Final kick of season keeps team undefeated
It is what every young soccer player dreams of, the equivalent of a bases-loaded grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in baseball, or a last-second, three-pointer in basketball.
It is scoring a goal with time expiring to win the game for his or her team. Johnny Landa, on the 8&U Craig yellow team, was able to live out the dream with some slightly different details Thursday night at Woodburry Park. Although his goal didn’t win the game, it brought it to a 2-2 tie. But that didn’t make it any less important because the goal came with no time left on a free kick and it saved his team’s undefeated record.
“I just wanted to get the ball and score,” said the team’s star on offense. “It feels good to be the hero.”
With four minutes left in the game, the Craig green team had the lead 2-1 but Landa’s team was on the attack with five shots on goal just missing. With a minute and a half remaining, Landa took a shot that was grabbed by a player on the green team, who wasn’t the goalie. This set up a penalty kick for yellow’s scoring machine, but it sailed just to the right of the goal.
A few seconds later, almost the exact same incident happened only this time there was no time remaining and Landa made sure to put the ball in the net.
“We had an outstanding season,” said coach Mike Laliberte.
“With the league being a rec. league and the players coming by luck of the draw, we were a really good team.”
Laliberte’s team outscored its opponents 32-4 with the last three goals coming in the last two games with the absence of defensive specialist Maury Mirante.
Laliberte said there were a few factors that set his team apart.
“Our parents made sure to have their kids at the game,” he said.
“We had to scale back our team several times because they only had six or seven. We almost always had our full roster of 11 at the games.”
The dedication to be there to play was most exemplified by Russell Whitten, who had surgery this summer for a hernia and blocked kidney, yet he still came out and played.
“Sometimes he would come off the field in pain but he wanted to be out there,” Laliberte said. “When they’re having fun they want to be out here and that is satisfying as a coach.”
There were no official awards handed out by the parks and rec. program on Thursday night, but Laliberte bought little soccer trophies for his team to remember the season.
After the game, many of the players thanked the coach for taking time out of his summer to help them. One child came up and said, “you’re the best coach I ever had.”
A seven-year-old probably has not had many coaches, but it was a nice ending to a perfect season.
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