Kelley O’Hara: “There’s like a pen that has turkeys in it and we feel like they might be dinner tomorrow night.” (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
For the first time in almost three decades, the U.S. women’s national team will celebrate Thanksgiving thousands of miles away from the United States.
The team is in the Netherlands, putting the final touches on its preparation for its international friendly against the Dutch Friday. It will be the USWNT’s first game in 261 days, since the SheBelieves Cup in March.
They’ll be away from friends and family, although the team is family.
“We’ll make the best of it,” defender-midfielder Kelley O’Hara said during a video conference call.
Head coach Vlatko Andonovski said he will try to make the best of it for his coaching staff.
“We’re going to try to do a little taste of home, just so they don’t feel nostalgic,” he said on a video conference call Wednesday. “All the staff has an early morning turkey trot. We’re going to try to do a little bit of everything.”
O’Hara noticed that there was a pen of turkeys near the hotel, making her wonder.
“We’re out in a really amazing place right now and there’s space to walk around,” she said. “It’s woodsy and stuff and there’s some trails. I don’t know if I should say this … but there’s like a pen that has turkeys in it and we feel like they might be dinner tomorrow night.
“I’m concerned about like walking by the pen Friday and being like, all the turkeys are gone, but. So that might be how we’re celebrating. We haven’t heard anything on the plans.”
She then laughed.
Sisters Kristie and Sam Mewis are in camp. The siblings will have blood relatives to celebrate the day with.
They can, ahem, talk turkey in person and eat some as well. They traditionally have gone to their parents in New England, but not this year.
“To be here for Thanksgiving together is awesome,” Sam Mewis said. “I know my parents wish we could all be together but it’s in such a weird time I think it’s like very special that I’m going to have a family member here for a holiday. So, it’ll be really cool and I’m very grateful for that.”
Andovoski, an immigrant from Macedonia, was asked what his first Thanksgiving was like in the states. His first Thanksgiving was in 2000 when he played in the indoor National Professional Soccer League.
“I can’t remember what the first Thanksgiving is,” he admitted. “I was probably trying to learn what Thanksgiving is and what it actually represents, but in Kansas City it is a mix of American and Macedonian food and lots of family around. So, we’re enjoying the holiday very much.”
The Andonovski Thanksgiving table has included traditional Macedonian and American food.
“Different types of food, but we definitely have some meat pie,” he said. “The meat pie is always presented on the table. And then, of course, we got we got to have turkey, I mean, got to have turkey on the table.”
As for the first time the USWNT was away for Thanksgiving, that happened so many years ago in which many of today’s players weren’t born yet or were toddlers.
That occurred on Thursday, Nov. 28, 1991, one day after the Americans bested Germany in the very first Women’s World Cup semifinals, 5-2, in Guangzhou, China behind Carin (Jennings) Gabarra’s hat-trick and April Heinrichs’ brace.
That also was two days before they edged Norway, 2-1, on Michelle Akers’ dramatic late goal in the final.