Archive for August 30th, 2010


Chicago LFC, League Champions

You know what they say… all good things must come to an end. And if you didn’t know that… well… that’s what they say. What those glass-half-empty-ers fail to mention while they wallow in self pity crying out ‘why, God, why?’ is that all bad things come to an end too. They probably didn’t mention it because it’s not always true (see The Big Brother television series), but we’ll glaze over the details and leave it at this…The Chicago Liverpool Supporters Club (logically shortened to CLFC) Sunday League team has broken our long trophy drought and won the Windy City Wanderers Co-Ed League title.

Sunday morning saw many of the Co-Ed Reds head over to The Globe pub at 9 a.m. to watch Liverpool take on the newly promoted West Bromwich Albion.  As the transfer window neared its end, most Reds were looking for a reassuring performance to instill confidence for the new season.  A nice 5-0 maybe, a comfortable performance.  What we got instead was a nervy 1-0 win.  A moment of brilliance from Fernando Torres gave us the first win of the new Premier League season, but it wasn’t the type of performance most Reds were looking for. But CLFC were determined to pick up where LFC had fallen short.

Everyone arrived about 20 minutes early and well sober, although some of us were packing heat (not guns (as far as I’m aware), alcohol), as we would later find out. Uberstein won their third-place match (the one they were in because we beat them last week) 1-0 and CLFC took the field for warm ups. CLFC were raring to go. Koby Larbi-Siaw and Mark Killeen were missing from the first team, so CLFC only had a bench of 87 players to call on.

The team sheet looked something like this:

Actually, that was the teamsheet. It was especially hot out Sunday, so the deep bench was extremely useful.  Knowing what was on the line, CLFC rotated early and often… but it was before the first set of changes was even made that Bryn Griffiths was brought down in the box. Step up Andrew Ladd. Bam. 1-0. Captain Dan Skinner and Griffiths had made a last minute change (a tactical stroke of genius in the ilk of Rafael Benitez or Barack Obama (he’d probably be really good at it)) to the normal 4-4-2 formation, pushing one more player to the middle, to stifle any opposition attacks. It worked like a charm and CLFC controlled the game.  CLFC turned the possession into yet another goal when Patrick Garrity found a gap in the defense, ran through it and coolly chipped the goalkeeper.  2-0.  By the end of the first half, CLFC goalkeeper Aran Quinn, the exception to every rule, didn’t have a single shot to deal with and it looked comfortable.

Too comfortable.  It wasn’t the first time CLFC had a 2-0 advantage over Bakgat. Last time it didn’t end so well. CLFC members knew all too well that this game was far from over. Oranges and water were the refreshments of choice at half time and the same team that started the first half, went out in the second.

Bakgat knew it was an uphill battle and attempted to take more control over the game. The crowded center midfield (Ladd, Griffiths, Arif Ismail, Greg Whalley, Max DeZutter, Justin O’Neil), paired with a solid performing central defense (Skinner, Remi Soyode, Kevin Achettu, Tarek Abdel-Halim) forced Bakgat to take the game out wide. Not to be outdone, our full backs (Liz Risoldi, Hollice Wrobel, Meredith Lansdown, Lauren Irizarry) put in an even more solid performance.  Well timed tackles and smart, clean clearances were the name of the game as the ladies put in a brilliant performance.  Bagkat weren’t getting a sniff of the goal (and the goal did absolutely reek, seeing as though it was being occupied by Quinn and his never washed gloves). Quinn had little to do.

Aside, of  constantly reminding us that 2-0 is the most dangerous scoreline. Step up Max DeZutter. The fresh legs and quick rotation meant the team could afford to run down every ball. And it paid off. DeZutter did his best Dirk Kuyt and had already earned some applause from the sidelines as he chased down a seemingly hopeless ball back. The mere presence of our baby faced Max DeZutter in the box put the fear of God in the defenders as they fumbled around trying to mark him up. Two defenders and the keeper closed in on him, never a good idea, and the ball ended up in the back of the net.  Since FIFA has yet to approve goal line camera technology, we’re not quite sure who knocked the ball into the back of the net, so let’s say it was a brilliant toe poke on Maxi’s part. 3-0. At that point, the likes of Andy Gray would probably say, ‘Game well and truly over.’ Just a bit of background, Gray said that when AC Milan were beating Liverpool 3-0 in the 2005 Champion’s League Final. LFC came back to make it 3-3, before winning on penalties.

But CLFC knew better. Smart, cautious play had led to a 3-0 lead and the Reds were determined to keep the cleansheet and the  confident style of play going for the full 70 minutes. Of course, the complacency did have a slight effect, with a couple more chances for Bakgat coming through. Quinn, who probably could’ve learned a language (or at least improved upon his terrible English) during his free time as net minder, had a little more to work with in the second half, including watching Bakgat miss a completely open goal. Still 3-0, still a clean sheet.

A sublime pass from Heather Ribeiro (who had been working tirelessly on the wings, along with new signing Sara Knox, Jenny Sze, Brittany Parenti & Lisa Gerberding) put Ladd through on goal for his second and CLFC’s fourth. It was a beautiful move for that 4th, probably the best goal on the day. Time to relax, the cup was coming home.

Carlos Aguirre put the icing on the cake by toe poking it past a hapless Bakgat defense. 5-0.  Celebration time.  Aguirre won a penalty kick in the dying minutes of the game (earning himself a skinned knee) and Greg Whalley stepped up to take it.  Captain Dan, in the interest of sportsmanship offered to take the penalty kick…  Not wanting to run up the score, Skinner did his best David Beckham impersonation and with that the final whistle was blown.  CLFC were champions, pop the champagne.

If you look closely, you can see captain Dan had brought us some Campeone Champagne!!!

Post game celebrations were at SmallBar, which along with having plenty of parking, are now sponsoring our Sunday League team.

Captain DanThe beer was flowing, as were the pregnancy announcements.  No less than two Chicago LFC teammates announced that they are both expecting new additions to their own squad early and mid 2011. Bryn and GregMiles Skinner, heir to the CLFC captaincy (and another child that was born during a CLFC season), made a quick appearance, looking around disapprovingly as the CLFC squad celebrated the big win.

Greg Whalley also had a look around and once 4-5 teammates had left the pub (and the offer became slightly more reasonable), he bought a round of drinks for all the CLFC members and fans still at the bar!  It’s not likely that he remembers this as he was 8 beers in at that point (ordering two at a time) and was last seen with a gin and gin.

The Lovely Ladies of CLFC... Keep your fingers crossed for a swimsuit calendar.

It was happy times as CLFC finally won the trophy they have been coveting for their two and a half year existence.  Finally, the team had earned a trophy and it now looks as though we will be accepting our promotion to the so called ‘Premier League.’  It won’t be as easy (6-0-1, 17 goals to none in the playoffs), but CLFC are ready for the new challenge.  A couple of old faces will return to the squad (Chris Liebelt and Mark Killeen) and a couple of new faces will join up as well (some girl Eliza and Aran Quinn (nosejob)) as the Co-Ed reds embark on a new journey.  Regardless of what happens, the performance of the team during this outdoor season is one that will be written in the history books (this blog) for a long, long time (as long as the internet exists).

Details on the sure-to-be-messy championship party to follow shortly.


The Perfect Game: Chicago LFC Win the Summer League Crown

There’s a chant from the Anfield Kop that honors Liverpool’s European Cup success: “We’ve won it five times. We’ve won it five ti-i-imes. In Istanbul, we won it five times.” On August 29, 2010, the 22 men and women of Chicago LFC’s co-ed soccer team altered the lyrics to: “We won it five nil. We won it five ni-i-illl. At the Rauner Y, we won it five nil.”

Since the team’s founding in November 2008, CLFC co-ed has played a total of 10 Windy City Wanderers indoor and outdoor seasons. Never had they enjoyed a finer moment than the WCW First Division’s summer league Final. In a dominant and stylish performance, the Reds outclassed rivals Bakgat, 5-0, to capture their first-ever championship.

The build-up to the #1 vs. #2 championship began almost immediately following CLFC’s 1-0 semifinal win over the Uberstein the previous Sunday. The Reds ko’ed Bakgat 1-0 in the spring league playoffs and a 1-1 draw with their bearded foes was CLFC’s only blemish in a 6-0-1 run leading into the Final. Although determined to leave their bad boy/bad girl image at the bar, the squad had a colorful week. Brittany Parenti went skydiving in San Diego, while captain Dan Skinner was spotted riding in a limo with comedian Adam Carolla Thursday night. Carolla also called his biggest fan on the CLFC roster, Justin O’Neil, to inform him he had placed a heavy wager on the Reds. And just hours before the match, Heather Ribeiro touched down at O’Hare, having spent the previous evening drinking in New Orleans’ infamous French Quarter.

But as kickoff approached, the shenanigans ended and the team’s steely determination took over. A well-behaved group that watched LFC’s uninspiring 1-0 win over WBA arrived at the Rauner YMCA early, and as player after player filled the parking lot, it was clear the Reds superior depth on a scorching summer Sunday would be a significant advantage. During the pre-game, Skinner huddled with former captain Bryn Griffiths and veteran star Greg Whalley and switched the squad’s traditional 4-4-2 formation to a 4-5-1. Midfield dominance was the aim.

To start the match, CLFC sent out Liz Risoldi, Remi Soyode, Kevin Achettu, and Hollice Wrobel in defense; Riberio, Arif Ismail, Whalley, Griffiths and Jenny Sze across the middle, and Pat Garrity up top, with Aran Quinn in net. A few minutes in, Griffiths worked his way towards goal from the right side, drawing contact and a penalty kick. Having already entered the match off the deep bench, Andrew Ladd confidently stepped forward to the unmarked penalty spot. First he showed Bakgat how to grow a proper beard, and then Ladd showed everyone how to finish off a PK. 1-0 to the Reds.

Play was even and well-mannered throughout the rest of the half, although CLFC may have got away with one when Tarek Abdel-Halim went cleat to chest on an opponent. But the Reds escaped the call and the only card on the play was given to the Bakgat player who lobbed an f-bomb in the direction of the official. Towards the latter stages of the first half, Whalley sent a perfectly timed through ball ahead to Garrity. Looking like a slo-mo replay of Fernando Torres’ 2008 Euro Final winner, Garrity chipped home and the Reds had doubled their lead. CLFC calmly headed to the sideline at the halftime whistle.

As the relatively fresh Quinn reminded the troops at the break, 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in soccer. The danger was alleviated early in the second half courtesy of Max De Zutter. A determined follow through saw De Zutter net the Reds third, aided by some miscommunication on the Bakgat backline. While Maxi’s tally may not have been the prettiest of the day, the Reds would show off some serious style moments later.

Showing no ill effects of the previous night’s Bourbon Street bender, Ribeiro brought the ball down the left side, right in front of the CLFC bench. Calling out “Andrew,” she sent a soaring comet across the field, hitting Ladd in stride. When he punched home his second of the afternoon to put the Reds up 4-0, the celebration was underway.

The Liverpool defense continued to frustrate Bakgat. Risoldi and Wrobel timed every challenge perfectly, with Meredith Lansdown and Lauren Irizarry equally relentless. With Soyode, Achettu, Abdel-Halim and Skinner clogging up the middle, Bakgat’s bench conceded “We’re not going to dribble through their defense.” Quinn handled every ball that headed his way flawlessly, and Bakgat’s ineffective set piece execution helped lighten his load.

Back to full stride after missing parts of the season with an ankle injury, one of the team’s “Twitter Twins,” Carlos Aguirre, broke through to score the Reds fifth. Aguirre and O’Neil joined the squad in the spring after tweeting in the direction of @ChicagoLFC, and both played a major role in the championship run. That, friends, is how you effectively use social media within your organization.

The 4-5-1 formation worked exactly as planned. Sze, Parenti and Lisa Gerberding flashed their skills along the right side, while the team’s newest addition, Sara Knox, rotated with Ribeiro on the left. With a championship win in her first season with the Reds, Knox earned the title of “the final piece of the puzzle.” And Bakgat would have killed to have anyone with Ismail’s speed or O’Neil’s booming throw-ins. Well, maybe not killed, but seriously maimed.

In the dying seconds, Aguirre drew the Reds second PK of the match when Bakgat’s despondent goaltender slugged him in the back. While the scorched keeper claimed he was going for the ball, the nasty flesh wound on Aguirre’s leg proved him guilty. With the game-ending PK nothing more than a ceremonial gesture, captain Skinner stepped forward. And despite words of encouragement from Whalley, Skinner joined Roberto Baggio and David Beckham among those who have fired over the top.

As soon as the wayward ball hit the back netting (the same netting seen in that Adidas miCoach commercial), the final whistle sounded. In three playoff games, the Reds outscored their opponents 17-0. (Although that 11-0 over Rancheros in the quarterfinal was a bit of a farce.) After a season-opening forfeit, CLFC never lost again.

The frustration of two previous championship game losses was lifted in a champagne-soaked celebration on the field. And although they had to bring a makeshift trophy to the postgame celebration at SmallBar Division, the beer and burgers tasted no less sweet. The Co-ed Reds agreed to accept the invitation to the Premier League come the fall schedule, and two players added to the festivities by announcing that they had offspring on the way.

The Reds will move on to stiffer competition in the fall, and they will likely battle at the bottom like so many promoted sides do. But if the team brings the same effort and performance that they showed on this day, the celebrations could continue.

Chicago LFC, 2010 WCW First Division Summer Champions


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August 2010
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