Monday, October 22, 2007
Players can be seen training here on the new street soccer pitch. We have held practice in the form of scrimmages on this field every friday. The players have caught the buzz and two things have happened: team membership is up, and the same new members are getting better faster as they are seeing more of the ball on the small field.
Justin, a six foot three inch beanpole with size 13 sneakers is one of the new players that has made tremendouse strides in a short amount of time in terms of his technical ability. The volume of his enthusiasm is always to the max, and if it you didn't stop to think about how incredible it is that he is this engaged and excited about our team, you would probably call his enthusiasm annoying. Before we get back to Justin, tonight's self proclaimed MVP--yes he said it, "Wow, I feel good, you know what, I guess I had to be the MVP tonight, Hey coach, I was the MVP"--let me contrast him to three other new players: John, Richard, and Dwayne.
John contrasts Justin in age. John is a fifty year old, bald nigerian, more than twice Justin's age. John is slightly built, but he shares Justin's exhuberance. Today he turned in 4 sheets of potential line-ups given different game scenarios to Rob and during tonight's game Rob had to remind him to step off the field and walk back from in front of his own team's bench. John was cheering so hard he had wandered over into the other team's subsitute area and onto the field during play. He was so excited when he got on the field that he rushed a throw in and tossed it in as a chest pass. John, a nigerian, who has 'loved soccer his entire life' in his own words, is not the person you'd think would make that mistake.
Richard contrasts Justin is size. He is Justin's age, but Richard who claims to have grown up in Italy and could easily look Italian, is a scrawny 5'5' 24 year old who has been completely dedicated since he showed up on the scene last week. Richard would have played tonight but the mission where he has just found lodging wouldn't allow him to be out so late. We look forward to working with them to get around this in the future.
And where Justin is a beanpole, Dwayne is a tree trunk. Weighing in at 240 pounds, Dwayne is central midfielder with good technique and vision for plays and combinations. He uses his body well and has a solid soccer background, growing up playing in West Palm Beach Florida. Dwayne came to the Urban Ministry Center because in his own words, "I had no where else to turn." Dwayne set his personal goals with us last week ans has already gotten started to work on them. In fact , we will miss him for about a month as he has signed up for a 28 treatment program. Dwayne's one year goal is to get everything he lost back, including his children and bring them to Charlotte to live with him in his new apartment and to watch him play a game before he travels with the national team to the World Cup. He is very capable of achieving that.
So to get back to the game and Justin's heroics. Justin took a nice pass from Dave in the center fo the field, settled into the space above the 18 yard box with his first touch and then whacked the ball whizzing into the side netting for his first goal and the teams fourth in the first half. In the second half we mounted a large lead and relaxed. Everyone tried to get in on the scoring, leaving us exposed in the back. The next thing we knew our 6 to 2 lead had slipped to six to four. Justin then struck again, this time striking the ball with the opposite foot but with the same level of concentration. It was another zooming low speed ball that goalie had no chance to save. Then Elmer, always the competor added anothe goal to make it 8-4, a goal that seemed to be mere icing on the cake. We gave up another goal that on a defensive miscue and then a keeper error followed by defensive give a way in the final 4 minutes made it an 8-7 match. Unthinkably, we our opponents won a headball and bea our last defender with 10 seconds on the clock only for our keeper to make a save in a one on one situation to save us the victory.
All in all we learned a lot. As competition increases for spots, we will be srtiving to push our players more and more to show us what they can do. Our record is now 3-2 on the season.