Timbers Beat: Playing in the sand with Elfvin

Timbers goalkeeper Bayard Elfvin spent a week competing with the U.S. Beach Soccer National Team in the Beach Soccer CONCACAF / 2007 Beach World Cup qualification round from Aug. 6-13. Here is his journal from the sun and sand in Mexico.

The 2007 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup will be held in Brazil in November. Click here for a complete Team USA recap from www.ussoccer.com.

Day 1 - Back to The Beach
After a long day of travel we have finally arrived in Mexico and eager to defend our CONCACAF title from a year ago. Expectations are high as we have returned our core group of players and have added Jevin Albuquerque, the deadliest American striker on sand, after a missing last year due to injury. The atmosphere around the team is great and our first day of training I can feel the energy and confidence throughout the team. For me, returning to the sand was easier than expected and I feel as though I have picked up where I left off nine months ago in Brazil. Today’s training served its purpose as it gave us a chance to get reacquainted playing together, adapt to the humid climate, and go over our tactics for the tournament. Following an excellent training session we used the ocean, just steps away, to cool us down.
Day 2 - Getting In Sync
After a much needed solid nights sleep, Day 2 of training begins with an early morning workout at the stadium. The stadium, which had originally been built to host professional tennis tournaments, has been filled with beautiful white sand and transformed into the perfect site to host beach soccer. Once again, the focus of today’s training is on tactics and strategy for our first match against El Salvador. In beach soccer, the goalkeeper plays an integral role in the attack, with most offensive sequences beginning with the goalkeeper. Our success depends on the goalkeepers timing with the front runners, so we focused on distribution and getting in sync with the forwards. Once again, the team morale and work rate is extremely high throughout the training as we are all exciting to get the tournament under way. Following training, today we decided to escape the heat by heading for the pool.....got to love practicing in paradise.
Day 3 - Let the Games Begin
We began the day with a meeting to finalize our game plan against El Salvador. They are an opponent we know very little about, but we believe if we play our system correctly we will be successful. After a pre-game meal and some rest back at the hotel, we headed down to the stadium. With a 3:00 kickoff, conditions were extremely hot and humid. I knew that if we could get out to an early lead the elements would not play a factor in the game. We got the fast start we had been looking for and jumped out to a 4-1 lead after the first period.
The second period we continued to dominate and extended our lead to 7-2. With the game in hand, we used the final period to conserve our energy and save ourselves for the games ahead. We feel great about the 9-5 final score, but know we are going to have to tighten things up defensively against our next opponents.
Day 4 - Costa Rica
Day four has arrived and the weather does not seem to be cooling off. Today we are to face a very prepared Costa Rican team that has spent the last three months training in these humid conditions. Once again, we came out fired up and jumped out to an early lead, finishing the first period 2-0. Early into the second period we scored again to extend our lead 3-0. Just when I started to think the game was going to be a route, Costa Rica came storming back, putting up 3 unanswered goals and eliminating our comfortable lead. Between periods our coach was very displeased and challenged us to step up and prove why we are defending CONCACAF Champions. We came out in the third period re- energized and scored two to finish 5-3. Once again, we were disappointed in our inability to play three quality periods and know tomorrow against Mexico there can be no let downs.
Day 5 - The Rivalry Moves To Sand
One of the most heated rivalries in professional sports in the past 20 years has been on the soccer pitch between the United States and Mexico. Our rivals to the south have found themselves on the losing end of things over the years and they have made their dislike for us known throughout the tournament. Although we are off the pitch and in the sand, the atmosphere in the stadium is electric as the host nation has been eagerly awaiting their chance send the US home with a loss.
Like Costa Rica, Mexico has spent the last three months training daily in preparation for this tournament and a chance to land themselves a spot in at the World Cup in Rio. With the game broadcast live on ESPN throughout Mexico and South America we could sense the importance of this game on not just the Mexican team, but the entire country.
As was the case in our opening games, we came out of the gates flying and jumped to an early 1-0 lead. Mexico was able to answer shortly after bring the crowd to their feet tying the score 1-1. The game continued like this, and it seemed that anytime we struck the net, Mexico had an answer and would even things up. Ultimately it would be a hat trick by former Timber Yuri Morales, including a goal in the final two minutes, which would be the difference and lead us to a 4-3 win. With this win we clinched the CONCACAF Championship and would now have to face off against the South American Champion tomorrow.
Day 6 - Earning Respect
With our win against Mexico behind us and our automatic bid to the World Cup secured, we now find ourselves in the finals against the South American Champion, Uruguay. This will be the best opponent we have faced this week as they were runners up in the previous World Cup and are currently ranked number two in the World. Although we know this is going to be a great test, we are all confident that if we play our game we can keep things close and give ourselves a chance to win.
We seemed to surprise the Uruguayans by coming out with an unmatched energy and jumped to a 2-0 lead. They fought back to tie the score 2-2 in the second, but we struck just before the whistle to take a 3-2 lead going into the third period. Uruguay refused to role over and equalized early in the third period. With just under 30 seconds remaining, beach soccer veteran and our team captain Francis Farberoff put the team on his back and buried the game winner. We had done it, successfully defending our North American Championship and now stunned the world with the defeat of a South American beach soccer giant. We can now look ahead to Rio where we will arrive with a newfound respect. For now, it is off to the beach to celebrate our victory with a little surf and sunset.
If your looking for more information on the tournament or beach soccer in general, check out this website, www.bsww.com. 
Look forward to your support down the final stretch of the Timbers season.
Bayard Elfvin