Monday, July 17, 2006

Playing in the Fire

Well that's at least what it feels like. Outdoor soccer in Texas is always a warming experience. Which is why for the past 3 years I have avoided getting myself into an outdoor season. I don't know if it was all the World Cup soccer I had been watching or if I just missed the pain and suffering of playing outdoor soccer, but I've committed myself to a new team. My buddy Ken approached me last week and said they needed a striker (forward) for a Men's Over 30 4th division team. I had never played in the Over 30 division before. Normally I played in the "Open" division because of better competition. But I decided to come out and see how they looked. Also, another factor in this was this team was gearing up for the Fall season. Which meant about half our games would be in cooler, more barable weather. So Sunday rolls around and I show up for their training session to get signed up. The coach gets me and Ken's information and we join the group in warming up. I notice there are a lot of guys there and some look pretty old. Then one of the guys tells me this is a combined practice between the Over 30 team and the Over 40 squad. That would explain the older, heavier guys. They split the group up into two teams, light shirts vs dark shirts. I was wearing white so i got put on the team with the majority being the Over 40 group. It didn't bother me much because this would give me a chance to play against my future teamates and see what skill level they are.

The scrimage kicked off and we were playing. Many of these guys knew eachother from previous practices. So I was just going to play it low key and not go 100% until I got the feel for the pace and how to play with this group. I started out in midfield, just recieving some short passes... knocking the ball around.. not playing too hard. I noticed our outside midfielder was getting the ball a lot, so I moved to the left inside midfield position near him. He received a pass along the side line and looked up for help since a defender was already covering him. I made a run to him and he layed the ball off to me. I quickly one-touched the ball behind the defender and into the large open space behind him down the field. My player who just gave me the ball sprinted down the line and got to my pass. He crossed it to the center and our forward shot it wide. But we had sucessfully put together an attack. Now, I was getting the ball much more frequently. I guess I had earned some trust or something. I noticed our forwards were becoming exhausted, so I moved from midfield into a forward position. I pushed up the field to their last defender, staying on-sides even though there were no linesmen to call offsides. Suddenly, one of our midfielders steals the ball from theirs. I look at him and put my arm up, calling for the ball. He see's me and sends a perfect pass over the head of the defender next to me. I pour on the speed to meet the ball about 10 yards out from the goal and its 1 on 1 with their keeper. The ball bounces once and the keeper starts to come out. I jumped into the air and with the outside of my right foot, calmly flick the ball by the charging keeper and into the right side of the net. Goal! Immediatly, guys on the Under30 team began coming up to me and asking me my name and which team I was on. It was funny. I soon learned they were so happy to see that because the one thing they were missing last season was a forward with a scoring touch. Defense has always been their strength. Which I did learn there are a couple very good defenders on this team. Lots of good hustle and mental toughness. These are good signs to see in my new teamates.

So today during my lunch hour, I took a trip down to a local sporting good store to look at some new outdoor soccer cleats. I didn't expect to find anything I liked really, since local stores are known for carrying only 1 or 2 types of shoes and not very good quality ones at that. I was pleasantly surprised to find several decent pair to choose from. But one pair of Adidas cleats caught my eye. They had a good cleat design for hard ground, good colors to go with most any uniform, seemed well built and most impressivly they were feather light. I mean so light, it didn't even feel like i was holding a soccer cleat. This was an important factor since by the second half my legs feel like 2 cement bags tied to me. Light is good! So I found my size and bought them. Im looking forward to getting them broke in. This is the first time in 12 years I have worn another brand of shoe besides Kelme. I feel bad about being a traitor and not buying them. Kelme's are such high quality boots I hope these $50 Adidas can compare to them. Don't be fooled by the price though. The Kelme's I usually wear run $100, double what I paid for the Adidas. But the Kelme shoe's are imported and all imported soccer shoes carry a bit higher price tag. Maybe these USA made cleats can win me over. We'll see as the outdoor soccer action pics up!

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