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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Women's World Cup Canada 2015!

My anticipation of the Women's World Cup in Canada was slightly overshadowed by a series of very stressful events including travel to Cuba (blog still pending due to all the following) hosting international visitors, quickly followed by a 2 night stay in the hospital fighting severe sepsis, 2.5 weeks in California working remotely while struggling with my contractor to get my new home prepared for mom to move in, and missing several soccer games for my 4 teams.  New York is clearly supporting the team as evidenced in a Times Square billboard and Modells.
Times Square billboard (8th Ave/42nd St)
Modells Times Square
Saturday, June 6:  I was wise in my packing and carried everything on. I figured whatever I didn't have, either Casey or Katharine did, or I could just buy it, after all, Canada is a civilized country, eh?

I met Casey at LGA on Saturday morning where our first leg went off without a hitch.  We had a long layover in Toronto which was unintentionally well timed as it gave us the chance to have a couple beers while enjoying the beauty of Barcelona defeat Juventes in the Champions League Final. We met Cali, a local from the Peg who was just returning from 5 weeks of traveling and would also be attending the matches.  Watching the Canada v China home opener on the plane via satellite wasn't ideal, however neither was the game.  And so it begins...

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Toronto Airport
We arrived in Winnipeg about 6:30pm as planned.  Our taxi driver dropped us at our AirBnB residence 101 Kingston Row by about 7:15 and very kindly waited for us to get in as Casey had to slip in the back door that was fortunately, or intentionally, left unlocked while Katharine was out scouting local watering holes.  Moments later, a man knocked on the door.  Surprised to have guests so soon, I opened the door to Barry, the home owner of our residence for the next 5 nights.  He gave us a tour/demo of the coffee maker, hidden appliances, BBQ, kayaks and TV controls.  We had spare tickets to the matches on Monday, one of his days off, so we happily donated them to him and he was on his way.
Winnipeg Airport
Barry's greeting
We were showered with wine and snacks...initially thought to be provided by the owner, but we quickly realized it was the sweet and generous Emily who unfortunately couldn't make it as our fourth on the trip.  What a super awesome gesture!
Emily's gift to us
Our house was quite comfortable, so we stayed in for the evening, enjoying the wine and snacks.  Well, I enjoyed the snacks anyway as they didn't need my help making a dent in the wine supply.
Ode to the USA

Our a very very very fine house...
Our back deck overlooking the Red River
Sunday, June 7:  Being an hour behind, we all wake up earlier than planned and eventually moseyed across the St. Vital bridge for some a bit of exploring and some grocery shopping at Safeway.  Michael and Cindy invited us to join them at the Shark Bar & Grill downtown to watch the afternoon matches, This location turned out to have fantastic viewing options, however we were the only patrons in the joint and the waitresses look like an upscale version of the Hooters' staff and the matches ended with painfully lopsided results, Norway 4-0 over Thailand, and Germany's ruthless 10-0 routing of Ivory Coast.  On the bright side, we met a new group of friends, LeAnn and her new friends from their Airbnb accommodations. At some point we encountered another group of New Yorkers including Jen Munni, someone both Casey and I knew from our Slackers days.  Soccer is such a small world.  
Shark Bar & Grill
Later we headed over to the Outlaws party at Barely Brothers, the home base for pre-gaming.   Clearly Winnipeg was not prepared for this tournament, not only is there little to no advertising for the World Cup, but the restaurant, who was informed we'd be coming, did not staff properly as they had only expected about half of those who came.  We were promised the pre-game staff would be all hands on deck.  Fortunately the atmosphere and crowd, including the waitstaff more than made up for the inadequate service.  And a cab was readily available to return us safely home.
CBC TV interviewer:  "Why have are you here at the World Cup?"
Casey:  "Soccer is my life!"
Barely Brothers -American Outlaws home base
Monday, June 8 GAME DAY!:  This was it, game day.  Casey and I went for what we anticipated being a light jog which turned out to be a 6 mile jog/walk as we got lost exploring some lovely homes in Victoria Crescent.  We were successful in getting the bus tickets at a 7-11, despite the lack of the clerks' ability to explain how the passes worked.  

Our game preparations included wearing every scrap of red, white and blue clothing we owned, to complement our red, white and blue nail polish on both fingers and toes.  Then out to catch the bus.  We got the first one ok, but after our connection never arrived, we asked a hotel to call a taxi.  Barley Brothers was rocking, burgers blazing, beers flowing.  Big Heads, and Giant Jenga were popular attractions.  We went inside to watch the surprisingly incredible match up between Sweden and Nigeria.  Nigeria earned mad respect drawing 2-2.  Then the march up to the stadium...taking over the streets.
Casey's got her game on! (Don't worry, her mammy reminded her not to sit on the flag)

Ozzie invaders at the AO pregame party!
War Paint!
Game Ready! 
The AO March to Winnipeg Stadium!
The AO March to Winnipeg Stadium!
The match was both exciting and nerve wracking.  US up 1-0 in the 12th minute courtesy of my favorite player, Ms. Megan Rapinoe.  Then the Ozzies scored an equalizer before in the 26th minute and halftime ended in a draw.  Leroux's expert pass to Press ended up in the back of the net for a 2-1 lead.  And finally, the icing was applied when I telepathically coached Ms. Rapinoe to take on the hesitant defenders and go to goal herself, giving the US a 3-1 win over the Australians!
Winnipeg Stadium!
USA National Anthem
Photo by LeAnne Harrington
Kids too cute!
Photo by LeAnne Harrington
Token Australian Fans
Getting fired up!
Team Huddle
Defenders' Huddle 
Game on! 
Celebrating 1-0 lead thanks to Megan Rapinoe!
American Outlaws Representing!
Goal #2, thanks Christen Press!
Back of the net!
And I telepathically coached Rapinoe on her second goal!
First 3 points of our tournament!
Photo by Michael Procopio
Disappointingly, they never came to thank our section. :(
Casey posing with Shuéme
Back to Bareley Bros. for the post game celebration, where our new friend Dave grabbed a big table outside for the group (much to the mosquitos' feasting enjoyment).  It was great seeing so many men sporting the ladies' jerseys!While it was casually considered early on, Katharine and Casey gave the formal invite to a BBQ at our Airbnb house, after which I think we closed the place down and some may not have remembered getting home.

Our new friends! 
Casey's mum provided some bling!
Tuesday, June 9 BBQ Day:  We had a bit of a late start getting to the market for the BBQ food/supplies, but made it back to watch the second half of the France v England match.  Our guests arrived around 3ish, and the party was on.  2 new gals were introduced, fresh out of the Air Force Academy, and despite the age gap, they fit right in with the rest of us old and new soccer lovers.  We even invited our (or rather Barry's) neighbors, Rob, Ed and Ian (a few old timer musicians, so they told us).  It was a great day, lots of laughter and food.  The games were a bit background as they weren't quite as entertaining as Monday's matches.  The day ended with contented exhaustion.
Food prepped
The guests arriving!
Fridge stocked...let the party begin!
Short order chef, Casey (who knew?)
Invited the neighbors over (Rob, Jim and Ian).
Ian was obsessed with taking photos of the strange Americans.
Group photo time!

Wednesday, June 10 REST/MNT Day:  Unfortunately, our third partner in crime had to depart this morning.  It was sad, so we drowned our sorrows by joining Cindy and Michael for lunch and a quick tour of The Forks Market, we went to watch the US Men's Team who play the World Cup Champions at 1:45.  After a bit of confusion about where to watch the match as it required satellite, we ended up at Barely Bros. again, and after kickoff.  We had missed Germany's goal, but after inviting ourselves to squeeze in between a few tables, joined by a few of our new friends, we were able to witness (with an entire restaurant full of US fans) the first time ever our US men beat Germany at home, and while they're defending Champs made it all the more special!
Finally, some advertising!
Sadly, it's only to disguise a vacant shop.
Look, more advertising!
Canadian Museum for Human Rights
Skate park near the Museum and Forks Market
After a failed attempt at finding some FIFA merchandise, we had dinner on a rooftop downtown.  It was a nice place, the food was ok, frankly.  The staff, although nice, couldn't seem to get the order or the check right, but it was still nice dining on the roof with good friends and a great view.

Thursday, June 11: 
Our last morning on Kingston Row...
Sleeping beauty sleeps in red, white and blue!
Cindy and Michael helped Casey and I relocate to our new home in Osborne Village.  It was a quaint area with many shops and restaurants to walk to.  
71 Roslyn Road, sadly an electric oven won't cook smores very well.
Our landlord may be gay...
With a full day ahead of us, we started by getting hearty breakfast at the Pancake House in the Forks Market.  We then visited the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.  What an experience!
The Forks Market
Canadian Museum for Human Rights
Photo by Casey Sommers
Photo by Casey Sommers
Photo by Casey Sommers
Photo by Michael Procopio
View from the Human Rights Museum 
"I Imagine..."
We then met Bernie who just arrived along with our other new friends at the Kings Head Pub to watch the matches.  Even our new friend Cali and her boyfriend met up with us after work!  During halftime Casey, Cindy, Michael and I snuck out to see if we could find some FIFA shirts at the Giant Tiger, a lead offered to us earlier in the day by a fellow supporter at the Forks.  We even checked out the Winnipeg Jazz Fest, which sadly more locals knew about than the World Cup.
T, C and Bernie
Photo by LeAnne Harrington
I won, but this was just my first round, double bulls.
Pool and darts were showcased during the slower matches.
Giant Tiger, who knew we'd find FIFA gear at a discount shop?
Winnipeg Jazz Fest...good crowd (Photo by Casey Sommers)
And amazing crepes! 
Friday June 12 - GAME 2 DAY!:  Casey an I awoke expecting to participate in our game day morning ritual of a run, but our exhaustion won out and we opted for a leisure walk through Osborne Village.  We stopped at a local shop where the barista told us we were the first Americans she'd met to date.  It was surprising to us as we seemed to find our fellow patriots everywhere.  As we were about to leave, we were invited to sit and chat with 2 elderly men and one woman.  They too admitted their disappointment at the lack of World Cup promotion and explained how Hockey is the preferred sport, as if we hadn't already realized that.  One man said there are 2 seasons, Winter and Construction which I suppose equates to the more popular seasonal references of Hockey and No Hockey.  We continued our walk and discovered many fun shops and restaurants, none of which appeared open, at least not at 10am.  We scouted out our Stadium travel taking the Rapid Transit bus before heading back to the apartment where we got game ready and headed out to the Legislative Building where we met Bernie.
Costume shop, one of the only shops that was open by 11am
From the entrance of the Legislative Building
One of Winnipeg's elected officials took this for us and provided some detail on the building, that the walls were made of stones with fossils imbedded in them, and those buffalo are solid and had to be brought in after flooding the lobby and freezing the water to slide them in.
Flying our flag
Oh look, another sign that FIFA is in town!
We lunched at the Irish Mexican restaurant, of course, where else would you have a pre-USA game meal!?
Carlos and Murphy's
The bus took 20 minutes tops to get us to the stadium.  Cindy and Michael had been in the line for the FIFA store for about an hour already, and were still waiting.  I waited with them, and only got a mascot owl for Casey and a couple of programs.  When heading to my seats, I noticed the line went from Gate 3 to 2, essentially the entire length of the field, and then some.  Later someone told me it went all the way around the stadium.  Casey and Bernie were lucky and got some swag at the kiosk in the meantime.
Game Day preparations
Game on!
The elusive FIFA merchandise in the tiny, maybe 500 square foot shop.
Super Fans!
Goalies warming up, "We got Hope Solo!"
Bring it on!
Photo by LeAnne Harrington 
Team huddle
Photo by LeAnne Harrington
Photo by LeAnne Harrington
Photo by LeAnne Harrington
Nigerian team arrives
Alex Morgan enters the game
After the uneventful 0-0 draw against Sweden, we headed back to the Barley Brothers bar to commiserate the draw (which really felt like a loss to most of us) with our compatriots.  We got our "usual" post match table outside, and spent one final evening with our new friends!

Saturday June 13 - Departure Day:  It was like a mass exodus of Americans leaving Winnipeg Saturday morning.  Unfortunately, Casey and I were re-routed courtesy of Orbitz with next to no notice which resulted in her heading to LGA via Toronto and me to LGA via Montreal and Philly...yes, that's right, Philly.  After a feeble attempt at correcting Orbitz' error with the airline, we reluctantly headed through security, where we ran into the referees from the USA v Sweden match.  I calmly suggested that they review the tapes and their calls (or rather no calls) of yesterday's match.  They did not respond.  I made one final attempt to call Orbitz to get my travel sorted while my flight was boarding, another fruitless effort, however Casey gifted me a consolation cozy to cheer me up.  The Philly diversion wasn't too terrible, I got to have a decent Caesar salad while watching England beat Mexico.  It just so happened Casey and basically caught the same sunset upon our return to LGA as we arrived within about a half hour of each other!
Beer cozy, gift from Casey