Author Archive for Dan Skinner


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


Chicago LFC Co-Ed (Summer Playoffs)

The summer regular season was anything but short of drama for the Co-ed Reds of Chicago LFC. There were forfeits and suspensions. There were angry e-mail exchanges among teammates and headlocks given to opponents. There were come-from-behind wins and blow out victories. And at least two players on the squad are sleeping together.

But through it all, the spirit of Liverpool persevered. With a 4-1-1 mark, marred only by an absurd forfeit during a game that conflicted with the World Cup Final, Chicago LFC entered the start of the summer league’s playoffs as the one-seed for the first time in team history. Among the many advantages of being the one seed: you get to play the crappiest team in the league in your first playoff game.

To kick things off Sunday, Chicago LFC faced Rancheros FC in the quarterfinals. The two teams had faced off a week prior, when an eight-man Rancheros side brought enough whine to fill up an aisle at Binny’s Beverage Depot. Not satisfied with losing 5-1 with eight players, Rancheros took the field with only seven players for the playoffs. Without their “I went to GameStop and got this free Guitar Hero t-shirt” wearing talisman, the league’s bottom feeders never stood a chance. In front of his adoring parents, Bryn Griffiths opened the scoring early. And I mean early; like 15 seconds into the game early. Griffiths opening tally was followed by….seriously, we’re really gonna do this?

We won 11 to freakin’ nothing! Griffiths scored three times and 40 year-old Greg Whalley did the same. Justin O’Neil and Heather Ribeiro, who are a combined 40 years old, each scored. Hell, even Tarek Abdel-Halim, who can’t drink water during games because he’s observing Ramadan, scored! Thanks for showing up, Rancheros.

The benefit of the 11-0 stroll in the park was that it allowed the Reds to conserve energy for their subsequent semifinal match. The opponent was to be determined by the morning’s second game between the fourth-seeded Uberstein and fifth-seeded Deportivo la Coruna. And while the denizens of Chicago’s faux Hofbrauhaus thoroughly dominated the match, they emerged with only a 1-0 victory. They were also forced to immediately re-take the field for a match with the ready and waiting Reds.

Chicago LFC arrived confident yet cautious for the semifinal. The Reds needed a second-half rally for a 2-1 win over Uberstein on Matchday 5 and knew that the Germans were not afraid to let fire from long range. A comprehensive defensive effort was required, and that’s precisely what the Reds gave.

The first half failed to separate the teams and a moment of early scrappiness prompted one Ubersteiner to tell his bench to “SHUT THE F— UP!!!” Chicago LFC controlled play, but Uberstein had the best chance late in the half. The Bavarians found their most vocal player unmarked in the box off a corner kick, but he was left to shut the f— up after his header went woefully wide.

In the second half, Chicago LFC took on the form of the Spanish National Team- dominating possession, controlling the game, and leaving on-lookers feeling that just one goal would be enough. That goal came off a picture-perfect Whalley free kick from 30 yards out, which swerved into the back of the next midway through the half. The free kick was set-up after O’Neil’s cross netted a hand ball. O’Neil immediately headed to the sideline and begged for an assist.

Hollice Wrobel continued to lead a courageous effort from the Reds backline late in the match. With only five women on-hand, Wrobel, Ribeiro, Jenny Sze, Lisa Gerberding and Meredith Lansdown were forced to work an overtime shift, with each contributing brilliantly. I’d like to give goalkeeper Aran Quinn credit as well, but the defense was so rock solid, Quinn gathered as many cobwebs as saves.

With the final whistle, the Reds ticket to the final was punched. The opposite side of the bracket sent Bakgat, the two-seed and CLFC’s bitter rivals, through to next Sunday’s showpiece as well. #1 will face #2 for the title. A shot at glory awaits the men and women in red and white.


Chicago LFC Co-Ed (Season 2, Matchday 3)

On the heels of a pair of blowout victories, Chicago LFC’s third match was a far tighter affair. But with timely scoring and courageous defense, the Reds posted a 3-2 victory over Segundos to push their league-leading mark to 3-0. A majority of the squad arrived at the Mercy Soccer Center straight from The Globe, where for one of the few times this season the Chicago indoor side had a chance to follow-up a victory by the real LFC. The resulting victory made it a nifty double for the Reds.

Segundos tallied first, slotting just inside the left post early in the first half. But as the opponents cherry-picking strategy became apparent, CLFC’s defense buckled down and frustrated Segundos. A series of near-misses on the attacking end gave the Reds confidence heading into halftime.

Trailing for the first time this season, CLFC found its stride after the break. Heather Ribeiro opened the scoring with a well-taken strike along the left side. The squad’s resident geography whiz had no problem finding the opening in the net to knot the game at one. The defense continued to negate Segundos’ attack, with the ball hawking of Tarek Abdel-Halim, well-timed tackles from Liz Risoldi and scrappy play along the wall from Hollice Wrobel keeping the match level.

Midway through the second, a brilliant counter-attack put the Reds up for good. In a play that looked like a scene from an Animal Planet safari special, Pat Garrity streaked up the right side like a graceful gazelle, crossing perfectly for the hard-charging rhino named Chris Liebelt, who gave the Reds a 2-1 lead.

Protecting their lead late in the match, CLFC were the victims of a hand ball penalty against Kevin Achettu. Aran Quinn did his best to distract Segundos PK taker, and had the shot been taken from the edge of Navy Pier it would have missed Lake Michigan. Moments after the wayward shot, Liebelt tacked on his second, and victory seemed assured.

But the announcement of the game’s final minute sparked a frenetic rally from Segundos. An odd-man rush cut the deficit to 3-2, and with their goaltender joining the attack, Segundos narrowly missed the equalizer. The final whistle came just in time, though, as the Reds kept their perfect mark in tact.

Celebrating in style later that evening at Wicker Park’s Fifty/50, the team toasted their top of the league status with countless shots and cocktails. Saturday was a great day to be a Red. Sunday was a great day to recover.


Chicago LFC Co-Ed (Season 2, Matchday 2)

The Chicago LFC Co-ed team took the field for their second game in an unfamiliar position- at the top of the table. On the strength of a 9-1 win in their opener, the Reds brought the league’s top mark into their second contest. And much like the week prior, CLFC found the net at will, striking for eight in an 8-1 victory.

While the Liverpool side featured a deep bench in game one, a combination of hair appointments, romantic weekend getaways, and screenings of Avatar left the side with just a single female player at kickoff, and the Reds took the field 6 v 5 against Primeros. With the courageous Liz Risoldi anchoring the defense, CLFC kept the game scoreless until additional support arrived. Even when Chris Liebelt was issued a two-minute blue card penalty for a goofy hand ball, the Reds killed off the 6 v 4 power play. Once Brittany Parenti showed up to double the team’s female contingent, the match turned decisively in CLFC’s favor.

A trio of goals in the first half put CLFC up 3-0, the sharpest of which came from the foot of Arif Ismail. Ismail’s powerful strike from 18 yards out was sandwiched around scores from Pat Garrity and Max DeZuter. Late in the half, Primeros were issued a blue card when one of their players- a testosterone-fueled woman- took a shove at team captain Dan Skinner, then made an obscene gesture in his direction. While Skinner responded with a reminder of the scoreline, the offending opponent threatened to pull a Crying Game re-enactment before leaving the pitch for good.

CLFC dominated the second half with consistent pressure and superior passing. Liebelt found the back of the net and Parenti got in on the scoring spree late. Although the defense could not help Aran Quinn maintain a clean sheet, the outcome was convincing. The final result, an 8-1 victory, puts the Reds at 2-0 with a stellar +15 goal differential. Risoldi, who played the entire game along the back line, was named Woman of the Match.


Chicago LFC Co-Ed (Season 2, Matchday 1)

Fresh off a fourth-place finish the first season of indoor soccer, Chicago LFC’s Co-ed squad re-assembled Saturday to kick off their second-half campaign. Apparently failing to earn the respect of league organizers, the Reds have been placed in the lower of the two divisions. In the season curtain raiser, they showed why that designation was an insulting mistake.

Taking on Calcio Individui, a team of rag tag solos who had never played a game together before, CLFC steamrolled to a 9-1 victory. With a deep roster and a relentless attack, the co-ed Reds did what the real Liverpool has failed to do so many times this year— run rampant against an inferior opponent.

In the first half CLFC raced out to a 5-0 advantage. When a team scores nine goals, you’re bound to forget who scored all of them, but Pat Garrity and Chris Liebelt definitely featured prominently. Garrity saves lives as a paramedic; Liebelt sells delicious ice cream for a living. Despite these contrasts, they both share a knack for scoring goals. Aided by the precision passing of midfielder Heather Ribeiro, Liverpool put the game on cruise control early.

The only moments of drama in the first half involving goal keeper Aran Quinn came when he failed to realize that new acquisition Lisa Gerberding was one of his own teammates, with Gerberding’s pass back to Quinn rattling off his own post. Gerberding shook off the start, though, to show the style that will make her a potent addition to CLFC’s collection of femme fatales.

Late in the half, Quinn, desperate to stretch his legs, began dribbling up field, prompting one opponent to declare “That’s obnoxious. Someone should f—ing trip him.” No one did.

The goal barrage continued in the second half, although not all the tallies were a thing of beauty. Still trying to settle on a capable goaltender, Calcio put a lanky fellow in net, who ably stopped a number of shots, but let four more trickle past. Max DeZuter was responsible for at least one, while Arif Ismail should have scored three, so let’s leave it at that.

All that was left late was to see if Quinn would maintain his clean sheet, but a Three Stooges-esque collision in the back lead to a cheap one late, allowing the opponents to escape the Mercy Soccer Complex with a brief moment of glory. Kevin Achettu picked up a late red card, although we’re pretty sure it was issued in jest.

The rowdy Reds celebrated after the game at their usual watering hole, Union Park Tavern, where the squad traded porn star names. Apparently mine- Shanghai Greenhill- tops the list.


Chicago LFC Co-ed (Matchday 7)

Egg nog and sugar cookies. Champagne toasts and fondue pots. Just some of the many reasons why it’s difficult to play soccer on January 2. But with holiday hangovers behind them, the men and women of Chicago LFC Co-Ed took to the field for their regular season finale Saturday. Playing one of their finest games of the season, the Reds emerged with a 3-1 victory over long-time nemesis Bakgat FC. (And by “long-time” I mean dating back to the summer of 2009.) Combining brave defending with opportunistic scoring, CLFC locked up a top-four finish in the 10-team league with a mark of 5-2. While top four doesn’t secure this pack of Reds a berth in the Champions League, it does end the first winter session on a satisfying note.

CLFC opened up the scoring with a well-taken finish from Max DeZuter, who broke down the left flank and neatly powered home for the game’s first tally. Chris Liebelt doubled the advantage when he took a quick restart and snuck a shot just inside the right post. Two things the Mercy Soccer Complex lacks are video replay and anything tying the nets to the posts. Bakgat argued that Liebelt’s strike had snuck through the unsupported side netting, but their protests were fruitless, and CLFC protected the 2-0 lead heading into the half.

Frustrated by their deficit, Bakgat’s play turned chippy in the second half. The acrobatics of Aran Quinn in net continued to stifle the opposing attack, with the Reds keeper diving to make several key saves. Coming straight off a plane from Boston and onto the field, Liz Risoldi solidified the midfield efforts, while her BFF, Judi Cutrone, delivered a series of well-timed tackles. Feeling a second wind from his recent efforts to quit smoking, Kevin Achettu delivered a hard-nosed performance on defense, aided by wily veteran Dan Skinner and the cool-as-ice presence of Hollice Wrobel.

Bakgat struck midway through the second, although it took a cheap elbow to DeZuter followed by a picture-perfect cross to put them on the scoreboard. Bakgat’s rough house tactics failed to intimidate determined strikers Heather Ribeiro and Arif Ismail, and when Liebelt hopped off the bench to pound home his second, the Reds two-goal lead was restored.

Late in the game, the Reds KO’ed the opposing goaltender for the second consecutive game, when Ismail’s torso greeted the Bakgat keeper’s temple on a 50-50 challenge just outside the box. Bakgat’s best chance for a late score came when they feebly tried to claim that a shot that grazed the side netting was a goal. Exhausted but victorious, the Reds now await their playoff opponent next Saturday.


To New Beginnings in 2010

While 2009 ended on a happy note- a Fernando Torres stoppage time cracker giving the Reds a much-needed three points at Villa Park Tuesday- the final five months of the decade were largely forgettable for Liverpool fans. An early exit from the Champions League; gone from the League Cup in the blink of an eye; a Premier League title chase that never picked up steam; and much work to do if a spot in Europe is to be secured for next season.

The arrival of 2010 brings with it two fresh chances for LFC to capture hardware and make something of their season. Those efforts begin Saturday when the Reds head to Reading to open FA Cup play and continue February 18th with the first leg of Liverpool’s Europa League fixture against Romanian champs Unirea Urziceni. It is one of the beauties of European club football- while the Reds have suffered several setbacks this season, a pair of opportunities to hoist a trophy remain.

And perhaps the defeats and injuries that have characterized this season will galvanize Rafa’s men starting Saturday. The boss agrees that the road to salvation begins tomorrow. The Aston Villa match brought back memories of the late-game heroics that characterized last year’s EPL runner-up finish, giving LFC the momentum heading into their cup tie. So hang in their, Reds fans. A trophy-winning May is still a realistic goal.

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