In my last journal, I had just played with FC Wichita against Minneapolis FC in what turned out to be a bit of a mismatch as we easily won 6-0. The next morning, it was time to direct my attention toward developing my personal soccer career as I headed away from the team and toward St. Louis for the annual Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) Combine.
The MASL is a completely different entity than outdoor soccer in North America. It is a professional indoor soccer league consisting of 19 teams from Canada all the way to Mexico. The indoor game is a lot different than outdoor. It is played on an artificial turf surface that is enclosed by boards exactly like an ice-hockey rink so there are no out of bounds unless the ball is kicked over, and there are five players plus a goalkeeper on each side. Substitutions are free, the scores are usually high, and the game moves at an extremely speedy pace. Discipline is different as well; for example, there is no offside and a blue card can be issued for reckless play which equates to a two minute penalty where the team that committed the foul would play a man down (much like a power play in hockey). If a yellow card is issued a four minute penalty follows and if a red card is issued the player is sent off. The other big difference is the three line rule. The field is divided into four sections by three lines and any time the ball is thrown or kicked completely over all three lines, a violation is called, and the ball is placed back in the middle of the first line, with possession going to the non-violating team.
I’ve attached a video to better explain this interesting take on outdoor soccer:
I drove about six-and-a-half hours to my Airbnb stay in St. Charles, Missouri, and met my host Darrell. Darrell is seventy years young and is probably the best host I have ever had on a trip like this. He has experience in the Italian restaurant business, and when I mentioned I was planning on going out for pasta the night before playing, he didn’t hesitate in making a home-cooked pasta meal with delicious bread and Italian salad for me (usually not part of an Airbnb stay).
After dinner, I told him I was planning on finding the arena I would be playing in the next day, and then exploring the city a bit. Darrell took it upon himself to give me a personal tour of St. Charles (also not usually part of an Airbnb stay). The city and its history were extremely interesting, and I was able to visit a casino for the first time in my life (and subsequently lose $10.00). Finally, when we got back to the house at around 10 p.m., I told Darrell I was going to wind down and watch Netflix. However, the fun was not finished there. To add to the night’s festivities, he told me I had to watch a show called “Narcos” and said he wouldn’t mind watching an episode too. So yes, the night before I played in the combine I had a home cooked meal, learned about the city I was in, and watched “Narcos” with who had to be the coolest 70-year-old on this side of the Mississippi.
The next day was the day of the combine. I treated it like a game day so I had the entire day planned. At 10 a.m., I went to a local diner for breakfast. It has been my personal game day tradition for the last six years that I treat myself to a nice breakfast. After breakfast, I went to a mall to find black soccer socks (which were required at the combine), and to get my legs worked out a bit. After the mall, I headed back and found the arena (which I actually couldn’t find on the previous night’s tour), stopped and got a chicken wrap, and headed back home about an-hour-and-a-half before I needed to be at the arena.
In the hour before going to the arena, my mind started racing. I was wondering if this would be my last soccer trip ever, if I was good enough to even be here, and how I would react if no one showed interest in me. I called my fiancé before leaving, and she reminded me that I have been playing this game for 20 years of my life and whatever happened, I could at least say I gave it a shot. That calmed me down a bit and gave me the ability to get back on the confident side of things.
I walked into Family Arena and was surprised at how big it was. I’ve always wanted to play in a big arena like that, so I figured if nothing else happened at least I would have a good experience. During the warm up, I realized that I wasn’t anywhere near the worst player there, and I was able to calm down even more.
The players were split into three teams, and we took turns playing each other. I was on team three, so I had the first game off. I utilized the time to meet my teammates and help sort out positions (in indoor, I usually play midfield or defender). Our first game went alright, and it was fun to be playing indoor soccer at a decently high level. At one point I was playing defense when the ball was given up across the floor, I looked forward and saw two defenders watching the ball from my side flat-footed, completely unaware that I was looking to make a transitional run. I snuck in behind them, called for the ball, took a touch and slotted it home for a goal. Throughout the combine, I had three goals and an assist, and I was fairly happy with the way I was playing.
Unfortunately, my efforts were not enough to gain a coach’s attention and I was not selected to play in the International Challenge (a game that acted as a league all-star game) that night. I was a bit disappointed because I do feel like I can play indoor at the professional level, but I also realize that even being invited to train with a team at any professional level is difficult. I decided that I wanted to enjoy the rest of my time in St. Charles, and I felt like it was time to show my gratitude to Darrell. I was able to snag an extra ticket to the International Challenge, and I asked Darrell to join me. The game was light-hearted and fun (as most all-star games are), and I watched my current FC Wichita teammate Matt Clare (San Diego Sockers) have a wonderful game and show why he is one of the best midfielders in the league. After the game, Darrell and I went to his favorite pizza place and talked about life. I told him that I would be the best speaker in the world if I could find a formula for dealing with failure. He told me a story about his restaurant going under when he was facing tough times outside of the business. He said that there is no formula for dealing with failure, just patience and the ability to get back up.
I think there is a lot of truth to that. I am ready to play indoor at the professional level, but if it doesn’t happen, I have to be willing to get back up and either keep trying or find a different route.
The next morning, I got up and headed back to Wichita. I was unaware of just how much soccer was to come in the near future, but I will explain more about that in the next journal.
For more information on FC Wichita, visit www.fcwichita.com
For more information on the MASL, visit www.maslsoccer.com
Follow FC Wichita on Twitter @FCWichita