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.