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The story begins on Thursday night, when my mom told me to get my soccer gear together along with my regular suit case. Tomorrow after school (which happened to be a half day) my mom, dad, brother Nick, sister Kara and I would be making the trip down to a soccer tournament in St. Louis. The tournament would be taking place over spring break, so some of our players would not be able to make the trip because of previously scheduled family vacations. One of those players was David, the goalkeeper for our team. He could not make the trip due to a destination imagination (DI) tournament. In addition, Drew, Alex and Chaparro were all going on vacations. To fill the four holes in the lineup, Logan, one of the star midfielders on the U14 team, would be joining us along with Bobby, the goal keeper on the B team. Also playing with us were two other guest players: Nick, a star center midfielder, and his brother Holden, who plays forward. They were from Sheboygan and were thinking about trying out for the North Shore United team next year. The challenge was that we had the pieces, but we had to put the puzzle together to become one great soccer team.
We started training three months before the tournament, so we would be able to win. It might sound crazy to be training for one tournament for that long, but we were also training for the regular season. First we started training with a lot of running. We did sixteen minute shifts and then would take a five minute break and then run again and again for an hour and a half. Every day for the next weeks we would run, and sometimes we would do some sprints or position games. At the end of the three months we were up to twenty five minute running sessions. We felt our chances were good, and the next day we would be driving down to St. Louis for the tournament. That night I had trouble falling asleep because I was so excited but that was fine.
When the day came, I was excited to go to school. I was bursting with excitement and the school day went by really fast; however, the last few minutes seemed like it took forever for the bell to ring. I biked home as fast as I could. I walked into the house and my dad told me to go get my suitcase and soccer stuff and put all of it by the car. I put my stuff by the car and sat down on the couch for a little while and waited for my sister to get home from school. When she finally walked through the door we packed the car and grabbed some drinks and hit the road for the Gateway City. This was not going to be a short car ride as it would take seven hours to get there. So what would anyone else do? First I watched a movie and texted my friend, and after two movies, I put in my headphones and continued texting and listening to music. As we drew close to the Gateway City, the sky turned a sick green color and it started to rain real hard so we could barely see the road as we were driving along. What was even crazier was that we saw a funnel clouds in the sky and some actual tornados in the distance. We finally drove through all of that and had forty five minutes left in the trip. As we got closer we could almost see the famous Arch. We stopped about twenty minutes shy of St. Louis at some hotel to register the team and continued to our hotel, which was in the middle of the city. We finally got to the hotel and we checked in and went up to our rooms. We had two adjoining rooms that were connected by two doors. In one room was my sister, brother and I. I had to share a bed with my sister and Nick got his own bed. As I went to bed that night I said to myself that all that training is going to pay off.
The next morning my Mom woke me up and told me to get up and dressed for the game. I grabbed my bag and we headed downstairs to the breakfast place and ate. After that we went to get the car and drive to the fields. When we arrived at the fields it was forty eight degrees and raining sideways. Of course, I did not pack my Under Armour shirt for this trip so I would have to tough through it. The game started; as I gazed across the field I saw a six foot kid who I swear had a mustache. He got the ball and was coming at the goal, so I tackled the ball and he fell to the ground. For what I thought was a good play, I was awarded with a yellow card. The first game ended and they had scored seven goals on our team. That was not what we were expecting, but we had to forget about it and get ready for the next game.
We went to Subway as a team and ate lunch and chilled out until the next game. We showed up at the fields an hour early to warm up. We warmed up and before we knew it, it was time to kick off. I started the game at right side defender along with Ellis and Jack. The game started and was pretty even until they scored a goal on a free kick that was given. We went into half time down 1-0. Our coach told us the game was far from over and we should not give up. We did not give up and Jared scored a goal to tie up the game. On the goal, Jared slammed the ball into the top of the net after a great pass from Logan. Not long after that, we scored again off a free kick that Logan laced into the far side of the net bringing the score to 2-1 in our favor. Shortly after that they had a chance to tie the game and Bobby made a great save. For the remainder of the game our defense shut them down and we won the game. With our record 1-1, the tournament was not over and we had to play one more game on Sunday. We would be playing a team from Kansas and they were just as good as we were, but we thought that we could win.
The next day we showed up at the game an hour before and were getting prepared. That hour passed really fast and before we knew it, it was time to take the field. With a loud shout of “United!” we took the field feeling strong and prepared to play. The game started very even and then Kansas scored. The half ended 1-0 and we all came over to our coach. He told us not to give up because we were one score from being back in the game. After half time, we took the field ready to play, the whistle blew and we quickly took control and the other team rarely got to our side of the half. When they did make it to our side of the field the ball was cleared away. On one play early in the second half, Blaze, one of our forwards, slide tackled the ball and that made the other coach very upset.
The coach told all his players to go “studs up” or to tackle with their cleats going into a player’s leg. This made our coach equally mad and there was a heated argument between them. The arguing got into some our players’ heads and we unfortunately let in a second goal. We came back and scored once late in the game but were eliminated from the tournament for good after losing 2-1. During the post game handshake, the other coach was still not finished with his rant and accused our player of spitting in his hand before shaking hands with the other team. Our coach told him to just leave as that had not happened and we were all upset with the comment and poor sportsmanship. After our team meeting, we left the field and hit the road for the trip back home to Cedarburg.
We left St. Louis a changed team. We learned that we were not the best team and we had many things to work on to become an elite team. Overall the experience was a great one as we learned that we needed to become a more cohesive team. We bonded over those games of soccer, and we left with our heads held high with hopes of coming back another time.
Picture of the arch http://www.bustler.net/index.php/article/nine_teams_reach_second_round_of_gateway_arch_design_competition/
Picture of cleats http://www.topsoccershoesonline.com/nike-total-90-laser-i-ag-c-96.html
Picture of the soccer ball http://nike-soccer-balls.com/