Sunday, June 23, 2013
As well as enjoying my time on the field in Florida, things off the field have also been great. I'm very lucky to be surrounded by a great group of guys as my teammates on this team. There aren't very many locally based players, the roster contains players from all around the world; Scotland, England, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Columbia, USA and Canada. All the players come from different backgrounds and bring something unique to the team on and off the field, making for a great mix. The out of town players live together in an apartment complex close to our home stadium. We have three separate houses in the complex, side by side. As I'm sure you can imagine there is always a lot going on. Most of our time when not training is spent relaxing and recovering. There's also a lot of FIFA being played in the house regularly, which gets pretty competitive. We have two swimming pools, so we also spend a lot of time hanging out there. It gets pretty hot in Florida at this time of year, which has been one of the biggest adjustments for me playing here. To go from playing North of the Arctic Circle in Norway, to the extreme heat of Florida, has been tough. But I'm getting more and more used to it everyday. We have run one soccer summer camp for kids so far this season and the second week of camps start tomorrow. The camps are a unique way to get to know the kids in the community and pass on our knowledge to kids looking to improve their game. One of the most enjoyable days in Florida so far, was a few weeks back when we had the chance to go to the owner of the clubs lake house. We spent time on the boats, tubing and jet skiing, all day. Overall its been a great summer in Florida so far and fantastic experience all around. I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the summer brings.
Things in Ocala are going well at the moment. We've passed the halfway mark in the season after a tough stretch of away games and a total of four games in the past nine days. We currently sit top of the Southeast Division in the PDL, with six games remaining in the regular season. There is still a lot of work to be done, but things are looking positive going into the final six games. Our next game is against second place team Orlando City U23's, which is a massive game for us. We only have one more away game remaining this year, which is always helpful. Luckily for us, we were able to get our toughest away games out of the way early in the season. After a tough nine days filled with games, we've been enjoying having the day completely off today and will also have the day off training tomorrow.
Thursday, June 6, 2013
I have transferred to a new club in the USL PDL, called the Ocala Stampede. The club plays in the SouthEast Division of the league and are based in Florida. I've been in Florida for around four weeks now and have been really enjoying life at my new club. It's a great set up at the club. Things are very professionally run here on and off the field. It's a great group of guys and the coaching staff are fantastic. On the field things have gotten off to a good start for the team. We started the season with four straight away games and won three of the four games. We opened the season against VSI Tampa Bay FC, and unfortunately lost 2-0. Having dominated the game throughout, this was a disappointing result for us. We knew that we had to let it go and move on to the next one. Following this game we played at IMG Academy and came away with a 1-0 win, a great result on the road! For me it was a great day, as I scored the winner in the 89th minute (see photos below). I was named to the USL PDL "Team of the Week" following the game, which was a big honour and proud moment for me. It's always nice to be recognized for your hard work on the field. I think that it was a really important win for the team, to give us some momentum going into the next away games.
Check out the PDL Team of the Week, Week 4: http://pdl.uslsoccer.com/home/724067.html
We then had the longest road trip of the season, a gruelling trip to Mississippi. We left last Thursday morning at 4am, and arrived almost 14 hours later in Clinton, Mississippi. After a light training session Thursday night, we played the Mississippi Brilla on Friday night in their home opener. We ended up winning the game 4-0, which was a fantastic result for the team. I scored my second goal of the season off of a header just before half time. Following the game we started our trip back towards Florida, however the road trip was far from finished. We had one more game against Panama City Beach Pirates on Sunday night. The team was definitely feeling tired going into this game, after a tough game Friday night and many hours of driving over the past couple of days. We came out and battled for 90 minutes again and came away with another win; 2-0 this time. After the game, we were straight back on the bus again and finally heading for home. There were some celebrations on the bus for a bit, before most of the players fell asleep for the night. We arrived home at around 6 am and went straight back to bed. We all had a much deserved day off, which I'm sure the majority of the guys spent sleeping all day.
Another highlight of the season so far was our time in the US Open Cup. In the first round of the competition we played away to Red Force FC in Miami and won the match 4-2. Unfortunately for me I wasn't eligible to play in this game as my paperwork hadn't gone through in time. In the second round we drew USL-Pro club Orlando City SC at home. It was always going to be a tough game to play the top team in the USL-Pro (one division above us) but we played a great game, narrowly losing out 2-1. Our fans for this game were fantastic and it was a great experience for the team, even though we came up short.
We were supposed to have our home opener for the league tonight, but it was called off due to a bad storm. Depending on when that game is rescheduled for, it looks like our next league game is most likely next Friday back on the road again. So far life in Florida has been great, on and off the field. I'm having a good time here and I'm really happy with my current situation. I'm looking forward to what the rest of the season brings. I'll write another blog post soon about life off the field here and what we get up to in our spare time, as well as keeping you all updated on the latest on the pitch.