Sunday, March 30, 2014


We lost.

I know I said otherwise earlier, but now that we’ve lost I realized I didn’t actually want to win the League Cup anyway.  At least that’s the party line at the moment.  We unfortunately played much like a team still in preseason, lacking any real cohesion and missing chances that we would otherwise score.  I’m not going to recap the game because most of the people reading this were either there or have already heard everything.  Like always though, I’ll make a few notes:

-The SJK goal should not have counted because of a handball.  It was obvious and not really up for debate.

-I was pulled down in the box in the final moments of the game.  The ref told me after that he saw me get pulled, but that I fell too easily.  I told him that I fell easily because I was only on one leg since the other was swinging to shoot the ball, but he said he didn’t see it that away.  We agreed to disagree.

-Despite the loss and being shutout, I felt we were the better team.  I am very sure that we’ll finish above SJK in this year’s table, barring some unforseen catastrophe.

As for me personally, I played 25 minutes and felt very good physically.  However, my understanding with my teammates was perhaps the worst of anyone on the pitch, which makes sense since I haven’t played with any of these guys in quite some time.  I squandered great passes from Anthony and Nganbe because I wasn’t quite on the same page as those guys.

Back in everyday life, things are starting to come together.  I’m getting a bike tomorrow (or not, since this same guy took a month to get a bike that was promised to me last year…).  My first order of business on the bike will be to ride to Jysk/Sotka/somewhere and try to find a mattress for my bed, since currently I’m sleeping on a glorified table.  After that, the interior designer in me is going to decorate my apartment and make it my own.  One of the most important things off the field for a player, especially a foreign player, is to have an apartment that feels like home.  That can mean things from home that you can’t find in your adopted country (in my case, grape jelly.  I bought 4 jars of grape jelly so that I can make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) or it could be simply having a place that makes you comfortable.  I’ve already started that process by buying my bed and a couch from a secondhand furniture store that I somehow never knew about.  I’ll finish the job and put up pictures so that you can all admire my work!

There are some negatives about my place.  First, I had no say in the matter which sucked because I had spent a ton of time finding potential places to live.  My place is nice, just not my first choice.  Or second.  Or third.  You get the point.  It’s also costing me about 100 euros more per month, effectively so I can have a bigger kitchen.  No thanks.  I only cook because if I didn’t I would die.  That’s literally the only reason.

There’s also like a thousand kids that seem to spend the entire day playing outside my apartment.  I may sound like an old man, but these damn kids need to play somewhere else!  Some of us have absolutely nothing to do all day and want to be left in peace!

That’s all.  I’ll try to get a video post up soon just to have something different.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Shit's Getting Real

It’s officially time for the games to get real.  Starting this weekend, every game counts for something.  This is always one of my favorite times of the year because a few things happen simultaneously: We train less, play more and actually get to celebrate our goals.  In preseason you train an insane amount, play almost never and have to pretend like you’re not happy about scoring.  Thank goodness it’s time for the bright lights to come on!

Last week we trained our asses off because we had the weekend off.  We had double trainings on three of the days and got into the gym as well.  We ran fitness every day and generally made the most of our last non-game week for the next two months.  The guys are super fit just like last year, and that will help us a lot because I don’t think many Finnish teams make fitness a priority.  We ran circles around teams last year in the 2nd halves and specifically the last 20 minutes of games.  If you don’t believe me, go back and see how many times we came from behind to win or draw last year.  It must have been 7-8 times at least.  As for me personally I’m happy with where my fitness is, but I realize that this is my last opportunity to really build my fitness level for quite some time.  My game is based almost solely around running, so the more I can run (and specifically, sprint), the better player I’ll be.  I’m essentially going to train through the League Cup final to give myself one week extra to prepare for Veikkausliiga.  It won’t affect my play this weekend anyway, as I’ll likely not play huge minutes.  I don’t know what the lineup will be, but seeing as this will be only my second game I can’t imagine I’ll play 90 minutes.  When you think about that, it would be almost irresponsible for me as a professional to not do a bit extra work to get caught up to my teammates’ fitness.

On Friday we had only one training and then were given the weekend off.  That gave me some time to try and get some stuff done.  I finally got my phone setup, so I’m on the grid!  I also sorted out my credit cards so that I no longer had to fear starving to death because I can’t buy things.  I wanted to look at apartments, but apparently in Finland no rental company has any interest in getting tenants for their open apartments.  I emailed one company, who waited three days then emailed me back to offer me an apartment that met not a single one of my criteria.  I then walked into a particular rental company, the same company that I used last year for my apartment by the way, and they proceeded to tell me that they’d call me later with options...WHAT?  I’m tempted to go on a rant here, but I’ll hold back and just give you the thesis of my rant:  Why would a leasing company not show empty apartments to a prospective tenant who is ready to move in immediately?  Why would this process possibly be so difficult?  There is literally no risk of non-payment since VPS is paying for it anyway, so I can’t figure out why this has become so difficult.

The free weekend also meant that the team was able to have a bonding night/team party.  The less said about it the better, but I did take one picture before cameras were turned off.  Just know it was a good night and a necessary thing to help build the kind of team spirit that wins games in the summer.
Don't talk shit about the picture quality, it's a new phone and I'm not good with the camera!

Because of the team party, Saturday was necessarily a lazy day.  I literally did nothing.

Sunday I did laundry, but not in the way that you probably do laundry.  Being in the hotel is like being homeless for a lot of things, laundry being one of them.  I can’t afford to wash my clothes at the hotel, so I end up just doubling up everything besides underwear.  Unfortunately, I only had a two weeks supply of underwear more or less and by Sunday the situation was getting a bit dangerous!  Fortunately for me, a friend stepped up and let me wash clothes at their house.  The fact that I even found someone to help me is a big step forward over last year.  I think I’m going to achieve my goal of being more social and involved in the happenings of Vaasa this year.  That night I watched the Real Madrid - Barcelona game and wow...what a classic.  So many stars playing so well in an up and down game.  If only every game was like that.
He and I were born the same week.  Depressing.

We’re back to training now, and the next couple of days will be hard training like last week.  We have Wednesday off, and after that our attention will turn to SJK and the League Cup final.  We really want to win this game, and it would be my first ever professional trophy, so I’m really excited about it.  There should also be pretty good weather and a big crowd which is always fun.

I’ll check in again before the game!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Getting back into it

On to the Final!

Saturday night was one of the best games I've been a part of with VPS.  We won 4-0, but that only tells part of the story.  After a rocky first five minutes which included a missed penalty from Mariehamn, we dominated the game and the score was fair.

Fortunately because of the comfortable scoreline I was able to come on for the last 10 or 15 minutes.  It was a good first runout back with the guys, though it was terribly cold and my feet were frozen.  I can't wear the same shoes anymore in cold weather.  As for my play there wasn't much to say.  I didn't touch the ball once until the last play of the game, but my touch did result in a scramble and goal by Nganbe Nganbe.  

Speaking of that goal by Frido (Nganbe's given name), it must put fear in the hearts of every coach and defense in the league.  In roughly 15 seconds, we took the ball from the goalkeeper's hands to scoring at the other end.  At one point in the attack, the IFK Mariehamn defense would have seen Frido, Steven and me all running at them full speed with Sebastian having the ball and his choice of who to play.  Even though IFK had four guys back it didn't help and we scored.  It definitely won't be the last time we score a lightning fast counterattack goal this year!

The trip home from Mariehamn was typically horrendous.  While I like the ferry, I absolute hate the trip itself.  We have to leave a day early when we play Mariehamn and spend most of the time between leaving Vaasa and arriving in Mariehamn in transit which is terrible for match preparation.  And I don’t want to hear about how Mariehamn has to deal with it every game.  They travel overnight so they get a proper night’s rest and then travel in the morning by bus like every other team.  It’s not a fair comparison.  It sucks that we have to make the trip again in only a month.  It takes a lot out of the players.

Since we’ve gotten back to Vaasa I’ve been in full fledged getting situated mode.  I’ve been looking at apartments and trying to get my new cell phone to work over here.  I’ve also got to get a residence permit again for some reason, which is an expensive and god-awfully slow process.

Tomorrow is a free day so I’m popping down to Helsinki to take care of a few things.  Someone needs to run for president (prime minister?) of Finland on the platform of simply lowering train tickets.  I’m sure if you promised that and nothing else you’d be a wildly popular candidate.  I’ll be in Helsinki for 18 hours, and it’ll cost me more than a typical trip to London!  I’ll be sure to take some pictures to remember my short visit.

That’s it.  I’ll talk more about SJK going into next weekend’s game.  Or maybe not since I don’t know a single thing about SJK except that they’re from Seinajoki, wear black and gold and have a small army of players signed. Maybe I'll look some stuff up on wikipedia.

The meme:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Return

I had a funny joke I was gonna do with the title but the headline box won't let me do it.  Actually, I'll just do it here.  Consider this the actual headline (clears throat):

"Return of the King Prince Hearthrob Star Good player ... The Return"

Thank you, thank you.  Don't forget to tip your waitress.  And what am I saying? Of course I'm a heathrob!  Anywho, back to the task at hand.  After months of nothing I'm back on the proverbial wagon and blogging again.  Why, you might ask?  This is why.

It’s exactly what it looks like.

I have re-signed with VPS and I’m back in Vaasa.  I’m once again a Yank Abroad!  

I think this gif will be reused.  I, like this gentleman, am committed to keep blogging! No matter the situation :)
It’s a new year and therefore I have some resolutions for this blog.  First, I will post more than I did last year.  Second, I will make the posts shorter so that the blog is more readable (though I’m sure some 1500-word posts are still to come this year).  Third, I will be sure to put in more pictures and videos because I think they better show what it’s like to be in my and my teammates’ shoes.

I said it a bit in the brief interview I gave for the VPS website, but I wanted to reiterate that I’m really happy to return to VPS and be a part of a team where I’m respected and trusted to do my job well.  This is the first time in my career that I’ll get a chance to play two full seasons with the same club and I am sure that continuity will make me play better.  My best games last year came after I had my option picked up in the summer and I knew I was accepted as an important member of the squad rather than some extended trialist.  Now that good feeling that I had playing in August-October of last year is here already in March.  I’m excited about what that means for myself and VPS.

For those interested in my salary, I will disclose that (probably not so specifically as last year, but a decent ballpark figure). I just didn't want to put it in this post because in my experience thousands of not-so-interested people will read this post and then only a few hundred will read the subsequent post. It's those few hundred who really care about me and VPS who I think deserve to know what we earn. Random people who stumble across this blog as the news of the day don't care what we make and thus don't need to know. I put my salary last year so that our fans (and perhaps fans of other Veikkausliiga clubs) would know that there are circumstances that can affect a player than fans never think about. Maybe the player you love to hate isn't running because he hasn't had a decent dinner because he makes 800 euros a month and payday isn't until next week. Or maybe one of your players takes a stupid yellow card because he's frustrated with working his ass off and making less than the people yelling at him from the stands. Those are totally made up situations so you know, but the idea is the same. Though I'll have you know though that I played every game last year on a full stomach and only took stupid yellow cards because I am, in fact, stupid :)

That's all for now. I've got some notes to finish the post.

-I have spent the entire winter collecting an infinite supply of gifs/memes that reflect any possible emotion, and/or are hilarious.  So there’s probably gonna be a gif in every post.  Deal with it.  Examples below:

-Getty has inexplicably made their entire library free out of nowhere, so the stock photo value of the blog is about to go through the roof.  I can’t however guarantee that the stock photos I use will have anything to do with what I’m writing.  Examples (again) below:

[Edit]  They've changed that between the time I heard about it last week and now.  So much for Getty Images.