table and the screen was broken into pieces.  That’s part of the reason that this blog post took so long to get published.  The good news is that I know how some free money from certain individuals to go out and buy a new laptop.  They’ll be happy to know that I’m getting essentially the cheapest new laptop in existence, the Samsung Chromebook 3.  I’m gonna buy it through Amazon and it’s only about 300 euros.  Of course I’ll be spending the majority of that money, but the money pledged by the people who broke my current laptop will help.

That’s about it for me.  I had a lot of stuff happen, but in the end I didn’t really get talking too much about any of them.  We play MYPA in our next game on Friday.  It’s at 8pm for some reason, I assume so that MYPA can travel to Vaasa the day of the match and save a bit of money on hotel costs.  That could be totally wrong though.  This is a big game because I feel confident that MYPA will be next to us in the final standings.  This game is a proverbial “six-pointer” in our individual battle for placement.  Winning or losing this game could be the difference between, say, 3rd or 4th at the end of the season.  Come out and support us!  We could really use the win. 
The meme:

Monday, July 1, 2013

A Change of Pace

The unbeaten steak is over L

We almost made it through all of June without losing, but in the very last game it all went to hell.  Since I last posted, we’ve won (1-0 JJK), lost (0-1 KuPS) and tied (0-0 RoPS).  I have no interest at all in talking about any of those games, but I do want to talk about my apparent new/old position, striker.

I have no idea what we were talking about here, but let's pretend we were talking about what position I'll play.
I’ve played the last two games as a striker, my natural position and the one I played growing up.  It may not seem like my natural position, considering that I haven’t scored any goals from there, but trust me it is.  I’ve been asked quite a bit if I prefer to play up front instead of the wing and my answers have been sincere: I honestly don’t care which position I play.  That said, in the second half of this season I believe I could be a more important asset as a striker than winger.  The first reason is that we don’t have any depth at the moment with our strikers.  I’m the only person other than Tomi to play as the top striker this season and only Sebastian and I have played Jarno’s normal position.  If I don’t play up top, then that effectively means that Tomi and Jarno will have to play almost every minute from now until November.  Of course we could always just sign a striker in August, but I don’t know what the plan is there.  If money grew on trees in Vaasa I’m sure that’d be an option, but then again if money grew on trees here I’d spend a lot more time outside J.  The second reason I think I can bring more to the team as a striker than as a winger is my style.  We have two strikers at the moment who are both really good, but neither is comfortable making runs behind the line.  That doesn’t make them easy to defend, but it is a bit predictable.  When I’m paired up there with one of them things open up dramatically.  The number of chances we created in the 20 minutes I played against JJK were greater than the number of chances in the first 65-70.  I think I’m a good change-of-pace (literally and figuratively) striking option.  Tired center backs don’t want to look over and see the fastest player on the field coming on fresh at striker for the last 20 minutes. 

I know I’ve made a bit of an argument as to why I should play striker, but I truly don’t care where I play.  Winger is probably my best position at this level of competition, and a coach or two have even suggested that I play as a fullback, though I never actually have.  Wherever Oka wants me to play I’ll play happily.

I went to the league website today, and was slightly surprised to realize that we are halfway through the season.  While I do feel like I’ve been in Vaasa for a long time, it doesn’t seem like the official games started so long ago.  Because the schedulemakers were drunk when they set the games, we’ve played 16 games in nine weeks, but only 17 in the next 16 weeks.  It’s gonna be nice at first to have a full week to prepare for each game.  It’s especially nice for VPS in particular, since our effective squad size is quite small.  Going forward from now we don’t really have to worry about rotating the squad.  We’ll have to deal with some suspensions and injuries over the next four months, but there are no more three-game weeks which is a relief.  I just hope that things don’t get super boring like they were down the stretch with Haka.  By the last month there we were training for an hour a day to preserve the bodies for the guys who were playing the games.  There is such a thing as too much free time, and I fear that the slowdown in games might lead to that here.

Another thing about the midseason point is that it kind of cements VPS’s place as a real contender for the title or medals in Veikkausliiga.  No longer can we be called a surprise or written off as a fantastic start.  Now we are surely recognized by the whole league as a team that can win things.  I must admit I didn’t come to Vaasa with trophies in mind, but now that we’re in the position I don’t see why we can’t win something.  We’ve seen every team in this league and some twice and nothing has made me think that we can’t finish at the top end of the table.

With the pace of the games slowing down a bit I’m going to make a point of getting out into the city and enjoying Vaasa before it gets cold again.  I haven’t been to the swimming area yet so I’ll have to go there.  I know that Finland can be brutal when it’s cold, so I’ll make the most of my extra free time in these summer months.  Netflix and PS3 will still be here in autumn.

 Lastly, I want to extend good luck to all the finnish teams in European competition this week and month, especially IFK Mariehamn who has Kris Bright and Dever Orgill.  Even though these teams are our rivals, their success makes us look better.  If every finnish team were to miraculously make the group stages of the Europe League and Champions League respectively, then Veikkausliiga would jump to like 15th on the UEFA league coefficient and everyone would assume that I’m much better at soccer than I am because I play in that league J.  You had to know that I would somehow spin this to be about me, right?

 The meme:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sitting Pretty

It’s been a tense week, but we did alright.  Two games and two draws against teams at the top of the table.  We didn’t necessarily play well for large parts of either game, but then again we rarely play well for large parts of a game and we’re 2nd in the table so it clearly works for us.  Remember that fighting spirit I was talking about?  It was on full display in these last two games.  Teams that were picked to finish in the medals this year against a team predicted to be fighting relegation.  When the dust settled, we’re still above both of them.


Soccer wasn’t the only thing on the agenda this week though.  I, along with the rest of the team, visited the VPS juniors facility and watched the kids play.  A few of the players were coaches, so they were busy boasting about how much their team was gonna outplay the other player’s team and so forth.  I enjoyed getting out in the community because in general I don’t really do anything.  I train, then go home and either blog, play Playstation or watch Youtube/Netflix.  It can get pretty boring, so it’s nice to do something actually useful in the city.  Also, seeing the kids play brought back a bunch of good memories of playing for fun.  Being a pro is the best job ever, but it’s still a job.  For me, it has carried with it the stresses of a job for probably the last 10 years or so.  When I was young my teams all depended on me and now my job has taken me to a foreign country to a town I’d never heard of two years ago.  So it’s refreshing to see a ball roll directly past a kid because he’s more interested in looking at the sky because he heard an airplane.  I miss that! J


On Tuesday, it was my turn to answer questions on the facebook chat session that VPS hosts each week.  If you don’t know about it just add VPS as a facebook friend and the information should be there somewhere.  You can actually go there now and see the Q&A session, since I won’t rehash it.  The chat was fun and there were a lot more questions than I expected.  There was mention of my nickname among some fans being, “The Predator”, but I’m really pushing for “Jordan Seabrohimovic”.  I think you have to actually be good to compare yourself to Zlatan though, especially in Scandinavia.


I really hate talking about the games because anyone who cares already knows.  With the games coming so close though there’s really not much else going on.  The TPS game was incredibly boring and doesn’t deserve more mention than this one line.  The Honka game however was ridiculous and deserves to be talked about a bit.


Honka is a really good team.  They have signed 4-5 top-level talents for this league and have been storming through the league since about round 5.  How a team that lives in the shadow of a much bigger club and that couldn’t pay its players last year is able to go on a spending spree a few months later is open to speculation, but ultimately beside the point.  They dominated the first half, really giving us problems with their counterattacking style.  I can see why they have been so successful:  They have a strong backline that allows them to confidently counter in numbers.  Some teams counterattack with 3-4 players, but Honka was having counter moves of 6 or 7 guys running in all directions.  It was difficult for us to get a handle on, even though we enjoyed more possession.


The second half was very different from the first.  Honka predictably ran out of gas to play such an up-tempo counter game, so what in the first half was useless possession by us followed by a dangerous counterattack by them became just a ton of possession for us.  With that possession, and the arrivals of me and Grant Kerr to bring fresh legs and a different approach, we were able to be dangerous.  That pressure finally paid off with our one clear chance and Sebastian made no mistake.  We tied 1-1 for those who didn’t know.  The real story of the second half though, was the referee.


Now people who read this blog regularly know that I have a bit of a problem with the referees in this league.  Every game I get called for fouls that would never be whistled in America.  Things that I think are just not fouls at all.  Against Honka though our ref took things to a new level.  Not only did he blow his whistle every single time a Honka player fell for any reason (which was suspiciously often, almost like they were…GASP…diving?), but he didn’t call any fouls in our favor.  The papers mentioned two penalty kick claims that he missed in the second half, but in my opinion it was three.  The handball was obvious.  It wasn’t intentional by the defender, but his hands were away from his body so it has to be called.  It’s not even up to the ref to decide.  It’s as simple a decision as the ball rolling out of bounds.  It doesn’t matter how it got there, the call is ironclad.  The trip of Jarno was also obvious, but the ref was too scared to call a penalty in stoppage time.  The third incident actually happened against me.  Grant played me a great lofted ball into the box and as I chested it, I was clattered into by some defender.  It was as obvious a penalty as you’ll ever see and makes me wonder if perhaps I have somehow gained a reputation in this league as a diver?  I’ve never dove in my life (well…… least not recently), yet I can’t seem to get a call in this league.  I’ll been elbowed in the face twice (things that would get players red carded in America) without a call.  I’ve been tripped dozens of times this season with no call all while being whistled for 2-3 fouls a game.  Enough of my little rant though, I just wanted to mention something that I did that might make our fans feel a little bit better about the ref.  When Sebastar scored, I high fived him but ran in the opposite direction of the celebration.  I tried to get the ball to give myself a logical reason of being next to the ref, but Honka immediately kicked it to midfield.  Regardless, I ran to the referee and essentially asked if he was enjoying Finnish summer, but with a bunch of American curse words he may have thought that I was insulting him and his performance.  Not that I would do something like that J.  If you’re someone at the Veikkausliiga office who has the ability to fine players, then I’m sure I remember just asking him about the weather, nothing else!


It’s midsummer today or tomorrow or both, I’m not really sure.  I find it weird that Scandinavian people celebrate this holiday, but then again Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo by dressing in borderline-racist costumes and drinking Mexican beer made in Texas, so I guess I shouldn’t be throwing stones.  Our next game is against RoPS and Anthony is suspended so he doesn’t have to go.  He couldn’t be happier about it either, though he’ll miss us while we’re gone.  Until then though we have a few days off so I’m gonna go enjoy Vaasa!


The meme: