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It’s time. Tournament weekend, the whole team was pumped and we were ready, ready for any team who even tried to take our throne. We were defending champions and didn’t want to give that up, we knew we were competing in an older division but we didn’t care, we were ready. They called us the underdogs but we didn’t listen we new who we were.
Our first game was against a group of highschoolers who play for a club called MYSA, they were known to do very good in tournaments since they didn’t play league games. Our first preliminary game was against them. It was a cold, wet, Friday night and the lights were on at Crowley Park. Once the whistle of the previous game blew both teams stormed the pitch and got into their positions. Our coach called us back and told us how important the first game of a tournament is and we understood and embraced that pressure.
“C’mon boys we got this,” stated Matt.
“Boys, focus and play your game this will probably be our biggest challenge yet so let’s do this!” exclaimed our coach as he set us out of the huddle and onto the field.
The whistle went and the game was off, they immediately started putting pressure on us, but we felt we could deal with it. A sigh of relief came halfway through the first half when the opposition was through on goal ready to score and they just put it wide of the post. They would’ve scored a chance like that nine times out of ten so we knew we couldn’t let a chance like that slip through again.
Halftime, the score was 0-0, but they were absolutely controlling the game. I was playing center-mid and wasn’t nervous at first but as soon as I saw their striker the butterflies started forming in my stomach. He was about six foot one and was built. He was definitely a Junior in high school and I had to match up with him the whole game.
Second half, the rain had stopped pouring by now and the intensity had picked up. Our defenders looked tired considering they were running after the opposing team’s striker the whole first half. Suddenly, their striker was given too much time dribbling space and he ripped a shot. It rattled of the post and the rebound rolled in. We were devastated, but we didn’t give up and we still had plenty of time. Three minutes later, the second one went in and we thought there was no coming back from it.
Tweet, tweet, tweet. The match was over and we started our tournament on a loss. We went home with our heads down and we were questioning ourselves in the games ahead. The next morning at 8:00 am, we had our second game. Most of the team arrived at 7:00 and we started our warm-ups. We started the game in a commanding position, we scored our first goal in a span of 20 minutes and there were many more to come.
“We got this one for sure the way we’re playing,” I stated trying to get the team to stop thinking about last night’s game.
Halftime, 1-0 Abe scored a well taken shot. Second half, we still controlled and ended the game 4-0 a great performance overall. Our third game was just 2 hours after so we didn’t leave the field. We really started to dwell on our confidence and how much of it we had going into the next game and even the finals were we to win the next game. However, we also dwelled on the positives and most of us bonded with our team the way we have never bonded before.
We started our last preliminary game and at halftime we were tied 1-1 against another high school team with wicked shots. We put our goal in, but it felt like there was no time in between our goal and theirs because they scored right after. Second half, we began playing our style and began dominating.
Boom! Second goal goes in.
Pow! Third goal goes in. Game over now, for sure.
We ended up winning 6-1 another great performance from the boys. However, we all knew that the real test was going to be in the finals against MYSA, we were getting a second chance.
The game was scheduled for Sunday at 4pm, no rain or major wind was expected so it really was going to be a test of who was a better team. At 3:15 our team began warming-up as the butterflies in our stomachs grew larger staring at the other team.
“Focus on yourselves, play through yourselves . . . don’t worry about what they are doing,” our coach stated.
“Come on boys we got this today’s our day, on our field with good weather nothing we should worry about,” exclaimed Ethan our best defender and one of our captains.
We had 15 minutes till game time. 10 minutes. Time was flying. 5 minutes. 2 minutes. Tweet! And just like that our the finals was off. 15 minutes into the first half they were controlling but as soon as they got to our defense which consisted of myself, Jack, and Ethan we immediately shut them down and won the ball back for our team. Suddenly, a pass was played through our defense and their speedy striker appeared to handball it into the net!
“Handball ref!” our fans screamed, “Handball.”
“C’mon ref you’re seriously going to give them that!” Coach shouted.
It seemed like the whole world was complaining but the ref disregarded it and counted the goal.
There were 13 minutes in the first half left when tragedy struck. Our top striker A.J. had a nasty injury and was very slow to get up. Once he did, he left the field and didn’t return to the game. That was it, I felt like there was no chance on winning this game with no attack. I thought of giving up but I knew that that would only make the situation worse so I pretended like it never happened and just kept on going. The field was absolutely torn up from this weekend which made matters worse and almost convinced the whole team on stopping. With 5 minutes left in the first half Matt crossed a ball in the box and the opposing defender put it into his own net! It was a huge sigh of relief and maybe a sign of what was to come.
Halftime, we went in feeling better about ourselves, but were still pretty questionable. Our coach reinforced our confidence a little and explained what we had to do to win this game in the second half.
Tweet! The second half was off. There one striker kept pressing but I kept him under control and he couldn’t get past me. Finally, I had found a way to defend this guy and slowly my confidence in my abilities returned. He dribbled, I stole it. He dribbled, I stole it. I kept containing him until we got into our attack but without A.J. our attack isn’t really there even though our mid-field was playing the game of their life. Since there was no attack, it was Jack, Ethan, and my job to just keep containing them until overtime or even a penalty shootout. Lots of pressure was on us but as long as we did our job and kept it simple we would be fine.
We survived, Jackson our goalie had a lot to do with it considering he made two astonishing saves that were sure to go in without him. It was time for overtime, there would be two 5 minute halves and if the game was still tied from there we would go to penalty shootouts. We had no time for a huddle so we just grabbed some water and returned to the field. I haven’t been subbed out once and my legs were reaching the point of exhaustion but I wouldn’t stop.
“Boys, stay calm and play your game don’t panic we’ve worked on things in practice that’ve prepared us for situations like this,” Coach shouted from the sideline.
The first five minutes flew by with not really any chances on either side and we didn’t really get a break in between once again so we just switched sides and started again. For the first time in the game we were controlling the ball and I played a pass into Matt’s feet who was wide open on the right side, he crossed a ball in and Reece controlled the pass and had the composure to put it into the top corner. We scored! And it looked like we were going to win. The whole park had the energy of the sun and all of us ran like cheetahs towards the corner flag to celebrate. We had all lost track of time and there was only 1 minute left, but we had to hold on. The last kick of the game was a free kick in a dangerous area, we made a wall and the intensity was there, The crowd was silent and then. Boom! The ball struck me in the wall.
“Yes Hadi well done,” the whole team seemed to shout.
And with that the game had ended and we had won. After the game we went to the tent to receive our trophy, all of us have never been as happy as we were at that moment, we won!