Monday, June 30, 2014

Attending a World Cup - Things I have Learned

Things I have learned from Going to My First World Cup …

I have been a life-long soccer fan – as a player, coach, referee, fan, and as my favorite role – dad.  And I have tried to be a life-long student of all things I experience.  Therefore in an effort to burn off nervous energy before the US-Belgium game tomorrow, I offer what is probably a very lame attempt at “Things I Have Learned” by attending my first World Cup. 

Open Table does not cover many Sao Paulo Restaurants … if you are looking for a good Italian bite to eat you should just talk to Luis Suarez.

I love our brethren from the United Kingdom but I have never been around more nervous and pessimistic fans (except at an Oakland Raiders game) …

The Brazil fans are wonderful – five minutes before kick-off firecrackers (and probably gun shots and a few cannon shots) go off all over Sao Paulo – then the entire population of the city stops wherever they are and watch the game.  They have two objectives:  (1) they enjoy the game and (2) they support their team.

Whenever you start thinking “hey my son’s in the world cup” … you need a dose of the Beasley Family --- four World Cups and they are just totally chill.

My fatherly ship has sailed on World Cups … but if you find yourself in Russia with the Beslers … start putting in the distances and the intervals before showing up or Greg Besler is going to smoke you.

The Amazon Rainforest really is hot and humid … I mean really hot and humid. 

If you ever wonder what the best player on a field looks like – get to a game in person and watch Tim Howard --- UNBELIEVABLE. 

If you went to Brazil and thought your Two Year Old Basset Hound was going to be good while you were gone … then you would have been surprised when you got the following Viber text during the USA-Portugal Game:  “… several of our friends are on Google checking to see if eating 14 toothpicks is a problem for a Basset Hound.  Millie powered down a whole platter of sausages before kick-off.  Everyone is pretty upset because those sausages looked good.” 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Filling Downtime Between Games for USMNT Family Group

The USMNT is up in Salvador probably wrapping up training for Sunday.  Being winter in Brazil it gets dark pretty early – by 5pm the sun is starting to give way to evening.  The families will be heading up to Salvador on another one of their familiar bus rides to the airport and then plane rides to the new city and then bus rides to the hotel.  We’ll hope for less rain than what they dealt with in Recife.  Today I reflect on the Family Group and how enjoyable it has been to meet them all and to travel with them --- and --- to have some major down time at hotels across Brazil.  Here is the Family Group Traveler’s Guide to pass the downtime.

If you just wanted to hang out with the quintessential American Soccer Families – the Zusis and Beslers fit that bill.  They have the required hot soccer moms, athletic dads, attractive and active siblings and extended family.  They have been to tournaments for the past 20 years and have learned how to have fun in any extended downtime between games in unfamiliar places.

If you had the urge to go out and run 10 miles at some god-awfully-fast-pace … just find Greg Besler who is more than happy to run very fast for long distances in hot weather.  I will confess that while I ran each day – I was successful at avoiding his pace and distance.  I’m pretty sure David Zusi was not as fortunate as me in that regard.

If you just wanted to hang with cool people … then you would find the Beasleys.  DaMarcus is in his fourth World Cup – so this aint their first rodeo. 

If you were not sure what you wanted to do but you wanted to be fully entertained – the Jones family would be the right call.  Those kids are beyond cute – and then when you add in the daredevil factor – you have instant entertainment.

If you wanted to hang at the pool – the Davis girls would be your ambassadors. 

If you wanted to go to corner taverns around Sao Paulo and watch the games with the locals – Stephen and I would be your best bet. 

If you wanted women to flock to you (and you were not extraordinarily attractive) just grab Emersyn Wondo and carry her around – instant chick magnet.

If you found yourself stranded in the hotel due to flood waters and impassable streets and unable to get to a game – but wanting to make the best of the situation --- then you would have wanted to be with all of the USMNT Families because that is how they roll.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Pictures Continue on Twitter @jwondo

Reminder that pictures continue to be posted on twitter at @jwondo ... the USMNT Families continue to BELIEVE

A New Way of Looking at the USMNT Roster

Over the last month the USMNT Roster for the 2014 World Cup has been analyzed, re-analyzed, and then re-re-analyzed.  All of the ‘experts’ have weighed in with their opinion and many of those ‘experts’ saw no way that we would emerge from the “Group of Death” into the Round of 16.  I think I have a unique analysis that demonstrates how amazingly deep the US Talent Pool is … I am using an alphabetic lens for my ‘expert’ review.

When the coaches got together to pick the final roster they probably started with the players whose last name began with “A” and then “B” … and so on until they got to Zusi (which in just about every group will bring up the end of the alphabet).  I base this methodology on the one that was traditionally used in my schools for handing out report cards --- with the last name “Wondolowski” only Zimmerman was behind me.  It worked well for report cards so it would certainly work well for picking a World Cup team.

Well – by the time the coaches got past ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, and ‘D’ – they had already selected over half of the team (12 players).  That means after getting only 15% of the way through the alphabet 52% of the team had already been selected.  That shows tremendous depth in the Player Pool.  In fact – by the time the coaches got half-way through the alphabet they had already selected 19 of the 23 players – or 83% of the team.  Realizing that they needed to have some representation from the second half of the alphabet they quickly added Rimando, Wondolowski, Yedlin, and Zusi.

This type of analytical review is something that comes free with your subscription to this blog … you just can’t get this anywhere else people.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Family Group - Travels and Then Sao Paulo Sweet Sao Paulo

The round trip from Sao Paulo to Recife is about 2700 miles - probably best done by plane rather than walking or taking a cab.  The USMNT Family Group went on that journey - first leg on Wednesday and return leg on Thursday.  But a funny thing happened on the way to the most important game for the US this year - and possibly one of the most important in our history ... rain fell for a full day --- like major rain --- and the Family Group was stranded at their hotel and could not make it to the game because their busses could not get to the hotel.  This is a resilient group and of course they figured out the best way to handle the weather.  Then - after the game once the rain let up a little and the streets were only flooded by a foot or two - they got to the airport to get back to Sao Paulo.

The obvious reward (the advancement from the Group to the Knock-Out Stage) is a wonderful trade-off for what otherwise was not a perfect two days. 

The other reward was that today (Friday) the families were taken to the Sao Paulo Football Club Training grounds to watch a training session.  Then treated to a Brazilian BBQ with the team members.  Even though the players showered after training - there were plenty of players out with family members juggling, passing, and playing small goal games. 

The Belgium game in Salvador is another 2000 mile round trip journey - but the Family Group is battle tested and ready ... the team --- well I BELIEVE - these young men are as prepared and fit and ready as any team can be.  Who knows what will happen ... but only a fool would bet against this team.

Thanks to my brother Mike for being my correspondent embedded with the group after I returned to the real world ... and happy birthday to him as well.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Brazil Reflections

My exit from Brazil was a 2 hour drive to GRU (Sao Paulo) and then a 12 hour flight to LAX (Los Angeles) followed by jumping a one hour flight to Oakland. The drama behind this exit was that apparently upon exit from Brazil you need to conform with two requirements:  (1) you can not be a mule for illegal substances and (2) you must have consumed at least three caipirinha drinks.  I was detained for a while because while I had no illegal substances I had to admit that I only had part of one caipirinha.

The Caipirhinha is traditionally mixed with mulled lime, sugar, ice, and cachaca ... cachaca is the high-octane ingredient (some places simply substitute vodka). 

My handicap in Brazil is that I do not drink hard alcohol - I can do beer (ok I can really do beer) and I can do wine ... but even a cosmo has been known to knock me down.  My son Stephen tried to take on the caipirinha challenge in Manaus (he lost).  My entire 12 days ended with me only being able to claim 1/3 of one caipirinha. 

The semi-good news about exiting Brazil without having had your required share of caipirinhas is that they still let you out --- but they do all laugh at you when you leave.


THE MAN brought me back to the USA last night and I had meetings this afternoon.  After watching the game (with a bit more than anticipated screaming) I went to my meetings and then this afternoon swung by my local Safeway Store on the way home.  In this small town where I live there were (unofficially) 5 people wearing US Soccer shirts - you can call it a bandwagon but I call it pent up support. 


My older sister lives walking distance from the Chicago Grants Park watch party that ESPN likes to show.  I think she may wish she was there today as it was not raining or flooding in Chicago and she had no such luck in Recife.

My wife had 50+ people from her company (Alain Pinel Realtors shout out) at American Bull in Burlingame, CA to watch the USA make it to the knock out round of the final 16 this morning. 


That's it people - I am hoping that my friends from the US Team Family Group were able to make it out of Recife today to get back to Sao Paulo (and then prepare for another flight up the coast to Salvador in a couple of days.) 

Group of Death = Group of Life for USA

Not news - but WE MADE IT THROUGH!!!!!  For all of you have been in 4 team groups in tournaments you know that the goal is getting through to the next round (regardless of specific sport).  And our body of work - a good win, a tough tie, and an incredibly gutty 1 goal loss --- combine to get us into the final 16 team single-elimination 'knock-out' round. 

I have told you before that this team has heart.  Who knows what will happen (long time soccer people know that the soccer gods are typically cruel) --- but I really like the attitude and heart of our boys.  They are wonderful young men - and I would not advise anyone to bet against them in a single-elimination game.  I can promise you this ... no matter what happens during the next game that our team will give it all they have.

I'm back stateside as of last night - my wife cleared out the house (except for our miniature dachshund and my beloved basset hound) - so that I would have nobody around me during the game (this morning in California).  Well ... Addie and Millie hung around for the first half but got a little tired of my jumping up and down and screaming at the television so I was totally solo in the second half. 

I am told that many (if not all) of our Family Group in Recife were not able to get to the game due to the flooding.  I am told that the busses could not get to the hotel because of the height of the water and that some (or all) of the Family Group actually had to watch the game on television from the hotel.  I'll verify that but the Internet connection in the hotel was spotty at best and the flooding did not make it any better.  BUT - they all have another game to attend. 

If the weather permitted - our team and the Family Group headed back to Sao Paulo this evening --- where they are going to face a little more rain (but nothing like Recife).  As I hear more I will send it along ... but I have to warn you that I am going to continue this blog until the US Team finishes (which could very possibly be another two weeks). 

Another outcome of today is that my son Chris will continue growing his hair (he wont cut it until the World Cup is over) --- he started this mission back at the South Korea game 5 months ago when we played in Los Angeles. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Real World Calls Me Back

After an amazing 12 days (10 nights in hotels and 2 nights on planes) - I am going to go home to resume my real life.  I find that I need to replenish the bank accounts that have so generously made this adventure possible.

BUT - I have deputized a tremendous press and photography team down here to feed me up-to-the-second information that I can then make very boring and send to you.  My two sisters, my brother (his wife - my sister-in-law), Chris' wife Lindsey and daughter Emersyn (A Pequena Chefona) - and even Lindsey's mom Leah continue with the Family Group in Brazil.  They will feed me information and I will feed it through this blog --- and --- pictures on Twitter at @jwondo.

My middle son, Stephen, also left Brazil today.  He is headed to Indianapolis to pick up coaching the Earthquakes Academy Team --- a job that his colleagues allowed him to ignore for the past 12 days.

This trip has been beyond amazing.  Getting to know the other families of the team members is an experience I will never forget.  To a person they are the most friendly and engaging group I have ever met.  The group has been so supportive of each other and the team.  And I continue to be so appreciative to Amy and her team at US Soccer for making this trip so easy and fun.  My personal thanks to Matt Barton who was there at the Natal Airport at 3:30am to make sure I got to the hotel and again getting me to GRU tonight for my 10:30pm flight out of São Paulo.

It should have been obvious that I thoroughly enjoyed writing about the trip in this forum.  I am going to continue publishing this multi-digital-media machine (this blog and twitter @jwondo) until the USMNT finishes in Brazil  - (and I would not be surprised if that is after the Championship Game).

Thanks to my company for allowing and encouraging me to leave the country for 12 days during such an important time for our company.  Thanks to my wife Joanne for allowing and encouraging me to go on this trip of a lifetime.  And thanks to the Soccer gods who somehow - improbably - created this opportunity.

My son Chris has taught me a lesson - a lot of hard work + a little humility + a lot of caring for the people around you = makes fairy tales come true.  My son Stephen has taught me a lesson - if you only speak English than your world is too small.

If anyone actually is reading this - thanks.  I will continue to funnel first-hand accounts of what is happening in Brazil (but in a second hand kind of way).  Joanne has promised me that nobody is going to be at our  house but me at 9am on Thursday as I set up the Portugal/Ghana game on ESPN360 and fire up the big screen for the USA-Germany game.  I will be blissfully by myself screaming at the top of my lungs.

Tuesday in Sao Paulo

While the USMNT will train today and then travel to Recife for the huge Thursday match, the US Family Group has a relaxing day in Sao Paulo.  It is a beautiful day in Sao Paulo, a few days into winter – today the temps will reach mid to high 70’s under a brilliant blue sky with only slight traces of clouds.  The Parque de Ibirapuera was busy today with locals and the usual suspects from the Family Group enjoying the running trails on a wonderfully comfortable day.  This afternoon there is an option to have a tour of the training grounds where the USMNT has been training in Sao Paulo.  It is the headquarters of FC Sao Paulo. 

Tomorrow the Family Group is right back in travel mode.  The busses for the airport leave at 6:15am for what could be a 2 hour drive to the airport followed by a 3 hour plane flight and another lengthy drive to the hotel in Recife. 

Final thoughts on Chris’ appearance in the game the other night.  I believe that he might be the first Native American to play for the USA in a World Cup.  If not, I strongly believe he is the first Polish-Native American to play for the USA in a World Cup.  Chris is officially enrolled in the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma.  His ethnicity blends essentially 50/50 Native American/Polish. 

The Brazilians are tremendously friendly people in general.  I have noticed that whenever I try to speak something in Portuguese and then I ask them if I pronounced it correctly … every single person has the exact same answer, they all say:  “more or less”…. Which I have come to realize simply means:  “no”.  I’ve got Bom Dia, Obrigado/Obrigada, and Cerveja successfully in my vocabulary so I might be stopping there.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Long Travel Day

The Family Group left the hotel in Manaus at 7:15am this morning and pulled into the hotel in São Paulo at 5:00pm this evening.  A long travel day for wives and other family members.  Just in the three group games the team and families will have flown 20 hours and traveled by bus more than 10 hours in the two week time span (not including the 15+ hours on average the people from the U.S. had to travel to get to Brazil).  That is a lot of travel but it seems to be going well ... from the families standpoint U.S. Soccer has been so organized and brilliantly efficient that it all has gone very smoothly.  We have 20+ young children with us but even with that the group has traveled extremely well.

From a personal standpoint - this has been a fantasy trip.  I have been able to travel with one of my sons (Stephen) {my other son Matty is doing dog-sitting and house-sitting duty for Chris and Lindsey back in the Bay Area} ... we have enjoyed the fact that we have had friends join us at each game (Eric Bucherre is the Head Coach at Menlo College and a long time Wondo Family friend who joined us in Natal .... Jake and his dad Gary and Keegan -- all long time Wondo Family Soccer Friends joined us in Manaus) ... and ... I did get to have the surreal moment when my son put on the US Jersey and went into an actual World Cup Game last night.  I wish I could put into words how that felt and what it meant --- I have tried to but simply cannot.  My wife Joanne will be surprised but I am at a complete loss for words to describe how it felt - I am lucky to have been able to hug him tonight to show him how proud of him I am.

I have a strong family group down here ... in addition to Stephen and me - I have my two sisters and my younger brother and his wife down here.  We also have Lindsey, Emersyn, and Lindsey's mom Leah.  That is another blessing that makes this trip so much better personally.

So enough personal stuff -- last night's result is fine -- the way it went down is a bit hard to swallow.  But after spending some time with Chris and Brad this evening I sense an even stronger sense of optimism and determination.  I have written it before and will continue to --- who knows how the soccer gods will rule but this is a special team and a fantastic team to be invested in.

Tomorrow the team trains and then probably heads out to Recife - the Families try to settle back in to São Paulo for a day before heading out to Recife the following day.  Stephen and I got back to São Paulo in just enough time to get down to a neighborhood corner indoor/outdoor pub where we watched the Brazil-Cameroon game with about 50 local Brazil fans.  That alone was worth the trip down here.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

94 Minutes and 30 Seconds

Oh what a wonderful 94 minutes and 30 seconds ... and what a heartbreaking final 30 seconds.  But - that is soccer and this is the World Cup and that was Portugal and so there you go.

But our boys - what a great comeback and what great effort throughout ... just a bit unfortunate in the end.

That night could have been epic ... but if I was told that we would have 4 points after 2 games with a favorable goal differential compared to the two teams behind us - I would not have been upset.

We have a team that is very easy to be invested in ... tell your friends - this Thursday will be fantastic.

Game Day - Chapter 2

Some folks have been asking for pictures - I have been posting some pictures on Twitter at @jwondo - check  that out for pictures from this intrepid blog editor.  Since A Pequena Chefona has been here the pictures have featured The Little Boss frequently - but those of us in Digital Communications realize babies sell.

I went for a run around Manaus to see if I could proclaim myself fit for the 90 minutes this evening - I am good to go.

Plenty of watch parties back home - Casa de Juando (Wondo) will be hosting 30 or so friends and neighbors in Danville.  In Downtown Danville Pete's Brass Rail and Carwash will be a very Wondo-friendly place to watch.  If you dont know - there is no Brass Rail nor is there a Carwash - and good luck finding Pete.  It is a great sports hangout though with good drink and good food.  The Burlingame Alain Pinel Realtors Office is managed by Mrs. Wondo and they will be congregating at a Burlingame Establishment for the Peninsula USMNT/Wondo Watch Party.

Wherever you watch this evening's game - thanks for supporting the USMNT ... this is a special group of players and coaches - you know at the very least they will represent the USA with all of their heart and efforts.

Game Day in Manaus

It is game day in Manaus - our boys will take on Portugal at 6pm local time.  The weather as of 7:00am is beautiful - a mostly sunny blue sky day with the heat starting to build and the humidity needle  sliding upward as well.  But the weather at 7am does not usually look like the weather at 6pm on any given day in Brazil ... so we will see.

I love that the US Team does not talk or think about the weather.  While other teams have obsessed over the weather and the field conditions our team uses all of their energy to focus on the input that they can provide during the 90 minutes that determine the result.  That attitude starts with the coaching staff and as a fan of the team - I love it.  After all we do have players who play in Houston and others who grew up in Florida.  Furthermore we do our World Cup Qualifying in Central America and play in horrid conditions in Jamaica and Haiti.  I predict that our attitude combined with our fitness will help us in the last 15 minutes of  this evening's game.

Family Group hits the road at 12:30pm today after a security briefing by our Diplomatic Security Agents.  I've had a chance to meet some of the Agents and they are an impressive group.  They travel with us and stay with us and watch over us in airports, stadiums, etc whenever we are in our group.  Thanks to the Department of State for the help.  US Soccer will take us to a pre-game 'tailgate' of sorts and then on to the game.

The Family members are filing into the dining room for the breakfast buffet.  The breakfasts down here are fantastic and the coffee is strong ---  those two things are always in my top ten of important elements to a good start of the day.  The fitness center here  is better than the non-existent one in São Paulo but it is a bit spartan.  Nevertheless I am going to go upstairs to it now and see if I can carve out a corner of the gym because I am sure that the Beslers and Zusis have already sent at least a scout group up to it this morning - if not the whole families.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Avoiding Tigers, Bears, and Gorillas

Harry Davis warned me that being in the Amazon Rain Forest it was a virtual certainty that I would come across a Bear or Tiger or Gorilla as I try to find the closest Starbucks here in Manaus.

Because my days have turned into a struggle for my very survival up here ... I am going to write about dogs in Brazil.

I am a dog-lover ... always have been and always will be.  The love of my life is my Basset Hound Mildred Penelope (we call here Millie P).  My wife is a very close second and a very, very close third is Joanne's Miniature Dachshund Addie.

When we were in Natal there were three dogs - that was it.  I think the locals swapped them around but there were only three dogs ... three brown mixes that liked being walked but were not that social.

In São Paulo - there are two geographies --- (1) the city streets and (2) Parque de Ibipuera .... in the city streets there are dogs but not the quantity you would see in San Francisco (for example).  The dogs in the city fall into four categories:  (1) Fluffy White Extra Small (2) Fluffy White Small (3) Pit Bull Mix (4) Lovely Mutt Mix.  That's it.

Where we live in Danville, California - it is basically against the law to own a dog that is not either a Golden Retriever or a Labrador Retriever (Black or Yellow).  My wife and I are scofflaws in that not only do we not have those but we have gone to very weird shaped dogs --- a dachshund and a basset hound.

In the Parque de Ibipuera the dogs were about half what you would see at San Francisco Golden Gate Park or (if you are in the East Bay) - Lafayette Reservoir or Iron Horse Trail.  But you do get a bigger variety of dogs at the Parque.

BUT -- what I have not seen in São Paulo to date is either a Laborador Retriever or a Basset Hound.  I dont have a theory for it because as you may know I get kind of distracted looking at non-canine park-goers ... but I just wanted you to know.

Final point on dogs down here -- they understand Portuguese.

Travel Day - To the Rainforest

I wrote it before - this group travels well - trained by years upon years of weekend soccer tournaments all over the country (and beyond) this group just gets it done.

Today the US Families traveled from São Paulo to Manaus in advance of the game tomorrow afternoon against Portugal.  After we got here we took in the Germany-Ghana game and the end result of a tie helps us in some ways and may hurt us in others.  But our boys will just go out and play Portugal as hard as they can and we will see how the group looks tomorrow night - no sense worrying too much about what you cannot control.

Our group has grown - we have probably the largest group we will have in Brazil - and we all piled into busses at 6:45am today to get to Viracopos Airport outside São Paulo.  We have been flying in and out of Viracopos rather than the larger GRU which has been great - but it is further away.  For those in California think of Viracopos as Burbank .... for those not in California think of Viracopos as Burbank (because I got nothing else on that).  The four hour flight took us into Manaus where that airport resembled Long Beach Airport (for those in our outside of California).  A relatively short bus ride later we arrived at our hotel -- which is nice but the Wireless is maddeningly ineffective.  But if you consider the fact that we are in the Amazon Rain Forest there is a certain absurdity about being concerned with the wireless.

If you tuned into this award winning blog to find out our line-up for tomorrow night - that is very far above my pay grade ... cant help you there.  But I have gotten to know these guys - I know I am going to be proud of whoever is out there representing our country and I think you should be as well.

Manaus is basically the Gateway to the Amazon Rain Forest.  Today's weather aligned with the average June climate with high 80's in both temperature and humidity.  For those who have not been to the Burbank or Long Beach Airports but have been to Houston - think Houston in June then increase the discomfort by 50%.  Manaus averages 180 rainy days per year ... which in my mind kind of aligns with the whole concept of having a rain forest. Tomorrow is the first day of winter here - and we'll have temps in the high 80's, humidity in the high 80's and some rain.

Even though Manaus is isolated it still has a population of nearly 2 million.  It is located where the Negro and Solimoes rivers join to form the Amazon River.  I think that convention holds that the Solimoes is actually the upper part of the Amazon but I dont have a dog in that fight so I am just nodding and agreeing with anyone who has an opinion.

More to follow - sorry about the geography lesson - but people ... I'm at the Freaking Amazon Rain Forest !!! How awesome is that???  (Of course I am not being asked to run around at top speed for 90 minutes in the Amazon Rain Forest - like some of the other Americans here).  Harry Davis (Brad's dad) told me that there are tigers and bears and gorillas walking the streets here ... I dont know if that is true but I dont think I am going to risk it.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Random Thoughts on a Cool and Gray Fall Day in Sao Paulo

A very Fall day in São Paulo - 60 degrees and full cloud cover - but so far no rain.  Stephen and I took in the Mercado Municipal and enjoyed the Costa Rica-Italy game at a corner neighborhood indoor/outdoor restaurant.  Here are some random thoughts from today in São Paulo:


Pedestrian safety is an important area of focus in downtown São Paulo.  They employ strict enforcement of Pedestrian safety.  If a pedestrian violates safety standards they get hit by a car or a motorcycle.  For minor violations you might just clipped and break a bone or two.  Major violations only happen once for each pedestrian.


It wasn't really my plan to come to Brazil without learning even one word of Portuguese, but work was really busy and the departure date from the Bay Area kind of snuck up on me.  I went to my Plan B which was to simply be immersed in Brazil and learn the language that way.  Plan B has worked pretty effectively as I quickly learned the key words and phrases to survive and even thrive in Brazil. From my experience you can get by with:

- Bom Dia
- Obrigado/Obrigada
- Adeus
- Arrumacqo Depois das Uma
- Cerveja Pilsen

From there you can quickly move to key phrases that help you realize value in commercial transactions such as:  "No Compra de 2 Skol, a 3rd e por nossa conta"


US Families head out at 6:45am tomorrow morning on our trek to the Amazon Rain Forest.  We have a 4 hour flight to Manaus where we will settle in for 2 nights - coming back the day after the Portugal game.  We'll come back to São Paulo before heading back out mid-week next week to Recife for the final group game.

Happy Friday from Sao Paulo

US Soccer has done such a great job taking care of the families down here ... it has been a great trip thanks to their work.  Today they have set up a four hour bus tour of São Paulo.  Now São Paulo is so amazingly large that it would take 4 weeks to cover it by bus - but I am sure you can see a lot in 4 hours.  Stephen and I are in complete agreement about this outing on two points:  (1) It is a great thing that US Soccer has organized (2) we are not 4 hour bus tour guys.  Our plans are not quite yet solidifed (which is no different than any other day of our lives) but we will be going to the Parque and Stephen has been wanting to jump into a pickup soccer game there.  Beyond that we will see where the wind blows us today. (I should point out in case the President of my company is reading this that I will be putting in about 9 hours of hard work today as well).

This USMNT has a quality that becomes tremendously clear when you get a chance to see them interact off the field.  I've been around sports teams all my life and my observation is that this team is very close to each other - being around them you clearly see the respect and genuine affection that they have for each other.  It is a close team and teams that have that characteristic seem to be more likely to get that late goal or be able to grind out a result when things are not all going their way.

Today the team heads up to Manaus and the families follow tomorrow.  Every night in the middle of the night the U.S. Soccer Fairy slips a sheet of instructions under the door.  That sheet tells us about the program today and the program tomorrow along with other good information.  Last night the Fairy's note let us know that tomorrow's travel day to Manaus begins at 6:45am.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Big Happenings Today

first - a pequena chifona (the little boss) arrived from California -- the youngest Wondo is in the house.  Uncle Steve did the first hour of baby duty and even Grand-dude jumped in for the next hour. The Little Boss (a pequena chifona) seems to be settling in just fine ...

This afternoon Uncle Steve and Grand-dude headed out to Arena Corinthians for the Uruguay England game.  Wow what an experience -- maybe the best sporting experience I have ever had (and I have had a few).  We only got lost heading to the subway a couple of times -- only got lost on the subway a couple more -- but we made it and the crowd was awesome.

As Steve and I sit in the hotel bar tonight (just using the wireless is all I'm saying) - we get ready for tomorrow that is going to include the Mercado  - the FIFA Fan Zone in São Paulo --- and hopefully another couple of hours of kidnapping and caring for A Pequena Chifona.  But before any of that we have to go toe-to-toe with the Beslers and Zusis on the morning exercise front --- I think the Wondos are a distant third right now - we probably wont change the standings tomorrow but we are not going quietly.
I think I have decoded the traffic laws in São Paulo - you drive as fast as you possibly can without hitting the car in front of you... and from time to time even that natural law of traffic is violated.  Being a National Holiday today, the traffic downtown is very light -- and very fast.

Also being a National Holiday - the Parque de Ibirapuera had hundreds upon hundreds of runners.  It looked like a popular 10k or Half-Marathon ... even with a cool drizzle the crowd was amazing.   And the scenery was amazing - both foliage and human.  Generalizations are just that - generalizations ... for instance there are beautiful women everywhere in the world, in fact the most beautiful woman in the world is of Italian descent and lives in Danville, California.  But Brazilian women - oh my goodness are they beautiful.  And at the parque today - the female crowd would make even a blind man sprain his neck.

I have developed two theories on why Brazilian women are so beautiful:  (1) God made Brazilian women first and then found out that he had run out of some scarce parts so he used different parts to create women throughout the rest of the world.  My competing theory is (2) God made Brazilian women last and their creation benefitted from His learned lessons after creating all other women and the parts were improved over the other women.  I dont know which one is accurate - but that is what I have come up with.

Coming back from my run the lobby of the hotel is packed with Uruguayans and Brits ... and they are a nervous lot with serious faces as they await transport to the stadium for the game today.

Feast of Corpus Christi

In the predominantly Catholic Brazil - today is a National Holiday celebrating the Feast of Corpus Christi.  This impacts me in two ways -- first, I am Catholic so it resonates with me -- second (on a more secular level) it means the laundry I took to the cleaners yesterday cannot be picked up until tomorrow.  But it is just Stephen and me so it is not a catastrophe - guys spend most of their formative years learning how to extend days out of their clothes before laundering.

If anyone tells you that "nearly everyone speaks english in Brazil" - don't believe it.  Yesterday I think I was the only one who spoke english in Brazil ... certainly I was the only one at the cleaners yesterday.  I gave them the clothes but it is not a routine transaction - they had about 317 questions that I needed to answer on how I wanted them done (I think) and it  turned out that they were all open-ended questions - not yes/no - further complicating the adventure. The proprietor was very patient with me but I have no idea what I actually ordered.  They now have several shirts, shorts, and a couple of jeans ... along with some assorted socks, etc... and when I pick the stuff up tomorrow I fear that there is a very real possibility I actually ordered them to be washed, dried, and cut into little shreds before being poured into a laundry bag for my pick-up.  A few of my choices raised the eyebrow of the proprietor so I am concerned.  I'll let  you know tomorrow -

USMNT back to training today and head to Manaus tomorrow - the littlest Wondo and her mom and grandma should be at GRU Airport right now clearing customs and soon catching up on sleep here at the hotel.  Stephen and I are taking in the England-Uruguay game today which will give us an opportunity to try out São Paulo Public Transportation.  I'll let you know how that goes -

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Beautiful ... and then Rainy ... Late Fall Day in Sao Paulo

Today was a very relaxing day for USMNT and families in São Paulo.  An 80 degree sunny morning gave way to a 60 degree wet evening - but the families and team had fun.  The Family Hotel has a Family Lounge with large screen televisions, couches, coloring books, and anything any family would need (the coloring books are my favorite).  It also has video games and the best part of the day was when Clint Dempsey's kids became so excited that their dad had scored ---- on the video game that they were playing.  That kind of stuff is so priceless that we will remember it forever.

Seeing the children with their dads and the wives with their husbands makes old dads like me just smile from ear to ear.  I still think of these players as kids ... but they are young men and very successful professionals.  I also got a chance to see my own son facetime with his wife and baby as they were in Houston waiting for their connecting flight to São Paulo - that made my heart melt.

Enough of the sappy stuff - I realized today that there are many of the team families that have spent years not only creating a member of the United States Men National Team --- but also creating a stunt double in case that was needed.  There are brothers and cousins here that are basically stunt doubles for the sibling/cousin who is on the USMNT.

From our Family-Program-Team -- we have our own Altidore ... we have a Fabian Johnson Stunt man ... with a different haircut - our Dempsey would rival Clint ... we have a Wondo Stunt Double ... a Zusi look alike ...a Beasley body double - and even a Besler clone.  We could field our own team if we needed to.

Tomorrow is back to work for the USMNT - and back to trying to work out as much as the Beslers for every Family Member.  Some of us will be going to the England-Uruguay game - and others will be out enjoying this wonderful city.  Population about the same as New York City and by square miles - second largest city in the world.  Walking the streets here gets the adrenaline going - some locals are awesome at dodging cars and motorcycles --- you can wait for the "WALK" sign - but trust me it makes no difference ... being a pedestrian here is a survival of the fittest contest.

Weather Forecasts are not my Strength

While I continue to search to find just exactly what one of my strengths may be ... forecasting weather is definitely not one of them.  São Paulo weather update:  A beautiful fall morning and early afternoon is going to give way to rain beginning now and lasting through the time we leave for Manaus on Saturday ---- followed by consistent rain in Manaus (I guess they call it a rainforest for a reason).

Last Few Days of Fall

We are in the final few days of fall here is São Paulo - when Summer starts in the USA this weekend, winter will start in Brazil.  This morning at 7am it was a beautiful fall day, sunny and temps at about 70 degrees with a faint cool feel to the air.  It will warm up and it will be a beautiful day.  I think the fitness center at this hotel is being renovated and the temporary replacement is ... well ... not really a replacement.  For this traveling group that is a big thing ... this is a fit group of families.  But the editor of your award winning blog has provided a bit of relief for the group.

This morning I went on a run - with traffic and the unpredictable sidewalks in São Paulo a run in the city is a bit of a challenge.  (By "bit of a challenge" I really mean a death wish").  But I came across the Parque de Ibirapuera less than a mile from the hotel.  It is an enormous municipal park with man made lakes, acres of grass and miles of paved and dirt trails.  Once that discovery was shared with some of the families it took about 3 minutes before there was a group of very fit family members assembled at the front door and off to the Parque for their run ... led as you might suspect by the Beslers.

Today is a day off for Team USA - depending on their personalities their day will be anything from exploring the city to sleeping 23 hours (or 23.5 hours if you are my son).

I will let you in on a Wondo family poll that completed two days ago.  Chris' wife, his brothers, and his father all unanimously agreed that he should not wear any type of headband to try to keep his hair out of his face during a game.  I was told by Chris' brother that Chris had sent a trial balloon up on that - but reports have indicated that has been shot down.  I can tell that his hair is bugging him enough that he may just cut it himself in the locker room after they win the Championship Game - but he is definitely not cutting it until after we win.  The two loves of his life get into São Paulo tonight so he will be a very happy man tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Soccer Tournament Travel Day

Brazil is a big country - when you get on a plane from Natal to São Paulo you are basically doing a one day excursion.  Here is my observation from today with the families of the Team ...

As we used to say where I grew up - 'this aint their first rodeo'.   This group travels well and I can tell you from personal experience that it is rooted in your life as a soccer parent of firing up the SUV at 5am on Saturday to drive 5 hours to get to the first game of the weekend tournament.  Then - after the first game you hope you can check into the hotel (maybe motel) but the room is not ready and then you go to the second game and check in after the second game and your day just gets better from there.  Every family member here has spent holidays in a hotel somewhere in the middle of nowhere because of a soccer tournament.

So - this group of families is already battle tested and after 9 hours of traveling every single person had a happy and warm smile on their face.  I have been amazed at just how genuinely nice every single player and family is.  And if anyone ever did get bored - you only need to watch the Jones kids to be entertained.  They are the most beautiful, active, athletic, and fun-loving kids that I have ever seen --- and they always leave an impressive pile of crumbs in their wake.  It is impossible to watch this family without a smile coming across your face.

The day closed with a dinner for the team members and their families.  It was so great to see these players with their kids sitting on their laps - as much as it was to see proud parents with their USMNT boys.  The result last night helped to make tonight a night that everyone will remember fondly.  Our team was in good spirits.

I now have one goal for this trip - I am going to try to beat the family members to the hotel gym tomorrow morning.  I anticipate that my stiffest competition will come from the Beslers - they work out early and they work out in packs - but I have  a few days to try to craft an ingenious plan.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Winning is pretty cool

If someone had told me we would win 2 to 1 and I was able to choose two things about the game I would choose - we score early and we score late.  So mission accomplished

But there are more important things to talk about (now that we have 3 points after one game).

I have been amazed - the US National Team Men have families that are pretty much the most attractive families I have ever seen.  Trust me - I have been in Brazil for the past few days where there are more beautiful women per square inch than anywhere on earth (with the possible exception of the mall in Orange County at Newport Beach - oh and dont forget my house where beautiful women are everywhere - it's crazy).

The Jones family is beyond beautiful - the Bedoyas had both numbers and attractiveness - Beckerman family is very easy to look at - every other family made a strong case for themselves the Davis family and the Wondo-Karkula family were excluded from consideration because I am partial to both... but the Dempsey family would be the most attractive extended family for any other team that did not have the Zusis.  The Zusi family is about a dozen members - both male and female super models that happen to be soccer fans.

Here is my bold soccer prediction ... when the USA is playing in the championship game - the network will set a new record for family shots.  I'm telling you - these USA Men come from some very impressive stock.

Here is one more tidbit about the US Families ... if you think you can get to the hotel gym at 7am and it wont be crowded - you never went to a hotel with the USMNT soccer families - these people dont get that good looking by sleeping in.

Game Day

It is Game Day in Natal.  The team's hotel is about 500 meters (see meters - I'm just trying to blend in here) from the family members hotel - but they are in lock down mode - no vistors.  I suspect that even the most daring family member would think more than twice about going because the hotel is surrounded by more than 12 fully armed military police who wear constant frowns.

When we got in to Natal at 3:30am on Sunday morning it was raining and that rain was steady up until 10:00am when it lightened up and then stopped completely by noon Sunday.  In the past 24 hours we have been pretty much rain-free but there is rain likely at least to some degree this evening (game time 7pm here).

Natal really is beautiful where we are.  I can't wait to see the stadium and the crowd.  The team is so ready to play that the weather is really a non-issue they appear to be completely locked in.  Every game is vital but each team is so invested in their first game that the intensity is amazing.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day - Final Thoughts

I cannot help but close out the Father’s Day edition of this Award Winning Blog (don’t ask which awards – too many to recount) without reflecting on the fact that I am actually here at the World Cup in Brazil and my son is going to wear the badge of the USA.  I was talking this morning to Chris and Brad Davis and it seemed to me that they both were still trying to put this experience in perspective.  It is so great to see these two guys together at this point in their lives and careers … they have been great friends since Chris’ first year with the Earthquakes and ended up buying houses across the street from each other in Houston.  Heather Davis used much of her spare time (before children) driving to whoever had picked up Chris and Lindsey’s escape artist dachshund and bailing him out to bring him home.  That was a very special part of this morning.

Chris is a good soccer player but his number one skill on earth is sleeping.  He sleeps better, quicker, longer, deeper, and more consistently than anyone I have ever known.  So it might be fitting that my Father’s Day started at 9am (after Stephen and I got to bed at 5:30am) with Chris nagging us to come to his hotel to spend a few hours together.  His logic:  “You guys have woken me up enough in my life it is my first Father’s Day and I cant go wake up Emmy so I am waking you guys up … come over.”  Strangely we could not argue with his argument but we both were working on less than 4 hours sleep in the past 36 hours.  However I should point out that calling Chris at any time of the day or night has a 70% chance of waking him up.

The short answer to the common question I get:  “How does it feel to have a son at the World Cup?” – it feels strange. This morning I was introduced and shook hands with just about every team member and while the soccer fan in me wanted to get a picture with them the father in me told me to not embarrass my son by doing that.  So how does it feel to have a son at the World Cup?  - I had a chance to get a picture with two of my favorite players:  Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman but didn’t because I have a son at the World Cup and I didn’t want to embarrass him … that’s how it feels.

(But the rest of it is pretty awesome)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Day One in Sao Paulo

Having Friends in Soccer – it is a fantastic dynamic of being a life-long soccer guy.  I have my long-term friends in soccer – Don (this will be the first World Cup in the last four that we did not watch together day and night) – Kellen (who is working for the greater good in Africa but we bonded coaching high school together) – Rob and his group at Street Soccer USA who use soccer as an amazingly constructive vehicle to help change the world for the better – I cannot leave out all of the San Jose fans from the people who sit in the same section as Joanne and me to the Ultras who define soccer passion – the Earthquakes Family has been amazingly great to Chris and Lindsey … all the people who stop and talk to me about soccer … either at the gym or at Safeway or (well those are really the only two places I ever go) …. People at work who were friends but it was built stronger through soccer – Maggie you know you are in that group – if you weren’t you would probably fly down here and kill me. 
But I am sitting here at the Sao Paulo Airport in a café where there are 15 tables that accommodate 4 people each --- and there are groups of Ecuadorians, Mexicans, Hondurans, and Australians  - they are all having more fun than any groups of people I have ever seen at an airport at 8pm on a Saturday night.  And … I don’t want to get too deep here, but … they are all laughing and singing and getting along with each other.  At first the Australians were a little reserved (4 of them) – but that didn’t last too long. 
It is only soccer – but it is really wonderful to see a common denominator that is facilitating some fun – I’ve seen maybe a dozen phone pictures taken with the groups mixed together but the last one that made me write this was a picture of about 20 people all representing four different countries – best part is that the photographer was this blog writer (they gave me 8 different phones to take pictures).
To all my present and future friends in soccer – Happy Father’s Day. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Father's Day Weekend - Part 1

Currently sitting at LAX waiting for my flight to São Paulo ... still in disbelief about where I am going and - more disbelieving about why I am going.  

Father's Day is this Sunday and it has traditionally been a day when everyone has to eat my bbq/grilling/smoking - or all three.  Nobody complains and I can confidently say that I have improved year over year in those categories. 

Being a dad - that is something else.  No recipe ... stuff on Youtube is not very helpful ... and it is the most important thing I will ever do.  This weekend will be the best Father's Day I ever had - my youngest Matt drove me to the airport (missing the Chile-Australia game in the process) - I am meeting my middle son Stephen in Natal on Sunday and the two of us will be connecting with my oldest, Chris, on Sunday.          (in the meantime- my son-in-laws Brendan and Chris will keep their distance from my Weber and my Big Green Egg -- )  and my two step-daughters Katie and Michelle will be making sure that Brendan and Chris ignore that last instruction --- 

Semi-quick thought --- apparently one of my worst fathering moves ever (and trust me this is not a short list).  About six months before Chris was to be married he was on the Houston Dynamo and not playing very much --- I decided that I needed to "advise" him that he should seriously consider retiring and building a new career. 

Well --- brilliant as I am --- a short time later he was traded to San Jose ... he and Lindsey were able to move back home ... Chris won the Scoring Title - then the MVP - and 3 years of Best XI and All Star Games ... then moved to the USMNT ... and now I am flying to Brazil to watch him wear the USA badge in World Cup. 

Maybe not the worst fathering move ever - but certainly a contestant for the top ten. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Soccer - All You Need To Do is add a few Manhattans --- and you get a Basset Hound

As I prepare to go on that 4000 hour flight to Brazil … and then follow the USMNT from south to northeast to south to every other place in Brazil – I have been thinking about things that soccer has done for me other than the obvious.
The love of my life is Mildred Penelope my 2 year old Basset Hound – some may argue that it is my wife Joanne – but she would not argue that.  I would not have “Millie P” if it were not for soccer (and a few Manhattans) – so as I head to Sao Paulo … here is ‘the rest of the story’. 
Several years ago both of my sons (Christopher and Stephen) were playing for the Houston Dynamo.  The Dynamo made it to the MLS Championship Game against New England at RFK Stadium in DC.  Long story a little shorter – Dynamo won and the boys invited Joanne and me to the Owner’s Party at a club in Virginia that night.  We felt a bit awkward (being parents, etc) but the boys had their own agenda.
The boys had adopted a 10 week old little dachshund puppy (named Addie) and they were hoping to dump her on us when they came home for the off-season later that week from Houston to Danville.  Their plan (clear in retrospect) was to keep bringing Joanne Manhattans until she said yes (I am simplifying their strategy but not inaccurately).  Let’s just say that we were going to stay for 15 minutes and 2 hours later Joanne had agreed to Addie coming for the off-season to our house – and – Joanne was no longer my Designated Driver to get us back to K-Street.
Fast forward three days later when the boys were flying into SFO from Houston for the off-season.  Joanne remembered her Addie-discussion and was so mad that she didn’t talk to me for 24 hours – at the time she was absolutely anything but a ‘dog lover’. 
I brought the boys and Addie home that night – all 4 pounds of Addie – and Joanne fell so madly in love that she (Honestly ----) instantly became a dog lover.  Now she is “that lady” who is crazy about her dog. (You know that lady – you’ve driven behind her and honked at her as the little dog sits on her lap – yeah that lady). 
How does that equal Millie P?  --- Four years later – after four years of incredible bonding of Joanne and Addie … Joanne agreed that I could get a Basset Hound puppy.  While my puppy was supposed to be a boy named “Howard” – he ended up being the most beautiful Basset Hound in the world named Mildred Penelope.  Thanks to Lindsey’s mom and sister for picking her out and getting her for me (Chris having a sister-in-law who is a vet is pretty handy). 
Oh … I guess I should point out that while the boys were trying to simply dump Addie on us … Christopher ended up having Joanne pay him $700 because he claimed that he loved her so much and $700 is what it would cost to get an American Bulldog Puppy.  That American Bulldog Puppy is named Gattusso and that is quite another story.  If I get stuck at a Brazilian airport this weekend I may bore you with that story.


World Cup Finals in Brazil

As recently as May 21st of this year I would have been the most surprised person on planet earth that I would be heading to the World Cup Finals in Brazil a few weeks later.  But on May 22nd at 2:30pm my son Stephen called me and simply asked: "Did you hear?" ... I was in the back seat of a car with three other colleagues in Fresno heading to the Fresno Grizzlies Minor League Baseball Park where we were about to conduct an Executive Seminar (yes, I know ... not quite the pinnacle of professional glamour).  Stephen had just seen on the US Soccer Twitter site that the final roster was selected and his brother - my oldest son - was one of 23 U.S. players who made the final cut.  Stephen's cutting edge news scoop was confirmed 10 minutes later when Chris called to let me know.

So now, this guy who is anything but a world traveler ... this guy, whose idea of seeing a soccer game is sitting on my couch watching my big screen ... this guy, whose son just cannot seem to stop accomplishing amazing soccer feats ... is heading to Brazil.

Stephen is already in Sao Paulo, he will head to Rio and then I meet him in Natal on Sunday June 15 at 3:30am.  We then spend two weeks together - herded and cared for by US Soccer - following the US team from Natal - to - Sao Paulo - to - Manaus - to - Sao Paulo - to Recife.

This blog's main objective is not to bore any readers and lull them to sleep ... it is to let my friends and family keep connected with an amazing father's adventure - to watch his son be part of the US Soccer team in the World Cup Finals ... and to be able to do it with another one of his sons.  The adventure appropriately starts on Father's Day.

To Matt - I wish you could come too .... my youngest Son Matt will be staying in the Bay Area taking care of Chris and Lindsey's dogs and helping keep our house standing.

To Joanne - thanks so much for saying yes to this trip (and writing the not insignificant check).  I'll miss you but this blog will be my way of boring and annoying you without being next to you.

To Michelle and Katie --- just dont touch my Weber or Green Egg while I am gone - and help your mother figure out how to turn on and off the television and sound system.