In my previous Sidespin installment I wrote about a not so glorious time in college when I snapped and body slammed a dude, which got me red carded and kicked out of a game. This one is a bit more positive and it actually precedes the Seeing Red timeline. Same school, UCCS, but it was my first year there in 1985 and the soccer program was a club sport in what was called the RMISL - the Rocky Mountain Interscholastic Soccer League.
As a club sport, we only had to be a part time student to be eligible to play, which I was, and our games were primarily against other universities in Colorado. I was 17 years old, fresh out of high school and only made the team because my older brother, who was the gifted athlete in our family, was a starter and talked to the coach about letting me play.
Our coach at that time was a young transplant from Hawaii and talented player in his own right. He knew my playing background, but decided to mostly play me at positions that needed a substitution, such as midfield, and for someone who had almost exclusively played defense up to that point, it was both exhilarating and stressful. I would usually get in about 30 minutes of a full 90, but rarely started.
My brother started and played the full 90 in just about every game. He switched between playing midfield or playing up front. He was fast, skilled, and could play instinctively with his "head up" when carrying the ball. In our downtime and youth, we played with and against each other so often, we knew each other on an unspoken level.
About two-thirds through our season we were playing a team at home that we did not do well against earlier when we had played them in Gunnison, mostly because our priority on the road trip was drinking and partying. The team was Western State College. They were known as "Wasted State" and made the listings of top party schools in Colorado at that time, even into Playboy.
We did not have a school van or bus, so we would travel to our home and away games by our own means. The day of our home game against WS, our full team didn't arrive before it was time to play, so in order to field a team my coach asked me to start at right wing. RIGHT WING!
Holy living fuck! My first game STARTING and I was playing a position I had never played before in a competitive match. My brother saw my ashen reaction and came over to give me some encouragement, but I was a nervous mess. The WS players were cocky and talking trash even before the game started because of the earlier result at their school. They started the game expecting to win, especially because they could see our skeleton crew on the pitch.
Not even 5 minutes into the game and I am running around rather cluelessly and not really making any impact on the game and that is just as apparent to the guy defending me as he decided to not mark me tight.
Well, they were attacking and my brother, who was playing midfield, wins the ball at the halfway line. He looks up and over directly at me, locking eyes briefly, and instinctively I knew what to do - I start sprinting full out toward their goal as their defense had not transitioned out of their own half before they had lost the ball. My brother on the opposite side of the field is at full pace and beating guys left and right.
No sound, no talk, no yelling. He puts a beautiful left footed low cross with authority and it is a magical culmination of timing, speed and skill. I don't even have to break stride in my full out sprint when the ball arrives at the top of the 18 yard box. The collision of a fast paced ball with my right foot in a extended stride creates a ball shaped rocket that screams past their keeper with such velocity, he just stands there, motionless with arms spread.
I end my run in silence and shock. I can't believe I just scored my first goal. My brother is going nuts, as is my coach and the entire Western State team visibly deflates on the field.
10 minutes later, I get my second goal on a shot that deflects off their crossbar. They are in such disarray that I literally just step forward at a leisurely pace and instep the ball into the net. I am in a dream like state when my coach subs me out.
The rest of the team had arrived and we went on to win by a comfortable 4-0 margin. That was the first time since youth soccer that I had scored a goal, much less two. For someone who played defense, that was my pinnacle.