Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In Training

I started this blog five years ago as a personal response to the negative and often hostile tone that is pervasive in sports commentary.  A goal was to create a diary of sorts cataloging and memorializing love for athletic contests as a spectator.

It turns out that it has not been difficult to remain appreciative.  Despite the distance between our new home and the teams of my childhood, my interest in sports has grown in large part due to our close proximity to the University of Maryland.

Monday afternoon presented another unexpected (and undeserved) treat, with the University hosting the U.S. Men's National Soccer Team for a training open to the public at Ludwig.  The team's official blog quoted Oguchi Onyewu as characterizing the crowd for the event as "awesome" and the University's website reported that nearly 2,500 people turned out to watch American soccer players practice.   

I would have guessed that the number was higher because of the line to get in and the dense crowd in the open areas of the stadium.  Regardless of the total, attendance was spectacular.  My daughter and I recognized Joseph Ngwenya going to stand behind us in a large line to enter Ludwig to watch American soccer players practice.

Substantively, I got nothing out of the experience.  I have no idea what players ought to be doing in training and spent most of the time just hanging out with a near-four year old on a hot afternoon sitting on a grassy hillside.  But I will not soon forget the atmosphere.  Virtually everyone around us was thrilled to be there, to have had the opportunity to get up close to these athletes (American soccer players) and obtain some measure of insight into the Juergen Klinsmann era.

I would guess that the day -- both the open event and the public response -- does not happen without Klinsmann.  Come what may in World Cup qualifying, Klinnsmann's early returns have been fantastic in terms of developing a compelling style of play and an entertaining brand of football.  The strengths of the squad's most beloved players (Dempsey, Howard, and Donovan all received raucous applause entering the pitch from the bus) have been highlighted and new stars are emerging.  And we will head to FedEx this evening in a celebratory mood.

Thanks very much to U.S. Soccer and to the University of Maryland for an enjoyable afternoon.

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