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Soccer Poet


So here I am, fat and getting fatter. In an odd twist, my current density dilemma hasn’t swayed me to forgo sweets or red meat or my daily vat of coffee (mmmm coffee). Instead it has motivated me to give up Facebook.  It seems a good many of my Facebook friends have been working hard to lose the pounds and can’t stop themselves from posting their good fortune to the world at large. Look, I get it. You’ve done something your proud of and you want to announce it. That’s awesome. I’m totally in favor of that. I totally love the before and after pics. I find them genuinely inspiring. What I can’t stomach is people posting their daily workout routine... DAILY.  Just ran my third 5K of the week and burnt 16,000 calories. Off to squeeze in one more set of curls. It’s even more annoying when they slip in the time of day… Just biked 47 miles and did 3,000 crunches. What a great sunrise!

Well isn’t that just fabulous? You ran all that way while I was fighting two puppies for space under the comforter. Aren’t you quite the hero?  

Whatever happened to the concept of the humble warrior? What happened to quietly putting your head down and grinding it out? I wish I had the power to create some type of parallel universe where these people had to be Facebook friends with a list of All-Stars that I handpicked. I imagine a world where, when Bill posts that he just completed day 72 of his triathlon training, he’d be bombarded by comments like:

Jonas Salk: Nice work, Bill! Just cured Polio.
George Washington: Defeated the British at Trenton today. Merry Christmas!
Ernest Rutherford: Finally split the atom! Took a really thin knife. LOL!
Alvin York: I captured 132 German soldiers today.
Marie Curie: Won another Nobel Prize.
Neil Armstrong: Walked on the moon, y’all.

Yeah… how about them apples? That’ll put your Crossfit session into perspective. How do your quads feel now?

Yeah, yeah. Of course I’m jealous! And bitter!  Yes, I’m jealous and bitter. I used to exercise, too. I think I still remember how. I know I remember doing something that made me thirsty. Surely I still have the instructions tucked away in one of these file folders. One of these days I’ll rally. One of these days I’ll get my heart rate above 6 and then whooo boy, look out! And you can bet that I’ll do it my way. There won’t be any daily calls for fanfare. I won’t post my resting heart rate or my VO2 max or a picture of my recovery shake. I’ll just put my head down and grind it out and the only way you’ll ever know is if you see me in person. Or if you happen to drive by my billboard on Hwy 316. Or you attend my parade.


The Dawgs had another strong weekend, bumping off Long Beach State by a 1-0 score on Friday night and then following up with a 5-1 over the College of Charleston on Sunday.

LBSU is a strong team that happened to catch us on the wrong night. We played pretty darn well, but to be fair, I’m sure a transcontinental plane ride didn’t do our guests any favors. Regardless, we played some of our best soccer of the year and there wasn’t much the 49ers could do about that. We dominated territorially much more than I think any of us anticipated, but getting on the scoreboard sure took some doin’.

We had outshot the visitors 9-3 in the first half, but were deadlocked 0-0 at the intermission. The second half shot tally finished at 13-1 in our favor, but it wasn’t until the 80th minute that we finally scored. Kara Smith took a throw-in from Nikki Hill and did some great work along the LBSU endline before sliding a pass back to Marion Crowder. Crowder’s first time finish slipped just inside the far post to give us the game’s only goal. It was a solid performance from the Dawgs. Not flawless, but solid. We moved the ball well and were better about our shot selection and we defended with intensity. We’ve gotten a little bit better each time out, and that’s what I find most encouraging.

Sunday’s tilt against Charleston was a little more… uhm… strange. For starters we finally managed to score in the first half, twice no less, and they were two beauties. Crowder finished off both chances clinically, but the build-up of passes to each goal was really something to see. How can I explain it? Well, just imagine a bunch of one-touch passes in the final third culminating with Crowder bursting behind the defense with the ball at her feet and then depositing it into the net. That’s a pretty good description of both goals.

We looked pretty comfortable heading into the final minutes of the half, but then, well, that’s where it all went pear-shaped. Let me begin by saying that Sunday completely debunked any notion of my potential psychic powers. How do I know this? Before the game I congratulated Tanner on the goal she was going to score. Talk about your all-time backfires.

Tanner came on as a late first-half sub. 43 seconds later she was ejected from the game. Yep. And yes, it takes about twice that long to listen to the national anthem.

Suddenly we had a real problem on our hands and our two-goal cushion had ballooned in value. At half-time we figured that the Cougars would throw more bodies forward and take some risks. They had no choice. They had a 45-minute window to unload both barrels, and that’s exactly what they did.

Thankfully we were athletic enough to capitalize on some of the new match-ups and Crowder netted her third and fourth goals of the match in the first fifteen minutes, then Bella Hartley got her first of the season to extend our lead to 5-0. Bella scored four of our prettiest goals of 2012 and it was awesome to see her reopen her account for 2013.

With the result in hand, there was still one other issue hanging in the balance. The elephant in the room we’d all been trying to ignore was the shutout streak that had been stitched together since Texas. We’d won six on the trot without conceding a goal and those are things best left unspoken, unless you’re part of our broadcast team (I’m looking at you, Kevin Copp). Despite my elevated stress levels and pleas for silence, Kevin and his soon-to-be Mrs. Kevin, Soccer SID Kate Burkholder, have been bellowing about the streak since Greensboro. And we all know you can’t taunt the gods and expect to get away with it for very long. I tried explaining this to them… that you don’t sit next to the starting pitcher before the eigth inning and say, “Hey, what a great perfect game you’re throwing!” But they scoffed. They scoffed and announced and wrote and tweeted streak, streak, streak. Now, can you guess how this story ends?

With just over 12 minutes to play, Charleston was awarded a penalty kick, which was actually more agonizing than a run-of-play goal, because we actually had a good minute to think about the streak ending instead of having someone just rip off the band-aid. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The kid took the kick; the streak was over.

Honestly, I applaud the official. She gave a player a straight red in the first half and then whistled a penalty against the same team later in the game. As much as I wish it wasn’t true, she was right both times. But being right is the easy part. Having the courage to actually make those decisions is a lot more difficult and uncommon than you might imagine. I was impressed with her fearlessness to apply the rules as they were intended. Honestly, I’d be happy if we had her in the center for a few more games.

As for the streak… it ended at 652 minutes and change. Not a bad month’s work. A few people have told me it’s a blessing in disguise. Hard to believe that right now, but I sure hope they’re right. I’ll trade a win for a shutout any day… just as long as we, you know, win.

SEC play opens this Friday as we welcome the very talented Gamecocks of South Carolina to town. They’re ranked 8th in the country in the Soccer America poll and have been absolutely on fire! Should be one heckuva game. Hope you can make it, and make it loud!

If you enjoyed this entry I hope you’ll consider buying my book, Soccer iQ. Just click on the icon below. Thanks!