Scenes from an Orlando hotel (or, why Heather O’Reilly is hard core)

After my interview with SiriusXM FC today (thanks, Dunny and Janusz), I headed over to the hotel where all the action is at the U.S. Soccer Annual General Meeting to grab a good meal and see who was hanging around.

I found more than I expected:

Hard-core HAO: I’ve been wrong about a few things in this election. One of them — I assumed that because Arsenal’s women play Sunday, Heather O’Reilly would not be at this meeting. As I walked through the lobby, someone from a table (not the table with Kathy Carter mentioned below) that also included Shannon Boxx and Lori Lindsey waved to me.

My brain: “That’s Heather O’Reilly. But it couldn’t be. She has a game on Sunday.”

Yes, she does. And she’s playing in it. On Saturday, she’ll go straight from the meeting to the airport and fly across the Atlantic for Sunday’s game.

That’s how important this meeting and election is to her. And to a lot of people.

I guess I shouldn’t complain about my flight. (Which was actually pretty good.)

“Hey, Eric! You’re on TV!”: I snagged the table in the hotel sports bar in front of the only TV tuned to beINSport, which was doing its election coverage. I looked up at the screen and saw … Eric Wynalda.

I looked back across the room and saw … Eric Wynalda.

He seemed a little puzzled when I insisted to him that he was on TV at the very moment. Safe to say the interview wasn’t live.

Carter holds court: I stumbled into a room where Kathy Carter had apparently just finished speaking. Quite a few dignitaries (voters) were on hand, including John Motta and Kevin Payne. Don’t read anything into that — I still don’t know who’s voting for whom. Motta is clearly one of the big winners in this election — he gets along with everyone, which is very impressive. When I saw him in Philly, he was at a Wynalda event.

I did get to speak with her and was a little surprised to find she has been reading my work. I hope that doesn’t mean she’s reading Twitter. (Motta is a big winner; a big loser in this election is clearly Soccer Twitter, a web of conspiracies and miscellaneous b.s. Seriously. You’ve heard that the non-Carter and Cordeiro candidates are talking about some sort of solidarity statement, and I can confirm that such conversation is taking place. I wouldn’t be surprised if all eight candidates agreed on a statement blasting selected anonymous jerks on Twitter who keep poisoning the conversation.)

Coincidentally, I had listened to the Total Soccer Show podcast on the plane, which I heartily recommend. (The podcast, not the plane, though American Airlines has more leg room on a flight to Orlando than British Airways has on a flight to London.) They pointed out that she has a lot of good ideas in her platform that haven’t gotten a lot of attention. Maybe we’re too focused on asking, “So, SUM is really evil, right?”

Her campaign has had a few missteps. I can’t argue that she’s the best choice, and I can’t argue against people who say they want more of a change in the Federation. But this whole “evil Wasserman/SUM cabal” talk is, to put it mildly, overblown. If she wins, please put down the torches and pitchforks. Work with her. You might be surprised.

I saw Carter a bit later at a table in the sports bar with a few members of the Athletes’ Council. And Sunil Gulati.

Martino’s army: I wandered down the hall after visiting the Carter room and found the room where Kyle Martino has been talking for … I don’t know how long.

I found a misconception worth correcting here. A lot of us have been viewing Martino as a sort of compromise candidate who may win out as everyone’s “anyone but (Candidate X)” second or third choice. What I found in that room: Many people who passionately support Martino. He’s not their second or third choice. He’s No. 1. They love him, and they’re ready to fight for every vote.

And several state reps in the room said they’re looking for change. No one mentioned promotion and relegation. They said they were glad that the Trinidad debacle has helped shed light on the many issues within U.S. Soccer.



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