May 21, 2008

Searching for glory

Today is the pinnacle of club soccer, the Champions League final. In Moscow, two of the world's biggest spending and best clubs will face off in the biggest match of the season. Barring a World Cup final, this match will probably generate more interest in the U.S. than any other.

On a different scale, the pinnacle of club soccer in the U.S. has gotten underway, and begins for those of us in the Southeast this weekend. The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is the oldest cup competition in the country, and one of the oldest in the world, dating back to 1914. Teams ranging from your buddy's local beer league team to Beckham's Galaxy and Blanco's Fire take part.

For amateur teams around the country, this is the highlight of the season. It's a chance to test yourself against the pros. Remember Dallas Roma in 2006 and their upsets of Miami FC and Chivas USA? It's a chance to make history.

Our whole season has been planned with this tournament in mind. For some of our guys, it will be the biggest moment of their soccer lives. For others, it's one more chance at the spotlight. For others, it is just the beginning of bigger and better things. For the team, it's where all the fitness work, all the time in the gym, all the attention to detail on the practice field, all of the work pays off. It's a chance for us to make a name for ourselves.

The importance of the tournament was driven home to me this past weekend. In our last league match before qualifying, one of our hardest working players was tackled from behind and suffered a dislocated ankle and broken fibula. In the hospital, after he came to from the medication needed to reset his ankle, the first thing he said was, "Now I'm going to miss Jacksonville..."

He won't be missing in Jacksonville. Sure, he won't be on the field or on the bench (unfortunately, he's having surgery here in Atlanta on Friday and can't make the trip). However, all of the guys with the team will be playing and working for him. All of the guys will be battling and scrapping, just like he would, to get to the U.S. Open Cup. It would mean everything.

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