Saturday, May 28, 2016

Still not past it

So, the season is at an end, and it felt as if it went by remarkably fast. We started with a bang, defeating the new team 7-1, but we ended it by not only losing to them 3-2, but also finishing in second place behind them.

This was actually a better result than it sounds, since after that first game, they brought in reinforcements consisting of not one, but two, former Serie A players. Now, if you've ever competed against a world class athlete, you know that they are not merely better than the good ones, they are as much better than the good ones as the really good players are better than the bad ones. I've run track against Olympians and played basketball with an NCAA D1 power forward who made the Elite Eight, and it is just as hopeless going up against professional European soccer players.

They literally scythe through defenders, and pretty good defenders at that. Their technical skill is incredible, and had us back on our heels and defending desperately right from the start.The rest of their team is strong too, with a number of former second and third league players, four or five of whom played with us at one point or another.

I started at right wing, but was moved over to the left to shore up the defense after we went down 2-0, and in the midst of one attack, I could have sworn that we had their attack thwarted with myself and the left defender marking their right wing, and one central defender plus our defensive midfielder tightly marking the attacker with the ball.

He was one of the retired pros; I happen to be friendly acquaintances with him since we played together on an ad hoc tournament team two years ago, and while I didn't know he was a pro then, I knew he was really freaking good. He wanted to pass to the wing, but I'd closed that option off, so somehow, he managed to create just enough space outside the box to rip off a shot that hit the bottom of the crossbar just inside the right post, then bounced down just inside the line. There was nothing the goalie could have done about it; there was nothing anyone could have done about it. The goalie and I just looked at each other and shrugged. Va bene cosi.

I am proud of our team, though. Even down 3-0, we fought back, with one beautiful 40-meter cross getting headed just over the post before we caught a break when their goalie failed to hold onto a shot and our center mid, following it, tapped in the rebound. The captain moved me up to attacker after that, and about two minutes later, the center mid put a through ball past the defense, I ran onto it, and sent it left as the goalie went right. 3-2.

We almost had a shot at tying it when a long ball went past their defense and I beat their defenders to the ball, except the ball bounced just a little too high and I just missed being able to head it over the onrushing goalie. I was furious with myself, because if I'd slowed down just a little, or trusted our other attacker, who is 6'3", to beat the defenders, we probably would have scored the equalizer.

Even though I started nearly every game this season, I'm a utility player now, only good enough to fill whatever hole we might have that week, or to come in as a sub when one of the better players runs out of steam. I can only control my wing against perhaps one-third of the opposing wings these days now that many of them are 10 to 15 years younger, but the captain trusts me to have the sense to stay back and help out the defender on my side if I can't. In 20 games, I don't think they've scored more than three goals attacking up my side all season.

After the game, I was congratulating two of their players on winning the championship when the former pro came over. I told him what a great goal he'd scored, he laughed, agreed, then put his arm around my shoulders and pointed accusingly to one of the defenders, with whom I was also acquainted. "I TOLD you to keep an eye on this guy," he said. As I am ancient by veteran soccer standards, it's reassuring to know that I'm not done yet. After all, the mark of a really dangerous team is one where even the lesser players are capable of hurting you.

So, it's good to know that I can still contribute to the team from time to time. Six goals plus a few assists isn't a bad finish, although it's a little disappointing after having scored five of them in the fall half. And second place in the league is a very satisfactory result, if you consider that we finished ahead of all four teams that have been our rivals for the title over the last five seasons. Even though it is not our third title in five years, it very nearly feels like it.



Anonymous Longtime Lurker May 28, 2016 12:13 PM  

Use it while you got it. Because when the wheels come off, they stay off.

Blogger Derek Kite May 28, 2016 12:46 PM  

Sounds like fun.

I don't play anymore, but used to play pick up hockey. One night we arranged it young against old. It was a roaring game, both sides with something to prove. The speed and agility of the young was matched by guile and sheer bloodymindedness of the older. As time went on, we got tired, but the young got dispirited except for a few individuals who with an extra step managed to score on us.

It was great fun, we all talked about that game for a long time.

Blogger Salt May 28, 2016 1:19 PM  

Now, if you've ever competed against a world class athlete, you know that they are not merely better than the good ones, they are as much better than the good ones as the good ones are better than the bad players.

You should play against 5th ranked world class women's Australian team, Matildas. Better yet, the Newcastle Jets under-15 boys side would be better as they beat the Matildas, 7-0. Maybe they should be going to Rio.

Anonymous MendoScot May 28, 2016 1:35 PM  

These are great posts, Vox, and the most pertinent to how we, individually, pass our values on to the next generation. The corruption of the sport at the national and international level has nothing to do with what gets you there. But what gets you there is the antithesis of that corruption.

It’s ours, take it back.

Anonymous Jon M May 28, 2016 3:25 PM  

If sportswriters wrote about soccer like this, if sportscasters talked about soccer like this, they might actually convince Americans that soccer is an interesting sport.

Of course, by "Americans" I don't mean people in America. The current tepid interest is driven by the 60 million imports (legal and otherwise) and their SJW enablers at ESPN.

Blogger exfarmkid May 28, 2016 3:57 PM  

Early-middle-aged and going up against former pros? Are you insane?

Anonymous mature craig May 28, 2016 3:58 PM  

Awesome. 6 goals plus a few assists. .... I used to report my personal basketball season on youtube in 2012. I am flattered that I arrived at a fair amount of similar conclusions as Vox did and took some similar steps.

Blogger VD May 28, 2016 4:46 PM  

Early-middle-aged and going up against former pros? Are you insane?

I didn't plan it. Frankly, having them in our league is not quite fair. But they're not the only pros; we even have one former international.

And I'm past "early" middle-age, I'm afraid. On the plus side, my fitness is improving. Four-five more pounds and I'll be fully ripped again.

Anonymous VFM #6306 May 28, 2016 6:49 PM  

If sports writers wrote any sport like this even SJESPN wouldn't be dying on the vine.

Blogger James Dixon May 28, 2016 9:23 PM  

> Still not past it

Not quite. The sun is setting, but there are a few hours of daylight left. Enjoy them while they last.

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr May 28, 2016 9:40 PM  

I ave this mental picture of Vox playing in his 80s...with a walker. But I doff my hat to a man staying that active in his 40s.

Blogger Roy Lofquist May 28, 2016 9:40 PM  

I played amateur hockey for many years. We had a 6 team league in Phoenix. A million people, mostly from cold country - we had some pretty decent players. Guys who had played varsity at hockey schools, Junior-A's from Canada, Tom Dinjan who was on the Norwegian National Team. My teammate for a couple of years is still at #19 on the all time assist leader for Division 1. He played for the Air Force Academy and was a fighter pilot.

One year about 5 or 6 players from the Phoenix Roadrunners of the WHA came to the rink a week before training camp to "loosen up". You talk about humility - we learned it in spades.

Anonymous Eduardo May 29, 2016 12:06 PM  

Don't beat yourself too much Vox! 40 is just the beginning of awesomeness!

Come on just go with it man.

Now, sincerely, I already saw pro soccer players that were over 40, they are good, still have speed and the field awareness, thu just lack the stamina, think about it, you may still be a better player that you now man!

Hey Vox, ever tried playing poker or pool? Considering how hard you apply yourself to things, those can be sports you can become world class even after 60!

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