I sit here on a Sunday night, earbuds in with Paul Desmond’s Take Ten playing, sublimely and serenely drinking in a great weekend of soccer. (Quick trivia question without Googling the answer: for whom did Paul Desmond play for the lion’s share of his professional career? I’ll even give you the genre: jazz.)
Friday evening, my daughter and I watched the U.S. Women’s National Team take on the national team from the great nation of New Zealand, a land that brought us the stunning landscapes of the Lord of the Rings series. Defensive midfielder Julie Ertz scored a brace, and Alex Morgan capped off the night with a beautiful goal to give the home team a 3-1 win. We also celebrated Kelley O’Hara’s 100th cap, to which the fans gave her the appropriate response to this amazing achievement.
It’s been three years since I’ve attended a U.S. national team game, but I couldn’t get over the different vibe and atmosphere that these games bring. It’s palpable! And no wonder - having the best of the best on our national team come to our home ground is amazing, with 17,301 in attendance donning not only their red, white, and blue, but (like I did) donning Colorado Rapids gear. And kudos to the Dick’s Sporting Goods Park team that, in the aftermath of the Phish concert, got the pitch ready for play.
Saturday afternoon, I watched a thrilling, down-to-the-wire match between the U-14 Littleton Hawks who hosted the North Denver Rush. My son played midfield in the first half, and was stellar in goal in the second half. Both teams played well. I love this age - you can hear them talking their strategy through, making purposeful and precise passes, and then taking advantage of the rare opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net.
Yet, I want to give a shout-out to their coaches, Angie Wright and Amy Dupays. They have coached my son for the last two years. Their aim is not only to help them play solid soccer, but (more importantly, I’d say) to coach in a way that they will still love it when they are 40. In hearing how some other coaches coach, it’s like they believe they are coaching in the Premier League. The yelling and condescending tones to their players and the constant haranguing would not be something that would make a rec league teenager want to pursue this sport any further. So, thank you, Coach Angie and Coach Amy. Our kids are in good hands.
Then Saturday night! Dominique Badji turned a frustrating night for Rapids fans into ecstatic fans, eeking out a 1-1 draw against a good New York City FC squad. While the first half left a lot to be desired, the second half showed a lot more urgency, purpose, and, yes, strategy that I wish our team would demonstrate more of from game to game and from half to half.
Did the ‘club’ game have the same atmosphere as the ‘country’ game? In some pockets, but not with everyone. We saw glimpses of this toward the second half of 2016 and in the playoffs which made me long for more.
Tying all of this together, I’m so pleased with the soccer culture that’s developing. Plus, in hearing about the great atmosphere of clubs like Harpos FC and FC Boulder and DU (to name a few), soccer is a-plenty, making the culture of soccer here in Colorado something to behold.
Let’s build on this. Let’s keep the soccer train a-movin’!