Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Top 5 Moments - Wilt, Busch, Palmer, & Me

Awhile back, I was talking to my wife and kids about my soccer playing days. So many years have passed since I played that many of the games and moments have long slipped into the deep recesses of my brain never to be brought forth again. Yet, for some reason, there are still the nuggets that I can recall with clarity and may be my peak ability. 

Many soccer fans may be aware of the book "Fever Pitch" by Nick Hornby, which "tells the story of the author's relationship with football [or soccer depending on where you're from], and with Arsenal Football Club in particular." It was adapted into a 1997 movie with Colin Firth, based on the book, and then a 2005 movie, based on the first movie, which changed the sport to baseball and starred Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore. Hornby has also written a book called "High Fidelity," (adapted into a John Cusack movie and a recent Hulu series with Zoe Kravitz) in which Top 5 lists is a significant part of the story and is one that I really love.

That's a long way to say that as I talked to my wife and kids I started rattling off my Top 5 Moments from my playing days. I decided that it might be fun to start a new series on this site (separate from The Soccer Life survey click here if you want to see examples of that), where I get players to give me their Top 5 Moments from their careers. This can be from anytime from their days as a youth to their final game as a professional or international. Given that I didn't play beyond high school (not counting some intramural games and my time on the International Club team at DePauw), my list is entirely of my youth. However, the first participants in this series are Peter Wilt, Jon Busch, and Lovel Palmer, guys with whom I have had great conversations about soccer over the years, and have much more interesting Top 5 Moments.

Without further ado...

Drew Thompson

  1. I remember a club game in my early teenage years where we were playing in Richmond (Indiana) on a rain-soaked field. In those days, there weren't a lot of natural left-footed players around. Due to a toe-injury on my right foot many years before, I had begun to work on my left foot so that I could keep practicing while my right foot was in a boot. So it wasn't great, but it was serviceable and in this game I found myself playing left midfield. On my side of the field was a large puddle that was possible to avoid, but took the flow out of my attack. So I went through the puddle. Each time I did it, the defenders slowed down as they were sprayed with water or thought the ball was going to stay there. Using their hesitancy, I proceeded towards goal and managed a hat trick for my efforts.
  2. I prefer playing on grass fields, but we didn't play on many manicured fields in those days. So indoor games were where my skills shined. I was quick with the ball and my scientific brain did well with the passes off of the boards. Our local indoor facility was connected to a bar, which had a window that overlooked the field. One game, I scored a double hat trick. After I scored the 6th goal, I ran over to the window and yelled "SIX GOALS" at my high school coaches who were sitting in the bar drinking.
  3. In another indoor game... For those who have never played indoor, the field often has two sets of lines on each side of the field and you aren't allowed to pass a ball from beyond one to the other side of the other (kind of like icing in hockey). I remember a perfectly weighted pass from by buddy Patrick, from the defensive side of our line to just short of the line on the other team's defensive side. So we just barely kept it from getting the "icing" call. I dropped the ball perfectly to my feet from my chest and took the ball in for a goal. It was one of those rare moments where each little piece had to happen perfectly and did.
  4. In another indoor game...there's a trend here. I was having a pretty good game and I was working my way back towards our midfielder who had the ball. As I did that, I pulled two defenders with me and I dummied the ball through my legs and past the defenders before they realized that one of our other players was streaking down the sideline to the ball past them. Without the defenders, they had a clear shot on goal and scored. Another one of those moments where I saw it in my head and it developed like I had hoped. 
  5. Moment #5 borders on whether it can be considered a "top" moment, but it does significantly stick out in my brain. We were playing in a tournament, I think in Westfield, and I took a ball to the face during warmups, which proceeded to take me from the starting lineup as I couldn't get the bleeding to stop. I don't recall now why I didn't just shove gauze up it and play, but I didn't. So at some point in the 2nd half, it had finally stopped and I entered the game. The game eventually went to penalty kicks. I remember kicking it poorly; rolling along the ground poorly. However, the keeper guessed the wrong way, but was trying to make it back over to the side where I "kicked" it. Just as he stretched out to block it with his hand, the ball hit a dirt mound in the box and bounced up and over his arm, giving me the most unlikely penalty kick goal I had ever scored. I don't even remember the result of the game, but the hilarity of the goal has stayed with me.
Now for the professionals!

Peter Wilt

  1. March 18, 1988: Jacksonville Generals at Milwaukee Wave. Playing at the MECCA Arena we had a massive walk up due to McDonald's promotion. The moment I'll always remember is when the ticket manager ran up to me before the game to ask if she could move the high school band down to the floor. I said yes, so we sold those seats and completed the league record sellout of 8,946 tickets. (Editor's Note: If you know Peter, this is exactly what Peter does and continues to do and is why fans love him. I asked Peter if the sellout helped with tickets the rest of the season and he conveyed this additional story: 
    "It was late in the season. Two days later we hosted Canton Invaders at Neenah High School (in an effort to spread team's interest upstate) during a snow storm in front of 600 fans. We had to move the turf and boards from Milwaukee and physically roll out the turf and set up the boards and glass....brutal work for me and my staff, all for 600 fans....and we lost. Owner told me the next day not to be down. It was a good lesson. Don't learn things if we don't take chances."
    Somehow I feel like Peter learned that lesson.
  2. April 25, 1991: Mirko Castillo scored one minute 50 seconds into overtime to complete the Chicago Power's three-game championship sweep over Dayton in Wright State's Nutter Center. I was the team's GM and also handling analyst duties that game with legendary announcer Howard Balson. It was my first championship and, postgame, I interviewed former Chicago Sting star Bret Hall before joining the team for the on-field celebration.
  3. October 30, 1998: Frank Klopas scored the golden goal game-winner in overtime at Soldier Field to give the Chicago Fire the U.S. Open Cup title and "The Double" over Columbus. We were an expansion team and had upset the two-time defending MLS Champion D.C. United five days earlier at the Rose Bowl. Winning the Open Cup behind the hometown hero Frank Klopas in front of our home fans in overtime was special.
  4. September 27, 2006: It was the year after I was dismissed by the Fire, but it was still my team. I had acquired every player who took the field in the 2006 US Open Cup Championship at Toyota Park. The Fire won (a 3-1 win over L.A. Galaxy) and afterwards, the team's goalkeeper Matt Pickens found me standing among the supporters in Section 8, called me down, thanked me for bringing him into the team and gave me his championship medal. That moment will live with me forever.
  5. June11, 2016: All the planets needed to align to give Indy Eleven our first title, the NASL Spring Championship. The Cosmos needed to lose their final spring match - they did - and we needed to score four or more goals and defeat Carolina by at least three goals. Eamon Zayed's third goal in the 85th minute was the special moment and provided the needed margin. We all stormed the Carroll Stadium field and I cried with joy when the 4-1 victory was official.

Jon Busch

  1. Playing in the U-17 World Cup in Japan in 1993 (Jon and his teammates finished 2nd in their Group behind Czechoslovakia before losing to Poland in the quarterfinals)
  2. Playing in the Final 4 in my junior year (last year) at UNCC
  3. First MLS start with the Columbus Crew vs D.C. United in a 1-0 win (April 27, 2002)
    Walking out of the locker room after warm-ups for start of the game, John Harkes stops me, gives me a handshake and says "good luck kid." I said "thanks" and kept walking. I get a few steps away and I hear him say "don’t shit yourself kid" and started laughing like crazy. I turned around with a smile on my face and said "I will try not to."
  4. Winning the Open Cup with Columbus Crew (October 24, 2002 in a 1-0 win against the L.A. Galaxy)
    After the game being in the locker room with a lot of older guys and seeing how excited they were. I remember sitting there with Brian Maisonneuve and talking with him. He had tears and it was then that I realized how hard it is to win a trophy and truly how special it is.
  5. Playing first US full National Team game vs Colombia 2005 (Jon also got the start in the U.S.'s 3-0 win on March 9, 2005 with Pat Noonan, Chad Marshall, and Clint Mathis getting the goals and if this match report is correct, Taylor Twellman getting a red card in the 76th minute, just 8 minutes after entering the game.)
    I remember when Bruce Arena told me I would be starting. The morning before the game we were at training and after we did our goalkeeping work with (GK coach) Phil Wheddon, we joined the team. As Bruce started to talk about the game, I remember looking down at my cleats because I truly thought either Joe Cannon or Kevin Hartman were going to start. They were both ahead of me on the pecking order when we entered that camp. As Bruce started to announce the lineup I heard "in goal tomorrow Busch." I looked up at Bruce and then to Phil; I wasn’t sure I had heard it correctly. Phil gave me a little head nod and I knew it was me.
  6. 500th Professional Game
    My 500th game was in Miami. Scott Stewart knew it was my 500th, but I asked him not to say anything about it until after the weekend. When I went out for warmups, my wife Nikki, and our good friends Phil and Steph, had secretly flown down and surprised me for the game. I had no idea they were coming or that they even knew it was the 500th. But they did. The result didn’t go our way but it was a big moment. 

Lovel Palmer

  1. Scoring my first international goal for Essex Valley in the 1998 Norway Cup in a 1-1 draw 
  2. Winning the 2005 Caribbean Club Championship with Harbour View FC
    In 2005, Harbour View became the first Jamaican club to win the Caribbean Club Championship. We went on to play against D.C. United of MLS in a home and away fixture. (Unfortunately for Lovel, D.C. United beat Harbour View by a score of 2-1 in each game.)
  3. Becoming the youngest captain to win the Jamaican premier league with Harbour View at age 21. 
  4. Playing against and beating my favorite player of all time, David Beckham and L.A. Galaxy 3-0 in a packed Jeld Wen Stadium in front of the Timbers Army was electrifying. (I think Lovel is referencing this August 3rd, 2011 game when Lovel was with Portland.)
  5. Winning the 2016 NASL Spring Championship with Indy Eleven (an important moment in Indy Eleven history...)
    Winning the Spring Championship in the final game of the regular season needing to win by 3 goals. Eamon Zayed came up big with a hat trick. We won the game 4-1. Corey Miller was big for us in defense and Don Smart and Dylan Mares dominated in the midfield. The Mike was ecstatic at the end of the 90+ minute knowing Indy just won our first major trophy.

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