Here is a quick recap of the game against Ecuador including my “commute” to San Juan, Argentina along with the usual pre and post-match behind the scenes stuff. Hopefully, some info and pics below are useful for future USYNT generations. Otherwise, if you are the casual reader, try to enjoy the content.
Dallas to Buenos Aires
My flight left Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International airport at 9:20 PM on Thursday, May 18 (Match Day – 2). For an international trip, I normally like to leave at least three days before match day but it was impossible this time. It was a 10 hour direct flight to Buenos Aires; I arrived around 11:20 AM local time (2 hours ahead of Dallas). As we landed, my T-Mobile device took forever to receive a signal and I was beginning to panic. We rely so much on those mobiles and the trip to San Juan was going to be a long one without a working phone. As I made my way to customs, my phone service was restored. At last, panic mode was turned OFF.
Buenos Aires to San Luis
I quickly proceeded to the rental car counter (where I also exchanged currency -1 US dollar is approximately 460 pesos). By 12:30 PM, I was out of the airport driving to the province of San Juan. Due to the length of the trip (1118 Kms -~800 miles), it consisted of two parts. When I left, I honestly didn’t know how long the first leg was going to be…always love the adventure especially when I’m traveling by myself.
San Juan is about 14 hours away from Buenos Aires since 90% of the trip consists of one lane roads with very low speed limits (100 – 120 Km/hr). The first leg was a very dull drive of about 10 hours from Buenos Aires to San Luis (a different province/state) crossing 3 provinces (Buenos Aires, Cordoba, and San Luis) in the process. It rained (sometimes poured) for at least 8 out of the 10.5 trip hours. Leg two of the trip crossed two additional provinces (Mendoza and San Juan). FYI Argentina has 23 provinces/states.
San Luis to San Juan
I spent the night in San Luis and the next morning, I left to San Juan around 6:15 AM for the last 3.5 hours of my trek. It was a bit of a treacherous drive as the first two hours were up in the cooler and foggy mountains, early in the morning (no coffee) and more one lane roads.
As in any tournament, the most important game is the first one. The team knew it and they were mentally prepared for it. Ecuador is a solid team with excellent individual talent and speed at every position; however, they sometimes lack cohesion and discipline in the last third. To be fair, the roster they took to the South American qualifiers was a tad different than this group for the world cup. It was imperative that we won possession in the midlfield.
I arrived at San Juan’s AirBnb around 10:30 AM, took a quick shower and went straight to see Jogo at their hotel. It was 12:15 PM (game was at 3 PM) when I was picking up my ticket to the game from the front lobby and I used the opportunity to wish him well and possibly calm any nerves.
It was reassuring that he was perfectly mellow about his potential WC debut. He had known that he could be playing in a different role for a few days, practiced accordingly and was tactically ready.
As I was leaving the hotel, I said farewell to a few of the players as they were making their way to the bus. It was very moving (and emotional for me) to see how the non-coaching staff one by one lined up from the hotel exit all the way to the bus entrance, to high-five and wish each team member a heart-felt, encouraging farewell. The majority of the non-coaching staff rides separately from the players and coaching staff. This was another sign of the family environment that Mikey has created with this team in his short term as the coach. As I made my way to the car, I was hesitant to return to the AirBnb to rest a bit fearing that I’d fall asleep through the game since I was so tired so I made my way to the stadium instead.
I arrived at the stadium where I sat in the US section. Our section was pretty much empty except for one additional player family, the rest of the non-coaching staff, and two players who could not participate in the first match. Given the excitement, I really didn’t take any pre-match pictures until after the match.
The beauty of this game is that we all can have a different view point and that’s okay; thus much analysis is not needed as most of you witnessed what transpired. I’ll venture to say that we dominated the first 20 minutes or so and then Ecuador settled in and finished the half stronger than we did. Jogo had a good challenge with Nilson Angulo (#10) and I am glad they faced each other for their own development needs. It won’t be the last time they face each other. Did you all catch #19? He’s a 2007 born!!!
Ecuador played a better second half with the crowd behind them all the time; fortunately, they never presented a real threat to our GK. The temperature was not extremely high; however, the sunlight hits differently here in San Juan. Our boys seemed a bit tired and the Ecuadorian players, accustomed to that climate, had the momentum especially in the last quarter of the game. Our subs came in, adjusted well, provided a much needed energy spark and they certainly made a difference. At last, we had won the first game of the 2023 U20 WC.
I only saw Jogo for a brief moment after the game. Ironically, when he tried to approach me near the sturdy fence separating fans from players, the same fans who were strongly rooting against the US throughout the game were the same ones trying to fetch a jersey, selfie or even an autograph from the US players. In the end, I was glad we did manage to snap this selfie below.
I stayed after our game to watch the double-header game between group rivals Fiji and Slovakia. It was good to scout the level of the competition our team will be facing today. On Friday, the second header game after our match with Slovakia will be sold out as Argentina will be playing against New Zealand. It should be a good one to watch.
It was a hostile environment where 95% of the 14k in attendance were naturally rooting for Ecuador. Our boys were mentally prepared and had an importantly good first showing; they know that the task at hand will should become more and more challenging.
As they continue their journey in this tournament, please remember that no matter what happens in the next games, these boys are giving their best for themselves, their teammates, their families, their communities, their clubs, you fans, and last but not least, their country. At the end of the day, this is a game, the beautiful game. Let’s keep it that way. The outcome of a football match (tournament) does not define us as individuals and much less as a country, nor should it define their careers. After each world cup game, Jogo will still be buddies with players from Ecuador, France, Slovakia, or whoever they play in the competition. As fans, we need to understand that there will be good games and not so good ones, that’s football and we can’t do anything to change that dynamic. However, how we react to their performance is within our control. Let’s not become the type of fans who use the outcome of a match as a justification for questionable behavior (ex. Valencia vs Real Madrid, El Salvador) physically or online. We owe it to the betterment of the game in this country to act responsibly.
That said, thank you for the tremendous outpouring of love and support received in the past couple of days. It will never be forgotten but we must keep a leveled head there as well. It was a great first win but there are far greater challenges lying ahead. Only few will probably know that, unfortunately, in this ephemeral, competitive profession, the good days are hard to come for a footballer. As I share that with you, please be sure to reach out to all US players (especially those abroad away from their families), when things may not be going well during their seasons. I’m sure they will appreciate hearing your unwavering support during challenging times as well. In the process, you will be contributing not only to their mental well-being but also to the betterment of the sport in this country. Every bit makes a difference in the life of a footballer. As you know, the summer will have a few important competitions for the USMNT; start reaching out to some of those players now if you can with words of encouragement.
As I wrap this post up, I’m heading to the second game against Fiji. They will feel your support from afar and the other two families and myself will do our best to permeate the good vibes onto the field. As always, thanks for reading. Let’s go boys!!! #theGomezway
PS Before I head into the stadium, I will stop by the Red Bull Skateboarding Tour Event taking place in San Juan, Argentina. This event is a qualifier for next year’s Olympics in Paris. Football does take you to unexpected places and events sometimes. I am so grateful to the sport…
Yesterday marked three weeks since Jogo played his second USMNT game and his first 90. We are grateful for the opportunity; it was truly a blessing and an honor. That moment will occupy a very special place in our hearts as a family (and definitely for young Jogo). Documenting moments like these often helps relive them in the future when details become blurry..it also could be informational and motivational for others.
Note: In the following paragraphs, we hope to provide some behind the scenes transparency (mostly the arrival and departure journey for Jogo) without revealing potential sensitive information about the federation, their protocols or other players. On the other hand, it’s inevitable to neglect sharing details about the short amount of time that most players have together before they are expected to perform at a high level. Maybe it will set expectations for fans, friends and family members, and future USMNT players. None of that should be secret anyway. Here is a summary of how things transpired for Jogo…
League game prior to trip
While most January USMNT players had arrived to camp on Friday January 20th, Real Sociedad (RS) requested Jogo to stay in Spain for a Sunday, January 22nd, noon game despite the fact that he was not partaking in the game. Why you may ask? Two main reasons. The first is that he had sustained an injury/knock during the previous week’s derby against Amorabieta and he needed to rest in preparation for camp. The RS doctors wanted to monitor his progress for as long as possible while in Spain. The Amorabieta game, where he sustained the injury, was a rollercoaster of emotions.
Check out the highlights below; Jogo scored a goal and almost had two assists. However, shortly after his goal got called back, he sustained a non-contact re-injury due to the field conditions forcing him to sub out at halftime.
Despite the fact that Jogo would not play against Intercity on Sunday, the club informed the US federation that he would arrive Monday, January 23rd, morning (Match Day – 2 days) to camp in LA. The second reason for needing his presence for the Sunday league game was to fulfill one critical task the club delegated to Jogo. See, up to that point, he had accumulated four yellow cards in the season and a fifth yellow card would make him miss the next game. His mission, -which he was “strongly advised to accept“- was to earn a fifth yellow card from the bench in order to miss the next game that he was going to miss anyway due to USMNT camp.
Therefore, Jogo dressed up that game against InterCity with the sole purpose of earning a fifth yellow card to miss the next game against Rafa Márquez’s (and now Julian Araujo’s) Barcelona B. At halftime, Jogo figured out a clever way to earn a yellow card and voilá, he had accumulated his fifth yellow card of the season and now, he would serve his suspension game during USMNT camp.
San Sebastián to Los Angeles trip
At the conclusion of the Intercity game (around 2 PM San Sebastián’s time) where he *proudly* earned his fifth yellow card, Jogo showered -sweated his rear off earning that yellow- and within minutes he was transported along with his luggage from the RS’s facilities to Bilbao’s airport.
San Sebastián to Bilbao
The drive from San Sebastián to Bilbao is about an hour and on a late Sunday afternoon, there was hardly any traffic. Jogo reached the airport around 4 PM (One hour total trip time so far, Six hours since he left home).
Bilbao to Amsterdam
He showed his passport without any complications (more on this later), checked in his luggage, and off he went for his three leg, 27 hour journey to USMNT camp in Los Angeles. He was boarding a small plane around 4:30 PM for a 5:20 PM flight that would take him to Amsterdam. He then arrived in Amsterdam around 7:35 PM (Four and a half hours total trip time so far).
Amsterdam to Mexico City
In Amsterdam, he had a two hour layover. Around 9:44 PM, he was onboard the plane that would take him to Mexico City.
He arrived to Mexico City at 4 AM CT (11 AM San Sebastián’s time) on Monday morning. There, he met mom and his uncle to receive some important documentation. (20 hours total trip time, 25 hours total trip time since he left home).
Mexico City to Los Angeles
After the necessary family pictures, Jogo had a three hour layover before he embarked on the last leg of his trip to LA. Prior to that, he had a very nice Mexican meal at the airport accompanied by mom. After a 5 hour flight, he finally arrived to LA at 10 AM PST. (28 hours total trip time)
First training session (MD#1 -2: Monday)
Jogo was picked up at 10:30 AM PST and transported to the training facility. He arrived, dressed up, performed activation with the group for 30 minutes and then had a light 45 minute session separate from the team. His integration with team members took place after training. Kellyn, as usual, welcomed him with open arms. Similarly, Zendejas, talked to him about the previous time they trained together (Mexican National Team camp). The convo turned very funny and the DTID connection prevailed with them as well as Jesus and Paul.
Second training session (MD#1 -1: Tuesday)
The second training session was a short one too by design since it was “Match Day -1”. Jogo was extremely jet-lagged but integrated well and was very happy to meet up with his U20 teammates again.
He learned that he would be playing (and starting) against Serbia on match day. We could tell it was unexpected and he was anxious. Honestly, what exacerbated the situation is that we all thought he wouldn’t play Wednesday and as a result his family wasn’t going to be around for the game. See, I assumed he wouldn’t be seeing any minutes against Serbia due to his recent arrival but that was not the case. I believe that part of the reason for playing the Serbia roster is because some of those players were in-season and Serbia, in theory, was a lower ranked opponent so it made sense.
US vs Serbia (Wednesday)
We would like to assume that most readers of this post watched the game so there’s not much to add. The game had its moments but at least initially, it was obvious that most players had not played together ever (or for a long time) and the lack of chemistry showed at times. Jogo himself grew into the game and went the full 90. Honestly, at one point, it seemed like Serbia would end up losing by a few goals but that’s why the game is played.
US vs Colombia (Saturday)
We learned that RS suggested USMNT staff to have Jogo sit this one out which was an easy decision due to rotations. RS was not expecting to see Jogo play in the first game and much less go the distance against Serbia. Easy decision, everybody’s happy.
We had booked tickets already for Saturday’s game so we took this opportunity to go watch a game full of passionate Colombian fans knowing that Jogo wouldn’t be participating. At the game, we met up a lot of people whom we had not seen in a long time. It was also good to return to the same stadium where Jogo had made his USMNT debut against Bosnia-Herzegovina 13 months earlier. The game itself was very winnable with both sides having opportunities with US probably having more and clearer chances. In the end, the draw was probably a fair outcome and the atmosphere was very good. At the end of the match, we were able to snap some pictures with Jogo and some of his teammates.
Trip back to Spain
Jogo left the hotel on Sunday along with Paxten and the FC Dallas players (Jesus, Paxton, and Paul). They all ended up traveling together to Europe (Frankfurt) and then to Spain (minus Paxten). FC Dallas was doing pre-season in beautiful Marbella, Spain.
The return trip was a bit shorter due to the two leg trip (and of course the rotation of the earth). Jogo and the crew departed LA on Sunday at around 3:30 PM PST, arrived to Frankfurt around 10:30 AM Monday morning (12 hours approx.) local time. Ultimately he reached RS’s training grounds (to pick up his car) at 7:30 PM (21 hours total). He was home by 8 PM with enough time to get ready for an early training session on Tuesday.
At the writing of this publication, his knock has improved slightly. He still has inflammation but is able to play consistently on it. Doctors say that inflammation will eventually go away. At this point, I think he’s about 85% – 90% back. We’ll keep sending him good vibes for a full recovery. Thanks to those who have reached out to check up on him. Below is a clip of a highlight from last week’s game (after he returned from camp). You can find these videos in our YouTube platform or Instagram.
What is next for Jogo is his club obligations. We are hoping he stays healthy and continues playing consistent good minutes in order to be considered for future National Team activities. For now, onto the next practice. #theGomezway
Well, 2022 is now history so it’s time to recap the last 365 days…2022 started with the Omicron variant spreading rapidly worldwide; fortunately, a higher global vaccination rate helped combat its widespread. As a result, the death toll decreased dramatically from its predecessor the Delta variant. Optimism was rampant but measured.
Just like 2021; last year was a very tumultuous year from various view points: political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological to name a few; there is always the silver lining and we are grateful for the many lessons learned. Our family was blessed in many ways but not without overcoming some anomalies. Celebrating success is a must. Reminiscing about last year’s events is a reminder to seize the day (carpe diem).
Claudia and Joana accompanied Jogo a few days to San Sebastian, Spain for his permanent move. His football registration with La Liga was delayed significantly but al last, he was allowed to play. He made his debut with Sanse in a friendly a few days later.
On January 15th, a few miles from where we live, a 44 year-old British gunman Malik Faisal Akram, took 4 people hostage in a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. Rabii Charlie Cytron-Walker, a regular teacher at Fort Worth Christian School (where Joana goes to school), was one of the four hostages. The Rabii threw a chair at the gunman and the other two hostages escaped. At the end of the ordeal, all the hostages ended up safe and the gunman dead.
On January 6th, Novak Djokovik was denied entry to Australia by the government after having acquired a vaccination exemption. The denial was supposed to cause him his participation in the Australian Open. In a turn of events, on January 10th, a judge reversed the order allowing him to enter Australia and participate; however, in a logical application of Australian vaccination laws, Djokovik ultimately not only was prevented from participating in the Australian Open but also deported from Australia.
On January 30th, against all odds (see my post from 2021), Rafa Nadal became the first man to win 21 Grand Slam titles by overcoming a two set deficit against Russian Medvedev in an epic 2022 Australian Open final.
On February 14th, Jogo decided to give us the best Valentine’s present ever…his debut in Europe in La Liga 2 against Ponferradina. In a hard-fought game that was lost in the last second, Jogo draws the PK that leveled the score 1-1. Boy did I love that maroon uniform. We now have a few of those jerseys if you are interested, reach out.
Normally under the global category but given February’s global events, this will remain in the National category. On February 13th, the LA Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 23-20 in Super bowl LVI (56th). Tampa Bay native and Highland Park HS attendee Matthew Stafford, won his first super bowl with the help of 42 year old, Andrew Whitworth. This is the second time that a super bowl (2021 was the first one) team plays in their home stadium.
To me, the best part of the game was the halftime show featuring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, and Eminem. If not the best, it’s top 3 performance in all the years I have been watching the game.
On February 24th, Russia launches an invasion on Ukraine. and everything else that followed had a tremendous global social, political and economic impact. More importantly, it is very hard to put into words the number of lives that were lost. As of the writing of this post, the war continues…
Two notable events took place in March. First, while I was visiting Jogo, he started training with the first team and even made the trip to Mallorca where he met up with fellow American Matthew Hoppe. Although he didn’t get to play, his inclusion to the first team was noteworthy. To his dismay, he was assigned #39 (not #42).
Mom made it out to Germany (by herself) to visit Johan for the first time. She spent about a month with the oldest sibling while Joana and myself managed to survive back home. All good. During that time, she found time to visit Jogo in Spain as well.
On March 10th, the MLB stopped its strike no longer jeopardizing the 2022 season. All the games were played; however, the start of the season was delayed by one week. The Houston Astros would go on to win the world series once again.
On March 5th, in an embarrassing display of the most violent emotions that football can elicit, Mexican fans drew attention to the Liga Mx game between Queretaro and Atlas. In the 62nd minute of the game, the referee decided to stop the game due to a continuous engagement between fans of both clubs. The violent exchange would go on for hours in what some would define as the worst day of Mexican football history. Beware, the below video shows very graphic actions that took place on the pitch. Outside of the pitch violence escalated to unprecedented levels.
On April 4th, the NCAA March Madness tournament came to an end. Like in 2021, a big XII team came on top. The top ranked Kansas Jayhawks rallied from a 15-point deficit to defeat the 8th-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels 72–69 in the national championship game. This was the 4th championship for the Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team.
On April 30th, in a home game Real Madrid won a record 35th La Liga title, following a 4–0 victory over Espanyol. Coach Carlo Ancelotti became the first coach to win titles in all of Europe’s top five leagues. Real Madrid would go on to also win its 14th Champions League in the same season.
May was an emotional roller coaster for our family. There were some great events that took place and other lessons that we learned the hard way…
On one hand, Sanse was relegated to the 3rd division and unfortunately Jogo was unable to help the team since he was nursing an injury for several weeks. Bragging aside, his team had a very solid numbers every time he started and/or played. That definitely didn’t go unnoticed by the staff.
On the bright side of things, Johan came home after his first successful season in Germany. Being the second youngest on the team, he finished the season as the team’s second leading goal scorer despite playing out of position half of the time. In his last game of the season, he assisted twice to finish the season strongly.
On a more academic note, after many years of sacrifices, my sister received her PhD in Spanish Linguistics from the University of Houston. Claudia and myself accompanied her in this special day. We could not be any prouder and happier for her academic achievement.
Continuing with a unfortunate tradition of school gun violence, on May 24, in Uvalde Texas (a small town west of San Antonio, Texas), teenager Salvador Ramos opened fire killing nineteen elementary students and two teachers. The former student of Robb Elementary also wounded seventeen others making the mass shooting the deadliest in Texas history.
Academic accolades are always celebrated in our family especially in Jogo’s situation. After receiving a Christian education for over 10 years, we came to terms with having him finish his last three years of high school online when he moved to Louisville. It was a blessing in disguise as the pandemic hit shortly after forcing everyone to adapt to the virtual classroom which Jogo had already started three months prior. He finished his HS years while living in Spain making it challenging to attend live sessions while seven hours ahead. He somehow made it work.
In June, Jogo finished his high school years with honors and due to this event and the injury he sustained in Spain in May, he could not attend the CONCACAF U20 Qualifying that took place in Honduras. The US team ultimately won the championship game defeating Costa Rica by a score of 3-1. Meanwhile, in a surprising turn of events at this level, Mexico was unable to advance to the semifinals missing out on the 2023 U20 WC and the 2024 Olympics.
On June 16th, in the sixth game of the NBA finals, the Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics. The Western Conference Champions won their fourth championship (7th overall) in the last eight years. As most would expect, Steph Curry was named MVP of the finals. He was, once again, unstoppable.
2021 had marked what some of us had considered the end of Rafael Nadal era in major tennis tournaments. He had lost at the 2021 French Open for the first time. Then, in January 2021 (see above), he won the Australian open becoming the winningest Gran Slam male tennis player ever (21 major titles).
Then on June 5th, at 36 years of age, Nadal with his chronic aching body, yet again, managed to win the French Open for a record 14th time. In a dominant performance in three sets (6-3, 6-3, and 6-0), he defeated Norway’s Casper Ruud to solidify his “King of Clay” status. In doing so, he reached his 22nd major titles separating himself from Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic who were currently at 20 major titles.
Jogo played several pre-season games with Real Sociedad first team. On July 16 he played at Real Arena against Toulousse (where he played against former USL colleague: ), a week later on July 23rd (as a birthday 21st gift to his brother), he played in Germany against Joe Scally’s Mönchengladbach and had a direct impact on the only Txuri Urdi goal of the game.
Can’t remember what happened here of national relevance…
On July 10th, 35 year old Serbian Novak Djokovic won his 7th Wimbledon title and 21st grand slam overall. He continues to be one short of 36 year old Rafael Nadal’s overall grand slam record. 2023 should likely see the end of one of their careers unfortunately.
Jogo continued part-taking in playing pre-season games with RS first team. On August 5th, they played against Athletic Bilbao and he was fortunate enough to mark Iñaki Williams (Ghana’s National Team forward) and Qatar WC participant.
Joana, our daughter started her freshman year of high school…and with that other events are currently taking place (ex. driving permit, etc.). Embrace yourselves folks. On the bright side, we are now closer to retirement 🙂
For the life of me, I cannot think of a event of national relevance. I’m aging…
England’s Women’s Football team (aka Lionesses) won the Euro’s in a convincing fashion by defeating Spain (2-1), Sweden (4-0), and Germany (2-1) in the quarters, semis, and finals respectively. They had the support of the home fans and set the bar high for the men’s team.
Also on August 10, Champions League champion Real Madrid defeated Eintracht Frankfurt by a score of 2-0 to win the UEFA Super Cup adding another title to their trophy case.
Jogo is added to Real Sociedad’s A roster for the upcoming UEFA Europe league competition. He was part of several rosters but did not see any playing time…baby steps and we need to continue improving.
More importantly, in September 1st (Jogo’s birthday), Jogo’s twin cousin was born. Lucca Maldonado was born and yet as of the writing of this post, Jogo has not met him yet…
September was a memorable month for the world of tennis. On September 2nd, Serena Williams played her last official career match at the US Open. She lost to Ajla Tomljanović in 3 sets. Tomljanović after the match said, “I’m feeling really sorry, just because I love Serena just as much as you guys do”
Three days later and despite having a great start in the US Open, Rafa Nadal was ousted, on September 5th, in the 4th round by American Frances Tiafoe in 4 sets . His 23rd major title will have to wait.
10 days later, on September 15th, Roger Federer unexpectedly announced his retirement after having dropped out of the top 50 ranking for the first time in his career.
On September 8th, Queen Elizabeth II dies at 96 years old. She was fortunate enough to have live through all World Cups (at the writing of this); however, she will have missed the Qatar WC when this post is finally published.
Jogo traveled with Real Sociedad to a few league games (October 19th -Mallorca, October 22nd -Valladolid) and UEFA games (October 27th -Omonia) but his debut was put on hold. The carrot continues to be flashed off and on…and our work needs to continue.
On October 2nd, Sergio Pérez won the Singapore Grand Prix. He was starting to position himself second (just behind his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen) in the 2022 Drivers Standings. In the following race, in Japan, Max ended up winning the 2022 Formula 1 World Championship and in the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, the Red Bull team won it. Pérez finished the season with 305 points, with 2 wins, 1 pole position, 11 podiums and 3 fastest laps, his best season in Formula 1 yet.
On October 21, French footballer Karim Benzema received 89 out of 93 possible votes and finally won the Ballon d’Or for the first time in his career. He played an instrumental role in helping Real Madrid win the 2021-2022 La Liga, the 2021-2022 UEFA Champions League and the 2020-2021 UEFA Nations League with France.
On November 6th, Johan scored his third brace since he joined FSV Zwickau. The first goal came via a PK and the second goal is below. FSV Zwickau went on to defeat Joe Enoch’s former club Osnabruck at home by a score of 4-3.
On November 5th, the Houston Astros won the MLB World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies in a best of seven series. The American League Champions (Astros) defeated the National League Phillies in six games. The 118th series was notable for having the first World Series no-hitter since the 1956 World Series perfect game. Astro’s pitchers Cristian Javier, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero, and Ryan Pressly achieved a combined no-hitter in game-4. It was only the third no-hitter in MLB history. Personally, we were happy to see hall of famer, ex-Dodger outfielder Dusty Baker win his first World Series at 73 years of age.
On the same day, LAFC won the MLS Cup over the Philadelphia Union in an unforgettable and very dramatic come from behind game for LAFC. The championship game lived up to the hype and went to kicks from the spot thanks to a last minute 2nd overtime goal by Wales star Gareth Bale. LAFC would prevail in PKs before their home crowd. November 5th will go down in history as one of the worse days in Philadelphia’s sports history.
On November 20, the FIFA Qatar World Cup was inaugurated. In its 22nd edition and played for the first time in the November-December timeframe, the host nation played Ecuador to a 0-2 scoreline. Qatar, became the first nation to lose their inaugural match. In fact, they lost all three matches to Ecuador, Senegal, and Netherlands.
From a football perspective, December was a very exciting month for fans; most of the knockout WC games with record-breaking goals scored, took place in the first two weeks. Similarly, many other records were established in this WC. For example, the Qatar WC marked the first time an all-women referee crew officiated a WC game. There were many other records broken which made the games very memorable.
Both boys came home to spend Christmas with us for the second consecutive year. Even though, it was a short-lived visit, it was a blessing to have them with us. They headed back to their respective clubs for New Years and we hope they have very healthy and successful 2023 years respectively.
…oh and btw, Johan scored this beauty in a friendly.
On December 3rd, Netherlands eliminated the USMNT from the Qatar World Cup by a score of 3-1. Some US fans thought Louis Van Gaal gave Gregg a tactical masterclass and the game got out of hand early. Despite the loss, the USMNT was the best CONCACAF team in the tournament and left a good impression that accompanied with a lot of work, could turn into something special when the 2026 WC is hosted in Canada, Mexico, and the US.
Mexico continued its football decadence at the different national team levels: U20, U23, WNT, MNT, etc. The silver lining will be that Mexico beat the only team who defeated Argentina and only lost to the eventual World Cup Champion.
On December 17th, in one of the most dramatic FIFA WC finals, Argentina prevailed over France in a PK shoot-out and won its third (1978, 1986, and 2022) WC title. Messi, likely playing his last WC, was finally able to not only capture the MVP accolade but also the only trophy that had eluded him in his career.
Unfortunately, December, like last year’s when ex-NFL Hall of Fame coach John Madden passed away, once again brought us some notable deaths at the global stage:
Pele – December 29th
Pope Benedict XVI – December 31st
This year will be a year where I will personally focus a lot on my well-being. Tough decisions will be made but an overall focus shift will be made. On the children’s side, I am looking forward how their football journeys continue to develop. We as parents are more interested in seeing how they continue to develop good members of society and the legacy they leave behind.
2023 promises to be a year of new faces emerging as Nadal and Djokovic relinquish their long-time dominance of the sport. I am particularly interested in seeing whether Novak Djokovic can win a record-tying 22nd grand slam.
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Now that international borders are pretty much open, I decided to pay Jogo a visit in Spain. It was a trip that had been in the works ever since Claudia and Joana returned from dropping Jogo off about seven weeks ago. They spoke highly of the Donostia-San Sebastián (from here on out, referred to DSB -for short) attractions so I had to come and experience it for myself.
For those of you who have inquired about the possibility of visiting Jogo, you may find this post useful or it may totally dissuade you from visiting him due to the logistics involved. Either way, it contains some relevant (somewhat detailed) travel information and some caveats. It’s worth noting that now, more than ever, airline prices are very competitive and you can easily book a $500 round trip to DSB as long as you plan it well. Jogo will gladly welcome you with open arms (especially if you bring him goodies) and likely even give you tickets to one of his games while you are visiting. This is how the trip to DSB and my first week is going…
Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)
A week ago today, I left home in Keller at 2:20 PM CST for a 4:59 PM CST Delta flight to Atlanta, GA. For a Thursday afternoon, the TSA lines at DFW were busier than normal but I made it through security by 3:05 PM CST which worked well with my football agenda. I then found a quiet place to work for about 90 minutes while watching the Leipzig vs Real Sociedad Europa League game and once it finished (final score: 2-2), waited a few minutes to board the flight to Atlanta. Unfortunately, the bad weather in Atlanta delayed our take off until 6 PM CST. Could that be a sign of what was about to come my way? I mean, everything had been carefully planned out but God’s plans always prevail…
After a 90 minute flight, I landed in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport with plenty of time to spare due to an also delayed flight (things were not looking good already) to Amsterdam (more to come on the reason for the 2nd delay later) and although I had time to sit down to eat a full meal, I opted to just get a snack and work some more instead.
Our plane to Amsterdam finally took off around 11:10 PM CST (originally scheduled for 9:30 PM CST due to impending bad weather in the Netherlands) and off we went for 8 hours under very rainy Atlanta (not cold at all) conditions but at last, we were in the air.
The turbulence was crazy but that’s not the reason I didn’t sleep much during the flight. I even had the two available seats right next to me for extra space. The excitement of seeing Jogo perhaps was too much so I read, ate, and watched the second part of “A Quiet Place” for the second time.
Amsterdam is one of the many choices for a layover in Europe; others options are London, Madrid, Frankfurt, Paris, etc. To be honest, Amsterdam was a bit of a handful this time and I may not stop there in the near future.
We landed in Amsterdam around 1:30 PM local time (6:30 AM CST) and my next flight was on time and scheduled to depart at 2:25 PM local time (7:25 AM CST). As soon as I disembarked, I rushed to the other side of the airport, dashed through customs and made my way to the B terminal in about 30 minutes. All of this took place while the airport’s PA system was continuously announcing that all airport activities would be suspended for the day after 2 PM local time (7 AM CST) due to high wind tropical storm Eunice. Departing at 2:25 PM (7:25 AM CST) was very unlikely due to the announcements but at last, by the grace of God, they let us depart. We were literally the last plane allowed to take off out of Amsterdam and off we went to Bilbao…
It is worth noting that last time I visited DSB back in July with the family, we had a layover in Paris and that worked out well despite the spike in summer travel. Maybe I’ll try it again next time. Similarly, last month, when Claudia came over to accompany Jogo, their layover was in Frankfurt without any delays. Ironically, by making a Frankfurt stop, she was closer to Zwickau (Johan) than she was to DSB. She will be making a Germany trip to see Johan very shortly as well.
We landed at 4:58 PM local time (9:58 AM CST), and everything appeared okay initially until I was informed that the US is considered a high risk country so they had me take a COVID test upon arrival (I showed them all proper documentation of my 3 doses ). Fortunately, the test result was negative but we now had just added an additional 45 minutes to my already long trip. Honestly, I am unsure what the protocol would have been had I tested positive.
Once released from the airport’s COVID testing center, I quickly headed to the luggage carrousel to pick up my checked-in luggage. Unfortunately, I found a static conveyor belt with only one bag similar to mine, it had to be mine, right?…well, it wasn’t and a lot of thoughts crossed my mind. Ultimately, I knew the situation in Amsterdam was very critical and was very certain that my luggage had been left behind there due to the narrow time window and more so, inclement weather.
I then proceeded to the KLM customer service counter at the airport and sure enough, they were waiting for me with very specific instructions to receive my luggage. I then filled out some paperwork, submitted a claim (with Jogo’s DSB new home address) and was informed that I would have my luggage within 24 hours. They weren’t kidding. I got it the next day in DSB.
Luggage-less, I then made my way to the small Bilbao airport’s public transportation area. There’s no Uber in the city so my transportation choices were limited: finding my own private ride, or public transportation (a bus/taxi) to DSB. It’s about a 100 km ride to DSB’s bus station and a pleasant ride. The bus is a greyhound style type of bus whose cost is about €17 with plenty of room even if you are traveling with big suitcases.
It was a no brainer, since I only had my backpack to carry, I opted to take the bus. To purchase a ticket for it, there’s a kiosk outside of the airport but a debit/credit card is needed (caveat: you will need your card PIN to complete the transaction). Since I didn’t know my CC pin, I ended up paying cash to the bus driver. Make sure you don’t have large denomination bills (ex. > 50) to pay for your ticket as change may not be readily available. During the ticket purchasing ordeal, I saw the “bad guys” transportation parked outside the airport which was a little puzzling. Players fly but the bus still makes the trip? Interesting concept.
Donostia-San Sebastián (DSB)
I finally arrived to DSB’s bus station of the paradisiac area on Friday evening 8:30 PM local time (1:30 PM CST). I did not get to see the sunset since it was dark already but here is what I was able to witness the next few mornings. It’s breath-taking. From the DSB’s bus station to Jogo’s apartment, it’s a 30 minute walk which I was glad to embark on since I’d been sitting down for so long. Plus, I needed the Fitbit steps.
Jogo’s first game
The next day, Jogo got me a ticket to watch his game; it was very exciting to watch it live. Entertaining match for sure. It was Jogo’s home debut and I was able to watch him live which was my primary objective. He made the starting 11 so anything else didn’t matter at that point for me.
Much needed result by Sanse but we try not to emphasize results over journeys when our kids are part of the game. We have Twitter fans who provide plenty of expert football analysis. It was a great game for me to watch and the best welcome gift Jonathan could have ever given me. As some of you may know, watching the game live beats any other watching method as one is able to see the off the ball movement that cameras do not normally capture. Also, there are a lot of intangibles (ex. fans, weather, referee, etc.) that are not portrayed accurately on TV that ultimately impact the player and the game. Witnessing those live is priceless. In the end, Jogo had a hockey assist and a near goal-line save. It was the second time in the same week impacting the score line. Hopefully he can continue earning minutes this week.
Europa League knockout game
As I wrap up this post up, I am heading to watch the Europa League knockout match between RS and Lepzig at Reale Arena with Jogo. It will be the second time in the past three months that I will have watched Tyler Adams (if he plays). The previous time was against Neymar, Mbappe, etc. at Red Bull Arena in Lepizig for a Champions League match back in November.
My first time watching a Europa League game was a match between FC Porto vs Young Boys back in September of 2019 at Estádio do Dragāo. Porto beat Young Boys 2-1. Great football memories watching Tecatito et al with Johan.
Jogo’s next game
Sanse’s next game is in Oviedo. I am looking forward to this one as I will be riding the bus (6 hour drive) to get there. I’ll probably spend a couple of nights sight-seeing the Asturias area as well. For now, I leave you with some images of the DSB area. I highly recommend it. It’s a paradise down here and other countries (ex. France and Portugal) are very close as well to top it all off.
This week’s guest is Jogo’s good friend Kevin Paredes. He talks about his adaptation period, harder training in Germany so far, short and long term goals and somehow, I get mentioned in this episode too. Kevin also talks about things to fix in the US Soccer’s approach to recruiting players and closes out with his own definition of success and emphasizes the role his family has played in his journey. Give the Chums a listen, they are improving their content with each episode and best of all, it’s free. You will also enjoy the next two USMNT guests.
Thanks for the read and as always reach out with any questions, requests, etc. #theGomezway