Winner: Dealing with victory when the shoe’s on the other foot

Winner, originally uploaded by kendrak.

I play indoor soccer on Mondays. It’s a women’s team. It’s fun. Sometimes it’s frustrating as hell because we always seem to be short players, which means we’re often playing down a person. It’s annoying to be slaughtered on the field when you know there’s really nothing you can do. I will do my best to defend, block shots, make them pass or take long shots, but when we’re missing people and gassed it’s a losing battle.

Tonight we showed up and I knew we would just barely have 7 players (a full side). I saw the other team we were playing: they had at least 12 people ready to go, all in matching uniforms. Teams in matching uniforms tend to freak me out. It’s a whole level of organization that tends to reflect a seriousness that I’m not sure I’m ready for. All the teams I play on are just a color, we just have to make sure our shirts meet the criteria. People in matching uniforms, especially ones that are replica kit (down to the shorts!), they intimidate me. It works. I assume they are way better than me, which is a fair assumption since I’m not that good.

So we start off the game playing tactically sound, passing football. The other team was younger and faster, and they were just going to run us out. If we had subs no doubt we would have been a bit more aggressive, but knowing that we’d all be on the pitch for the full 50 minutes, we had to play smart. When we scored the first goal (off of an amazing header), I was chuffed. This wasn’t going to be a bloodbath!

I realized 5 minutes into the first half that we were actually controlling the game. We were passing pretty well, and making full use of the field. I was playing a stopper which allowed our other defender space to move up. It worked pretty well. Their forwards only scared us a few times, but because we were able to pick the ball off in the midfield. They compensated by lobbing long balls up, which I was able to pass back up. Reading Jonathan Wilson and Michael Cox is good for something after all!

The score at the end of the first half was 1-8. We were winning pretty comfortably. It was sort of shocking, but the team for all their off-pitch organization (matching kits and coaches!), were a mess on the field. It was like bunch ball for adults. They weren’t really marking our forwards, and they played very narrow. They had some good players, but they weren’t working together at all. That’s a problem with a lot of new teams, and for all we know this was the team’s first season in the league. My team, we’ve been around for a while (I joined 2 years ago). It takes time to achieve a balance and rhythm. You need to see how your style fits with the other people on your team. Where do they like to pass? Will they make a run? The finer points. That’s what we had going on. This other team? Not at all.

That’s when I realized the shoe was on the other foot. I’m so used to being much worse than my opponents, that it took me a while (and a score line of 3-12) to recognize that we were slaughtering them. It was a weird feeling. Despite their youth, energy, and waves of subs, we were killing them and controlling the pace of the game. Most of it was in their half. I wanted to pull my foot off the gas, but it was hard. “I’ll ease up a bit… but I still don’t want them to score.” As a defender, it’s all I can do really. But we started easing up. Hell, I went up and played forward! They didn’t score again, but neither did we. It was just a back and forth for the last 10 minutes. We were tired as hell, but they just couldn’t string it together to get a good attack.

The final was 3-14. When the final buzzer went, I was happy to get a drink of water but a little bummed that the other team didn’t shake our hands. I understand the feeling, it sucks losing that much and you just want to get the hell out of there and lick your wounds, but I also think it’s important to go through the motion. Maybe it’s a romantic view of the beautiful game, but I really believe that you should be able to respect your opponent at the end of it all and walk away with no lingering ill will. There are some teams that I have played against that make it really hard. They have bad attitudes and bring out the worst in me, but I know it’s not the whole team and that I’m really not like that. We tried to talk to them, to wish them a good game, but I guess we were jerks for running the score up like that.

While I savored my burrito tonight with the enthusiasm of a wiped out winner, I still feel a little bummed. I have complained about teams that just run up the score and demoralize my side, and I just did it. I know it’s not all my fault, not wanting them to score since it’s all I can do, but we did it as a team. While my team hasn’t had such a cohesive display in a long time (that part was pretty awesome), I wish we knew how to pull back. Or maybe it’s good that we’re not so accustomed to this sort of thing, and that we have no idea of what to do?

I’m pretty sure tonight was a fluke

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