Tag Archives: Liviu Bird

Bird’s Blog: What we can learn from Cal FC

(Sorry for my lengthy absence. School is drawing to a close, and with that comes all the drama of making sure I’m set to graduate next week. As always, if you desperately need to read something I write, you can follow me on Twitter.)

When we lost to Cal FC in the first round of the U.S. Open Cup, we were a little more than disappointed to get bounced out of the tournament by an amateur team. Watching that team beat the Portland Timbers threw that disappointment into a little bit of a different perspective. It still burns, but it’s nice to see an amateur team shaking up the tournament early on.

As a soccer country — to the extent that the U.S. is one of those — we learned a few lessons from watching Cal FC’s run. Here are three:

• That could have been the Kitsap Pumas. Selfishly, this is why Cal FC’s run was painful to watch. Had we figured out how to get past them, we could have been the team that knocked out a USL team and an MLS team. This is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things, but it’s relevant to the team and its fans nonetheless.

• MLS teams need to step up their Open Cup game. You can’t say Portland wasn’t trying to win its game against Cal FC. Based on injuries and other availability issues, the Timbers put out a full-strength lineup. However, regardless of how serious Portland may have taken that game, it’s obvious that the tournament just isn’t that important to a lot of teams. The players on the field may catch some of that league-wide general feeling and end up playing poorly because they just don’t care. One team that does take the Open Cup seriously is Seattle, which put an end to Cal FC’s run last week. The Sounders have their fourth Cup title firmly in their sights.

• The difference between the lowest and highest levels of U.S. soccer isn’t that large. This is the most contentious point I’ll make, and it’s certainly not true for every player toiling in the U.S. Adult Soccer Association, PDL or USL, but the difference between players who make a living playing soccer and those who do it for fun (or peanuts) is sometimes minimal. Looking at the Cal FC squad, forward Artur Aghasyan played with Real Salt Lake for a short time last year. Closer to home, Bryan Meredith now starts in goal for the Sounders after being with Kitsap last year. There are plenty of other players in the PDL Northwest Division who could do just fine in MLS.

Did Cal FC’s success mean anything to you as fans? What key points did I not touch on here?

Bird’s Blog: A night to forget in Vancouver

Needless to say, this wasn’t how we envisioned the start of our season.

We have no excuses. There is no explanation. We just got outplayed, and we paid for it.

The key now is to move on and get ready for the home opener next weekend. In a way, we needed to lose on Friday because it showed us that just because you’re the defending national champion, it doesn’t mean your you-know-what doesn’t stink.

We’ll take the positives from that game — we played much better in the second half  than the first — and move on.

Of course, it’s good to think about what happened for a couple days, but it’s not healthy to dwell on it. By the time training rolls around tomorrow morning, the game in Vancouver will be a distant memory.

It’s time to flush this one.

In a long season, teams can’t get caught up thinking about the mistakes — the games in which they played poorly, the games they should have won, the goals they should have scored or shouldn’t have let in — because it distracts from the task at hand.

The good thing about soccer is that you almost always get a second chance, and you almost always get on the field soon after the last time you were on it. We train several times a week, and we sometimes play three games in a week’s time.

Part of what separates average players from professional players from world-class players is the mental aspect of the game. The only play, the only session, the only game that matters is the one right in front of you; the last one and the next one don’t mean anything.

That’s one of my weaknesses as a player that I’ve been working to fix. Sometimes, I over-think things. I “get in my own head,” as the saying goes.

It’s one of the strangest skills to train. The way players get better at all other aspects of the game is by doing something — taking 1,000 repetitions, watching game film, talking to coaches — but not this one.

It’s against every instinct I have as a player to not do anything, but that’s the key here.

Don’t think. Just act.

Bird’s Blog: Training camp

(My apologies to Liviu for not publishing this earlier. New fatherhood has my brain running in all directions!)

Last week week, we got away for a couple days as a team (minus one or two guys) and had a short training camp on Whidbey Island at Camp Casey. If you couldn’t tell by the fact that we had to stand in the sound to ice our legs, it was a tough one.

We arrived on Wednesday at around 3 p.m. and moved into our dormitory-like accommodations. The three coaches had their own room, while the rest of us piled in four, five or even six to a room. I pulled Steve Mohn, Daniel Fabian, David Meherg, Zack Sampson and Enrique Hidalgo as roommates.

We ate dinner as a team at 6 and had a soccer tennis session at 7:30. Soccer tennis is a really fun game to get the legs moving and work on our touches. None of our games were quite as intense as Cristiano Ronaldo and Rafa Nadal’s — although Enrique tried a couple of bicycle kicks on the hard gym floor — but it was a good start to camp.

The next morning, we were up before breakfast to go for a run. We ate and prepared for our first on-field session of camp. After that session, we went for another run as a team.

After lunch, most of the guys were asleep, while some of the college students did homework (or at least I did, but I think I may have been the only one). After the second session, we went for our Puget Sound ice bath.

The day was not yet over, though. After dinner, we had another soccer tennis session. At this point, our legs were starting to drag a bit, so it wasn’t quite as sharp as the session the day before. Just ask my partner, who shall remain nameless but struggled to keep any ball inside the court.

The next morning, we went for one last team run and cleaned up the house (former Army barracks) in which we stayed.

Training camp is always an interesting experience. Something about sleeping in the same room as five other guys who are equally sore brings a team together. That’s probably the biggest benefit to being able to go away for a couple days together; the team feels closer now than last week.

It’s also an advantage we have at Kitsap that other PDL teams don’t usually get because most of their players are finishing up spring seasons with their college teams.

Bird’s Blog: Goalie-itis

Hello. My name is Liviu, and I’m a goalkeeper.

There’s nothing I can do about it now. I’ve been in this position for too long.

It all started when I was 10, and my coach asked for volunteers for somebody to throw themselves in front of the ball instead of jumping out of the way like most kids. They gave me a pair of gloves and told me to do my best.

Then they left me alone to defend an eight-yard-by-eight-foot white box.

I never quite went off the deep end, like Canadian Tino Lettieri when he started keeping a stuffed parrot in his goal and talking to it during games. I’m not sure how much Ozzie helped Tino stop shots, but you couldn’t get him away from his parrot for anything.

Superstitions have never really been my thing. I don’t believe that I have to do everything a certain way or I’ll lose. It just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But I am prone to suffering my own bouts of goalie-itis. This condition causes bouts of erratic behavior, odd personality ticks and teammates’ avoidance.

Hockey goalie Bobby Goepfert personifies it best. Check out his Twitter timeline for some gems from the last couple days.

Soccer goalkeepers are especially prone to the symptom of craziness. Check out Jeremie Janot.

Immensely talented, immensely crazy. In some cases, there is a direct correlation between how nuts a goalkeeper is and how successful he is.

Or not. How should I know?

I have goalie-itis. And there is no cure.

Bird’s Blog: Pumas players are a little different

In the second week of preseason, we finally got a chance to kick somebody other than ourselves by playing a couple of real-life games. We won one and tied one.

While it would have been nice to get two wins, it would feel kind of strange to have an overly successful preseason with the Pumas because the team hasn’t had a great record in any preseason so far. But last year, the team did OK despite the slow start, so we’re not ready to hit the panic button just yet.

Preseason games give teams two real benefits above all others: Chances to play together and get to know one another as players, and opportunities to get up to game fitness. Now is the time to put in the hard work so that we are still going strong in late July and early August.

It’s a little different on this team than it is on any other team we’ve played on before. Yes, we’re a professional club, but it’s no secret that nobody on the team makes Mario Balotelli’s salary. Everybody has second (and sometimes third) jobs.

In college, teams often report to training camp before school even starts. At Seattle Pacific, we go to camp around Aug. 15 every year, and school doesn’t start until Sept. 25 or so. That allows us to have two sessions a day for a couple weeks. The school pays for room and board during that time, so we just focus on playing.

Here, two-a-days are out of the question. We train once a day, but we can go 100 percent in that session because we don’t have to worry about saving ourselves for a second session in one day, which is nice. So our schedule has its benefits as well as its drawbacks.

This is real life now. For some of the guys on the Pumas, college soccer was years ago. We have to support ourselves somehow.

However, we still get to play the game and earn a paycheck for it. Even though times can get tough financially, we still love it. It takes a different sort of passion to play for fractions of the money the Lionel Messis of the world earn — and most players (especially in USL and NASL, and, to a lesser extent, MLS) will never get above this level.

Still, it’s hard to complain.

Bird’s Blog: One week down

The first week of preseason is always the hardest. Sure, we’ve been playing in the offseason, and we’ve kept ourselves in decent shape over the winter, but there’s nothing quite like the open expanses of a 120 x 70-yard piece of turf to make a player feel inadequate.

Distances are larger, we have to keep moving, and we have to get used to playing with a new team again. So the first week is all about getting reacquainted with the rhythm of the game.

We get a lot of touches on the ball, play a lot of possession to learn our teammates’ tendencies and preferences, and do a fair amount of fitness work.

The other part of the first week is a little off-field prep work we have to get out of the way before the season starts. Because of that, I found myself at West Sound Orthopaedic yesterday, taking the ImPACT concussion test and getting a pretty thorough physical exam.

My results are about what I expected: My brain is fine, but my body is broken. It makes sense when you think about it; any player is bound to be hurt if he is crazy enough to throw himself in front of a speeding soccer ball, as goalkeepers do, instead of getting out of the way. The only remaining question is: How did I score so well on the concussion test?

Anyway, after a lot of poking and prodding from the doctors, I was cleared to play this season.

This upcoming week sees us training four times and playing two games against a couple of premier men’s teams. We play Thurston County on Wednesday and Bellingham United on Saturday, both on the road.

It’s been a good first week, but we can’t wait to get on the field in May.

 

As always, comments, feedback, questions, and anything else you want to provide in the comments section are welcome. Ask away; I’ll do my best to answer. Also, follow me on Twitter and check out my blog.

Bird’s Blog: Welcome to a new season

I’m excited to get the new season started. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

My name is Liviu Bird.

I’m a soccer player and journalism student. I grew up playing youth soccer in Fairbanks, Alaska. I played for the Alaska Northstars select team and Alaska Olympic Development Program 1990 team before moving to Seattle, Wash. for college. I played for two years at Highline Community College before transferring to Seattle Pacific University, from where I will be graduating in June.

I have played in the Premier Development League, and I have traveled to Europe with select teams of out-of-contract professionals three times. I trained with the Pumas in 2009, during the team’s first year, and I played on the reserve team in 2010. Last year, I played for the North Sound SeaWolves in Everett.

I’m also a writer. I plan on giving the professional soccer scene a shot before settling into a full-time writing gig somewhere. If you’re interested in reading more of my stuff, check out my blog. I also cover the Sounders for Prost Amerika, and I’m doing a sportswriting internship with the Bleacher Report from now until June.

Basically, I’m here for the fans. I’ll be here to give you an inside look at what we do on a daily basis with the Pumas. Game day is one thing, but our work goes far beyond that, as I’m sure you’re aware. I hope to be able to post at least once a week here.

Before I forget, I’d like to thank Jeff Graham, the hard-working Pumas beat writer for the Kitsap Sun, for letting me join him on the blog. Look out for a story from him in the next few days officially announcing who has signed for the club.

We start training on Monday, so you can expect stuff to start trickling into the blog next week. Until then, here’s how you can help me out: What do you want to know? Do you have any questions for me, other players, the coaching staff, or anybody else about anything? Leave a comment down below — if I get enough questions, I might have one weekly “mailbag” post, where I just answer reader questions.

For more of an insight into me, you can check out my writing all over the internet, or you can follow me on Twitter. I’m looking forward to a good season of soccer in Kitsap County, and I hope you’re as excited as I am.