Saturday, January 7, 2017

Old Nicks- Winter Season 2017

FC77 Old Nicks- Winter Season 2017
Winter season in the GPSD- week one.  Old Nicks and Pierres gathered their forces in the gray morning of January 7. When the winter season was first started, it would begin sometime in February or maybe March.  For some unknown reason we are now starting as soon after the new year as is physically possible. Most of our crew are philosophical about it.  It could be worse.  There might be no winter season.  Life has mysteries and we're all old enough and crotchety,  so we don't worry too much about solving things that don't make sense.  For me and Mike Calder (our keeper in orange) this is a landmark.  We are setting forth on our 40th year playing together.  Something I never expected. 

There aren't many times we've played in freezing weather,  much less with the temperature bouncing around 26 degrees.   As the team manager I'd been trying to keep an eye on the weather projections--the micro forecast for the field in Gladstone suggested that if the match started at 10am we would just skirt the arrival of freezing rain and/or snow.  I was concerned though about whether people would be able to get home safely from the field--so I was also monitoring TripCheck which showed red lines and crash symbols inching north on I5.  At 10am they were just barely to Salem.  The game started off with a ragged ebb and flow, both teams showing the effect of the  holiday break.  
Pierres takes a corner kick. Nicks position themselves to defend
Pierres dominated as the minutes passed, largely because their passing was more accurate. They had runs at our line using their speed on the left. We were confined to counterattacking which was not very effective without numbers up. Before too long, a bobbled ball went in our goal-our guys said it was deflected in. We went to the restart and the game sawed back and forth. Notably the wind picked up and flakes of dry snow began whirling around the shivering subs on the sideline. 

The play wasn't pretty, at least not most of the time.  Glenn took a knock and came off for a short break.  He trundled back on the field and flew through the opponents despite toppling over on a couple of occasions.  And we had opportunities though we didn't make as much of them as we would have liked.  A brace of shots wound off away from goal instead of curling the other way.  And the snow continued to fall. 

In the second half we ate a penalty kick given when Roy marked a Pierres attacker into the box with what seemed shoulder to shoulder pressure. The ref disagreed. Simon put the ball perfectly in the bottom of the left corner giving Mike no chance at it and we were down two.

View from the peanut gallery. Brink is cheerful.

Tim Leslie wonders when he can get back on the field. Standing on the sidelines is beaucoup cold. 

We took the ball to Pierres goalmouth more than once but John Lape stopped our attacks. Oddly, the sun broke through overhead late in the game despite the continuing snowfall.  Perhaps that was the trigger for the change in momentum.  Or perhaps it was that Nicks had lots of subs and Pierres did not.  Regardless,  the runs at their goal increased in number and the quality of the attacks improved.  Nicks strung together several series of passes up the left side which would have made us the dominant team in the match if we could have done it consistently.   We always have something to aspire to. Nicks were on the hunt.  Eventually a series of passes up the right side put the ball at Glenn's feet---he ran at the far post drawing defenders and put a perfectly placed, low, crisp ball across the face.   Kaiser was hanging just deep enough in the box to gather the ball and deliver it into the net with a clinician's touch.  Cheers rang out on the sidelines and Nicks went hot for the ball after the restart, but it was not to be.  The equalizer didn't come.  

Regardless, the game was one for the record books.  Coldest temperature played by the oldest?  Or just a record that the full complement of Nicks turned out in  such miserable weather to play together with good cheer and sheer joy at being able to be there.   Even Jack Hevel, who's been nursing a nasty achilles issue for some months, showed up with the intent of 'warming up' with the guys.  That was obviously something for another day.  

There were standout moments all around the pitch.  Russ had a breakaway and could have scored.  The center defense-John, Vogel and Roberto- didn't give up much.  The outside backs--Roy, Al and Tim managed the wily forwards and between the two squads, Pierres had few opportunities to move the ball down the wing and then back in to provide shooting opportunities.  We had them pegged.  The strong attacking play from the outside mids- Rock and Rich and Russ- kept Pierres off balance.   And Kaiser, Kim and Pinger provided real pressure and threats.  Kim had some stellar play in the first half.  And Kaiser was ready and making runs, more as the game progressed. 

Maybe the best thing about the game was that it started the Nicks on the sidelines talking about games from our long ago past that were battled out on snow and ice.  Sliding through mud puddles at Alberta Park against Team Nigeria.  Playing at Glenhaven with such a stiff wind from the northeast that the opposing keeper kicked a clearing ball which was taken by the wind to sail over his head and into goal giving us the victory.  Slogging through ankle deep mud with a substrate of ice at the old Delta Park fields,  ripe with the scent of something that might have been fertilizer.  Marching out the lines at Lents Park so that we could tell where the field was and actually have a game. 

This game goes with all those.  This game means a lot to me just because I was there with forty years of friendship and camaraderie and great stories.  Wouldn't be possible--even remotely--without the Nicks.  (And I am sad that McCormick, McBride, Makande, Heilman, Hilliker, Pagen, Osborn and Nicks past weren't there with us.)

Glenn had an amazing game despite being 'gimped'.

Kaiser scored our goal on a beautiful cross from Glenn.

The Jackster was designated photog and took this selfie.