Scoring helps build confidence
AFTER two weeks of training, the games have finally arrived. Everyone has been looking forward to these matches to break up the monotony of training against one another. It's a great opportunity for us to show what we can bring to the team before leaving for Germany.
In the first game against Morocco, signs of physical and mental fatigue were apparent. Physically, our bodies were still recovering from the previous two weeks of hard training, which was to be expected, but mentally we should always be in the game.
Though we controlled most of the game, it was a mental lapse at the end that ultimately cost us this match. I believe our deep desire to obtain a win caused us to throw caution to the wind at the end. We continued to push forward trying to gain a win for the fans and ourselves. If the game had not been a friendly it probably would have ended scoreless.
Personally, I was glad to get on the field, even if it was for 10 minutes. My legs were fresh and I was itching to play, which would make it harder for tired defenders to defend me. I entered the game looking to make a difference. Having watched the entire first half I felt I had an advantage over their defense. I had observed Brian McBride and made note of what worked and what didn't.
In the second game against Venezuela, coach Bruce Arena challenged us to come out and have a better performance. He wanted us to be more aggressive and to put more crosses into the box. With nine new starters and a few days longer to get our legs back, we came out and responded to the challenge. We took control of the game from the start and capitalized on our chances.
Again, for me personally it was a good game. At the beginning I was a little anxious and had to tell myself to settle down. Once that happened I focused on the things that I was good at, holding the ball up and bringing other players into the attack, making good runs in the box, and finishing my chances. It was good to score a goal and increase the competition at the forward spot. Scoring a goal always increases confidence and will help me as we get closer to our big day June 12.
Playing two games close together really made the differences between a win and a loss apparent. Following a loss heads are down and few words are spoken -- in contrast to a win, after which smiles are everywhere and all you hear is chatter and laughter.
The results of a game really have an effect on practices over the next couple of days. Practice is often tense following a loss and much more upbeat after a win.
One of the hardest things to accept is an injury. Unfortunately, we were brutally reminded of this after our first game. Cory Gibbs, a smart and athletic defender, suffered a knee injury and was forced to withdraw from the roster and have surgery. Everyone on the team was devastated, but none more than Cory. My empathy goes out to him because I have been there.
Though this is far from the same scale, watching the San Jose Earthquakes win the 2003 MLS championship from the sideline was one of the most difficult things I ever had to do as a player.
Kamehameha graduate Brian Ching will represent the U.S. in the upcoming World Cup