Hello again. Sacha Kljestan here coming to you live from the Bisun restaurant in the Beijing International Airport. As I plow through my first Western food in a week - the burger and fries aren’t quite the same, but it gets the job done – let me relay some final thoughts on the China trip.
As you have read, we finished the tour with a 3-3 tie against China in Guangzhou. We were disappointed to let a 3-0 lead get away from us. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way, but hopefully this will help us moving forward. I won’t say much about the referee and the red card, but I don’t think I’m the only one who thought it was bogus. You have to expect those types of decisions where you’re on the road and in a hostile environment, so it’s a good reminder for me personally as I pursue my international career.
What wasn’t hostile was the way we were treated by the people, particularly the hotel staff in both cities. They were tripping over themselves to help us, which I thought was really cool.
So what’s a wrap-up blog without a list? Here’s my top five moments from week-long trip to the Far East:
- The first game against China in front of 30,000 fans in Changsha. The supporters were loud and enthusiastic, which makes it really fun to play. It was also our first real game together, and I thought we made some progress as they game went on.
- Going up 3-0 at halftime in Guangzhou. We did some really good stuff in the first 45 minutes, and I can honestly say all three goals were money. If you’re lucky, somebody will post Charlie’s goal celebration on YouTube. Yours truly makes a cameo as well.
- Stuart Holden’s impression of Peter Nowak in a team meeting. Self preservation dictates I don’t go into details, but Stuart’s act was spot on and got everybody rolling. Including Peter.
- The food in both hotels was fantastic. As you all know by now, I’m a huge fan of noodles, and the Noodle Guy in Changsha became my best friend.
- Getting to do all the press conferences. As captain, I was chosen to represent the players before and after each game. It was an unusual experience being in front of all those cameras and reporters where every question and answer had to be translated. Being in a foreign country also makes you think a bit more about your answers, especially when you get questions that you’re not used to. And I’m still not answering the one about whether the Hunan girls are cute.
Overall, I think everyone enjoyed the trip. Being in the host country and seeing what the atmosphere is like definitely gave us that much more inspiration to want to qualify for the Olympics. As I said in the beginning of the trip, it feels like the start of a journey, and now we have two games under our belts to prove it.
Speaking of journeys, it’s time to board the plane for the 12-hour flight to Los Angeles. Even though it’s my hometown and the best city in the states, I won’t be there long since I’m taking a red-eye to New Jersey to visit my brother for a few days before Christmas.
Thanks to everybody for following along. Believe it or not, the qualifying tournament is only three months away, and we’ll be back at just after the New Year. Everyone is looking forward to the next camp and to the qualifying tournament in March that will hopefully bring us back to China again in ‘08. Hope to see you then. In the meantime, Happy Holidays.