I was getting my gear together yesterday when I realized that it appears I will live my entire sporting life without ever once wearing my favorite shade of my favorite color, which is the royal blue of Chelsea, Duke and Minnetonka. That seems a bit strange, if not unfair, given that this is the thirty-eighth autumn that I’ve worn team colors of one sort or another.
Elementary school: red
NSSA: light blue
Junior high: navy and yellow
High school: red and white
Minneapolis KPAC: red and black
College track: orange and blue
College rugby: black
Dragons: black and yellow
St. Paul Sting: yellow and black
New Brighton Nike: green and black
FC prima squadra/veterani elite: green and black
FC veterani: yellow and black
Because European soccer clubs are practically cradle-to-grave, Ender has played for the same two clubs that I have, except for that two-week flirtation with the pro club when he was nine. Last night reminded me of the time I went to watch my younger brothers play at my old high school and I suddenly realized that they were no longer playing little kid games, but were essentially my athletic peers.
(Not quite, as I scored two goals against them when a group of players who were mostly from my year or the year following beat them 3-1 in the annual alumni game, but essentially. And it was a lot of fun to play with one younger brother on the Sting and with the other who was with Nike. Between the two of them and Spacebunny, they got me back into soccer after nine years off for track, rugby, and martial arts, for which I am quite grateful.)
Last night’s friendly was fun for me to watch, first because it was a local derby, and second because, as the coach said, Ender went from being one of the role-players to one of the leaders of the team. He owned the right defense, shut down both the enemy strikers thrown at him, and combined effectively with the sweeper to cover up the occasional defensive breakdowns. He prevented two easy goals by getting back and clearing balls that the goalie couldn’t hang onto after making saves, and repeatedly launched the attack by coming up the line and putting nice balls on the ground behind the opposing defense for the strikers and midfielders to run onto. The first goal and most of their good opportunities were started by long passes he made, usually to his favorite teammate, Jet.
We were all impressed by Ender’s first assist at this level. The other team was in the midst of a counter attack when he broke on a ball being passed to the attackers near midfield, intercepted it, beat an opposing midfielder, and then passed a through ball into the box for a teammate to run onto. The midfielder drilled it first time and the goalie never had a chance. The whole team went wild as that put them up 3-1 and pretty much iced the game, which finished 4-2 after the other team got a late goal at the very end.
My 29th soccer season hasn’t begun quite so well; in our second practice I banged knees with a teammate who later inadvertently stomped upon my left foot. But I’ll be fine by our first game and it should be fun to play in the big stadium that belongs to the new team in the league. Not that anyone will be coming to watch the old guys play, but there is something about night games in stadiums that brings back those old state tournament memories. I don’t know how many seasons I have left; I’m hoping to play five more, but regardless, I plan to enjoy the game as long as I can still play it.