Wednesday, 10 February 2016

"Brodsgaard, Brodsgaard, Brodsgaard!"

We were playing against the Vancouver 86ers in Swanguard Stadium located in Burnaby. They had a direct free kick from 20 meters out, towards the right hand side of the goal if you were taking the shot, or towards my left (from the goalkeeper's angle). Dale Mitchell was lined up to take the free-kick, he was once of Canada's most renowned goal scorers of the era, in addition to Domeninc Mobilio who also would have been playing for the 86ers at the time. Mitchell strikes a right footed shot bending around the outside of the wall towards the top corner of the goal. I read/anticipated this very shot and took off, a quick step or two to my left and then leaping into the air (because of the way the defensive wall was set-up I lost sight of the ball momentarily while diving to cover as much of the goal as possible). Suddenly, the ball came into view and it was massive. The size of a beach ball. I had the majority of the area of the goal he was shooting for covered by my body/arms/hands and was lucky enough to make the save and prevent the goal.

"Brodsgaard, Brodsgaard, Brodsgaard!"

Vic Rauder and Graham Legget were tele-commentating the game, and it has to be one of the most memorable saves of my playing career shown live on TSN. That was a long time ago, in fact the VHS tape with the highlight reel used to be a show-stopper for some of the kids/coaches who I have come in contact with over the years at camps. However, I am not even sure where to find a VCR these days. There have been other great saves.  Through the years there has been a lot of training for myself, as well as training a lot of younger goalkeepers who also shared the same aspiration- to fly through the air and prevent the opponent from scoring.

I have been commuting to Powell River for many years to serve many different capacities with regard to the game of soccer. I used to watch my dad play back in the '70's. We played the Junior High Island Soccer Championships there in the '80's. I played there in the '90's as a goalkeeper with the Gorge Molson's in the VISL. I have run and continue to run coaching clinics and training sessions in the community to this day. But, let's rewind the clock to a Jackson Cup Semi-Final in which the Gorge Molson's were playing Powell River Villa to advance to the prestigious Jackson Cup Final. In fact, my father had played goal in the Jackson Cup Final in his prime, which added even more reason for us to defeat the mighty Villa. Playing Powell River at home was always tough. First there was the road trip, having to travel from Victoria and take the ferry to play the game. Then there was the crowd. The atmosphere around the field. The fans chanting and doing everything they can to help the home team gain an advantage. On this particular day, the game was undecided at the end of overtime. I was young, late teens. The game was going to penalty-shots. The home crowd circled the goal at which the penalty shots were going to be taken at. People in front, beside and behind- all around you cheering for the mighty Villa! It was a glorious atmosphere. It was one of those days in which before the final shot was taken I knew we were going to be victorious because I had a feeling that we were going to walk away winners!

We cycled through the first five shooters and went to sudden death. It was our turn first the shooter scored. The Villa player stepped up, the crowd was chanting and I was totally focused. As he stepped up to strike the ball with the right foot to my right hand side. I left a moment before the ball was struck and fully extended myself to tip the ball outside of the goal with my fingertips. It was over. The crowd was silenced. Too this day, I still recall walking into the clubhouse and seeing the look on all those faces- shocked and silenced.

While on the topic of the Jackson Cup and great saves, this would be a good time to speak about one of the best saves I never made. We were playing against the Victoria Athletics in the Jackson Cup Final, perhaps it was the game after we defeated the mighty Villa, however, it was a long time ago. So, we are playing at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria where I have been chasing balls and eating hot dogs since I was a young boy. The game goes into penalty shots and the following situation unveils itself

  • the goalkeeper playing for the A's that day was a call-up, which means that the regular goalkeeper was injured for the cup final, so they brought up a goalkeeper from the 4th division team
  • the penalty shot shoot out went all the way to the 11th shooter from each team, which means the goalkeeper was going to shoot last from the Victoria Athletics
  • the goalkeeper steps up, having played a lot less soccer than most of us playing in the 1st division and tries to strike the ball towards the goal, which sadly, dribbles over the goal line closer to the corner flag than the goalpost when he attempts to score the goal
  • this would simply be on of the best saves I never made!

There have been other moments. The art of goalkeeping is exactly that- a form of art that takes many, many years to master. I recall a save at the age of 25 years, playing in a game after a professional career in North America, a little experience in both Europe and with the Canadian national team in which I came to realize that I had been doing it all wrong with regard to one versus one situations.  On this particular day, by accident I deducted how to perform the technique and/or execution entirely different than I had been doing all through the years. The key moment of learning came when I closed down a player one versus one in a very direct and intimate manner. The key to success for this action versus the hundreds of times I had made the exact exact same save before, was a combination of how much closer I was to the player before  committing to the ground, the fact that I was solely focused on the lower half of the body and of course the ball and the fact that I was going in hard and clean. It was an out-of-body-experience coming away with the ball and cleanly challenging the attacker in a one versus one situation.

In more recent years, during one of our annual 7-aside summer soccer tournaments on Denman Island I may have made one of my last memories playing in goal. We were playing a game against a talented, much younger, stronger and healthier crew from Powell River called "The Beavers." In goal for the Beavers was a close friend, a young lad whom I had coached many years prior who also had an absolutely massive afro. It was a sight to see him tending goal in the pink muscle shirt, large afro and goalkeeper gloves the size of Mickey Mouse's hands. Anyhow, they were clobbering us in the final of the 19 + Division on this given day, younger, stronger and faster...however, I was able to walk away with one personal highlight. There was a ball floated into the penalty box which I was able to collect untested. As I landed carrying forward momentum from the catch I decided to roll the ball out of the penalty area and progress towards the opponents goal. One touch then two. Suddenly, it came to me there was no defensive pressure coming from this youthful side. So, I took another touch, crossed the halfway line and decided to go for goal. The ball was driven hard and low to the  back post and directly into the goal. We lost 6-1. I still recall the look on the goalkeeper's face to this day having realized the ball was in the back of the net.

One of my favorite memories coaching goalkeepers was the game Taryn Swiatek played against China in the 1/4 final of the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup. The game was played in Portland, Oregon. It was a day where she was unbeatable on the ground. In the air. One versus one. In fact, it was such a thrilling experience to walk-up to her on the field at the end of the game and see the smile on her face. It was HUGE! Sure, she was thrilled to be going into the World Cup 1/2 final, but I know somewhere in there she was just as excited to know that she realized that she had played the best game of her life at the precise moment that she needed to. In fact, there are other memories related to goalkeeper's from this event. One that is not about making a save, training or playing games.

In each game at the international level three-subs are allowed to be made by each team. It is very rare that a goalkeeper will be one of these subs. So, being a back-up goalkeeper can be a very demanding role mentally. It was during the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup that I recall a very special moment. We had just beaten Japan in the third game of the first round to qualify for the 1/4 finals. While rewatching the game with the coaching staff several hours later that same evening I noticed something very special. Erin McLoed burst onto the field when the referee blew the final whistle and ran straight to the starting goalkeeper Taryn Swiatek to embrace her, congratulate her and share in the moment that we had just created. It was amazing to see the back-up goalkeeper so enthused, so pure, so engaged in celebrating the success of our team by acknowledging the success of the player playing the position I know she wanted to be in.

There was in fact another rather significant game which presented a rather important teaching moment for the back-up goalkeeper in my national team coaching career. We were playing in the 1/4 final of the 2004 FIFA Women's Youth World Championships in Thailand. The game kicked off and we had possession of the ball (we played the ball forward from the opening kick-off into the opponents half- from which they countered and for some reason there is a lone Chinese player heading to our goal all alone in literally the first or second minute in the match). The Canadian Goalkeeper approaches the player in a one versus one situation, goes to the ground to collect the ball and while making the save the player flies over top of the goalkeeper and tumbles to the ground in a heap. Penalty-shot and red card for the young Canadian goalkeeper in the first moments of the game. Oh @#$^! My initial thoughts are not to protest the call, but does the back-up goalkeeper have their gloves ready to go, shinpads on and realize exactly what has occurred? Into the game goes the back-up goalkeeper with little time for a warm-up as people scramble on our sideline to help her get ready.  She is inserted into the game and will directly face a penalty-shot in the 1/4 final of a Youth World Cup Final. WOW! What a moment! To this day I have not rewatched the game to see how badly the player was or was not taken down by our goalkeeper to produce the red-card and penalty shot. However, I sure would like to know what ran through the back-up goalkeepers mind the moment she was getting called into the action.

Years ago I was approached by a friend who thought I might like to be involved with the making of a beer commercial. Sadly, there was no beer involved in the transaction, however, I do recall being paid rather handsomely for the days work. The days work consisted of making the same save over and over and over and over for the photographer to capture the right shot. In fact, on this day, I probably threw myself into the air, to the right side, diving at full extension to make the same save 50+ times and landing on hard ground. At first we tried to have the ball served into the air, however, as I was the lone soccer player at the shoot, I had to rely on the camera person's assistant to toss the ball into the air for me to save which did not work out very well. The ball would have to be served into a precise location in order for the photographer to catch a fully extended goalkeeper about to make an amazing save. The next step was for me to hold the ball myself and pretend to be making the save while floating through the air holding the ball in my hands from start to finish. In the end they got the shot they needed and I have a brilliant photo that was displayed on billboard out east promoting Carlsberg beer.

These days, my body is run down. I am so sore after trying to recapture my youth. It was a lot of fun flying through the air in training and games. However, I get really excited when I see kids, of all ages stepping forwards into their goalkeeping career and making great saves. Flying through the air. getting up of the ground with huge smiles and a great feeling after stopping the ball from going into the goal.

No comments:

Post a Comment