Got a pleasant surprise last week when my brother called and said he was considering a visit to Montana, with nephew in tow. It’s an 8 hour drive to Seattle and various responsibilities out here in the Bitterroot are going to keep us from heading out that way for a while, so we were excited for the chance to see Richard and Charlie.
Richard brought the bicycles and we cruised around town, the boys and I showing them our local haunts. We hit the elementary school where O and I play hoops with the fancy glass backboards and the biggest grassy play area you’ve ever seen at school, the new high school with the big soccer fields, went through the quaint, old downtown corridor, passed the library, the tennis courts, the old Catholic church, the jr. high (old brick high school) and the riverside park. (click for large pic)
Charlie, Richard, Allen, Owen. This was just a few paces from the spot where I encountered a bull moose about a week ago. Allen had already taken this path a number of times on his solo rides around town and country, but had never seen the moose. When Owen and I went for a ride, we were next to the river and came across a couple local ladies who asked us if we’d seen the moose.
-Moose? No. Where?
-There’s a mother with her calves over that way across the river, and a bull over that way by the meadow, under the trees.
Everybody knows moose can be quite dangerous and you have to keep your distance, but it seems most locals walking through the park aren’t too worried. These must be slightly citified moose, and used to hikers/walkers/cyclists. Owen wasn’t taking chances, though. He stayed by the river and I ventured out toward the open meadow. I was thinking the ladies meant the far trees on the other side of the meadow, not the trees near the river, surrounding us. I was just to the edge of the woods, looking across the meadow, when I said to myself, “Hmm, maybe I ought to have a scan around here before I go farther.”
Sure enough, there he was only 20 yards away, at 11 o’clock. I only saw his back as he was hunkered under the trees, busy munching on grass. He must have smelled or heard me because he stopped and turned his head my way for a second, and that was my cue- exit, stage Owen. “Get back on your bike, O. We’re outta here.”
-I saw the moose!
Now Allen might have wanted to linger and check him out, but Owen, Mr. City Comforts, took my word for it and agreed we should mosey on.
So, I have my bear and moose encounter for this trip. Now all I need is a wolf and a mountain lion and I can start concentrating on the birds. (Richard chastised me for not knowing which species was the ubiquitous black and white, crow-like bird that Mr. Terwiliger encouraged us to shoot.)
After the ride we went to Napps, the best place in town for a burger.
Our second soccer game was Monday so R and C came out to see if O and the Hawks could manage a better performance than Saturday’s 14-1 drubbing. It was cloudy but no rain, temperature in the low 60s, no wind. Chilly for August but perfect for soccer.
Again, the opponent had more substitutes, all-boys, and a most of them way bigger than us. They had their organized pre-game drills and lively communication; I expected another bloodbath. What a surprise then, when our little right winger, Michael, managed to get past the defender, only 4 minutes into the game, and get a close-range shot at goal, which bounced off the keeper’s gloves and into the net. 1-0! Maybe I shouldn’t call Michael little, as he’s pretty close to average, considering the stature of the rest of our players- a small team. But soccer is a great equalizer sport. If this were football, baseball, rugby or basketball, we would have been mauled by these big Montana country boys, but size doesn’t stop quick feet and ball skills- exhibit A- Messi!
A mother showed up late, approached the line of Hawk’s fans in their lawn chairs, took a look at the players on the field, and said, with a wry, somewhat defeatist grin, “How’s it goin’? It looks like we’re in for another tough game.”
-What?! You’re kidding!
-Yeah, Michael just scored. It’s 1-0.
Then she expressed what everybody was thinking a couple minutes earlier. “After Saturday I expected we’d get creamed again!”
This goal really gave the boys and girls some confidence. There was lots of passing going on- much less holding on to the ball until taken away by the opponent. And plenty of hustle. Our girls on the right side, defense and midfield, really gave it their all. And our most crucial player, #7 James, put me at ease when he showed up ten minutes into the game and the coach rushed him onto the field. James is not one of those super-talented naturals who has that control and swagger of a goal-scoring star, but he’s fast and he really understands the game. A kid like that you don’t put on the forward line- you give him the most important position of all- sweeper (center defender- last line before the goalkeeper). My favorite things about James- he knows
- when to hold back and when to attack
- not to dangerously bring the ball to the center if there are no good passing opportunities
- (most importantly) where to stand to force the opponent off-sides, often
The biggest difference today was a newcomer, much smaller than Amanda, our smallest player. As I watched Steven handle the ball, with his head up surveying the field for opportunities, deftly keeping it away from the defender, I said to myself, “Hey, who brought in the ringer? With James at center back, Steven center midfield, and Owen at center forward, we might have a chance!”
Then we did have another scoring chance when Owen got open for a shot at the 18 yd. line. He put it just over the crossbar.
Five minutes later Owen tried another approach. His shots have lacked power and aim- perhaps due to the deep, spongey grass and exhaustion after bringing the ball up. Instead of maneuvering for the open shot, he decided to maneuver past defenders. So in his next attack, he just kept bringing the ball up, getting closer and closer to the goal. He passed the entire defensive wall and even held off on shooting when he was alone with the goalie, and instead put a fake on and sort of dribbled the ball in, with a light, easy touch at the end to net it. I picked up my smart phone and mailed Richard and Charlie, who were coming late: “Owen scores! 2-0!”
A man in our peanut gallery said, “That was good! Owen just dribbled past 3 defenders!”
It wasn’t 3 minutes before O netted another one, this time a finely-placed, acute-angle, cross shot from the right wing.
By the time R and C arrived we had substituted our bench players and our opponents had managed a goal. Owen wasn’t seeing any action now as our defense and midfield were having trouble advancing the ball. The tide seemed to be turning. I was anxious to see Coach put Steven back in (he didn’t dare take out James at sweeper), but the subs remained on the field until halftime. 3-1
In the second half we had our best ten on the field and started pressuring again. This game description is getting long so to summarize:
Owen picks up the ball on the sidelines right in front of us for a throw in. There is a substitution so I have time to say, “Owen!” He turns toward us. “Score a goal for Richard and Charlie!”
I knew O wanted to get another goal, not just for the hattrick but more importantly, to put one in in front of his beloved uncle and cousin. Richard tried to take the pressure off and said, “Nah. You don’t need to do anything special for us.”
But it worked! Owen used a little fancy footwork to get around two defenders and put in an easy one at ten yards. Hattrick!
I figured I had better get a little footage of the action before the game ended, so I whipped out the camera and took some video. No more goals for Oach but he did manage a good corner kick and a well-placed pass for an assist.
corner- O makes a nice cross and finds his man but a low half-volley is a tough shot, even for the pros, sometimes. https://youtu.be/vPKwiJNm_70
assist- O makes a nice leading pass to Conrad, just enough touch on this slow field for C to approach, control, change feet and get a perfect left-footer into the upper left corner of the goal. https://youtu.be/9ijfGq7E57k
A great soccer day and the Hawks turned it around from Saturday’s loss with a satisfying 5-1 win!
A happy Hawks mom passes the shoes table. This is a great idea. Soccer shoes, the good ones anyway, are expensive and with kids feet constantly growing, it gets very expensive. The Stevensville soccer club has this soccer cleats exchange table, where you pick up a nice pair for free, and leave your own pair when your feet get too big. Nike and Addidas don’t like it, but soccer moms do.
Owen went home beaming- he got a goal in front of uncle and cousin!
Next: family hike