I know that my time on the soccer field is growing shorter. I’m the second-oldest man on the veteran’s team, and the other guy is only a few months older. I think both of us have survived because we have the benefit of relatively fresh knees, I missed 10 years of playing after high school, plus three years more years after an old groin injury flared up, while he didn’t play for nearly 20 years before getting back into the sport.
The fall season started tonight, and it was my best first practice I’ve ever had. Knowing that we’d be getting some new guys who are 14 years younger, I figured I’d better get myself in prime shape if I wanted to hang onto my starting spot. So, I barely missed a workout this summer, added a leg day to the schedule, and made sure to run at least once a week on the treadmill. By last week, I was able to do a 40-minute run with a constant elevation that burned over a thousand calories and still have something left.
When I went to the field, I discovered that the coaches decided we’d have a scrimmage between the vets and the first team. We had more vets, and since my Dutch friend and I were already wearing blue, we were sent to play with the first team. And damn, they were GOOD on the ball. I actually got the first shot, which I put wide, and I managed to keep up with their tiki-taka on the rare occasions they passed it to me instead of pushing it forward, pulling it back, spinning around, and going between two vets. For the most part, I was a spectator, which was fine with me. I was just happy that my occasional passes hit the target.
But my real teammates have been doing this for a LONG time. They dealt with all the flashy ball skills by using their heavier weight to knock the kids around and taking advantage of the young guys typical failure to stay back on defense. They actually scored the first three goals, so I switched back to defense and that helped shut them down. I know how our guys play, I’m faster than most of them, and our rapid counterattacks eventually tired them out. After 90 minutes, they’d only scored twice more and we’d scored seven or eight.
At one point, I brought the ball up from the back and somehow managed to beat four guys in succession before passing off, but the best part was when I saw one young midfielder less than half my age bending over and holding his knees. I laughed at him as I jogged back into position; he looked at me in disbelief and shook his head. Now, don’t get me wrong, I can’t play seriously at their level; their intensity, quickness, and energy is considerably more than I can match. They are in constant motion whereas I have to play a position game and choose my bursts. But it’s rather nice to know that they can’t blow me off the field yet.