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Parents Blog

Susan Boyd blogs on every Monday. A dedicated mother and wife, Susan offers a truly unique perspective into the world of a "Soccer Mom." 
Opinions expressed on the US Youth Soccer Blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of US Youth Soccer.


Population unknown

Susan Boyd

I've discovered something in my thus far four-day stay in Des Moines.  While I admit my study won't qualify as scientific, I think I have enough random samplings to satisfy most statistical analyses.  After my experience on my first day in Des Moines unable to discover if I was in a tornado warning county or not, I thought I might try to see if the citizens of Des Moines knew the answer to another common question.  I have asked waitresses, people on the street, cab drivers, police officers, players, and hotel desk clerks and no one in Des Moines knows the population of Des Moines.  No one can even hazard a guess. 

This is even more ironic given the fact that yesterday while watching the College World Series (Oregon State was playing and my husband is an Oregon native) there was an ad from the city of Omaha about 2 hours or so away from Des Moines.  The ad touts the advantages of living and working in Omaha.  I am sure they are advertising in the Des Moines market because they believe that no one in Des Moines will miss a few thousand citizens migrating to Omaha, since they have no idea what the population was to begin with.  In the ad, Omaha brags, ""We are a city of 890,000 residents"" and 890,000 is posted in bold lettering across the entire screen.  Therefore any observant Des Moineser (Des Moinesee – I have no idea) would be able to tell me the population of Omaha without hesitation.

Since I have not conducted my experiment in any other city, I need to be fair to those in Des Moines.  It may be that if I traveled to Nebraska and asked the citizens of Omaha what their population was, they would stare at me and mutter, ""I don't really know.""  And then I could pounce and shout…well the people in Des Moines know!!

Despite not knowing their population and the counties in their immediate area, the people of Des Moines are pretty sharp and definitely nice.  The restaurants in downtown Des Moines are fantastic, very continental and upscale.  I had the best tortellini soup ever at Centro on Locust and an amazing salmon sandwich at Raccoon River Brewing Co.  There's a Japanese restaurant I want to try tonight called Taki Japanese Steakhouse that looks incredibly tasty.  Every person I have bothered about the population was so polite and friendly.  Even the people at Jordan Creek Mall seemed to be right out of Pleasantville. 

Therefore, I am not trying to malign Des Moines at all.  In fact I highly recommend it.  There is a zoo, a very cool Japanese Pagoda on the river that I want to visit before I leave, lots of great little cafes and bars, parks galore, and some stunning architecture including a building that seems to be covered entirely in copper.  Although isolated, the city seems to have been able to attract some cosmopolitan businesses.  So there is a level of sophistication here that one might not expect in a ""corn belt"" city.  I do definitely sing the praises of Des Moines.

Oh, yeah…the Magic won today, so we are on to the semi-finals against Everest.  It was a must win situation and the team came through again.  I am proud and relieved.  I don't even want to dwell on it too much because we did come close to not advancing.  So I would rather be happy for the win, go to a nice restaurant, and see if I can find out the population of Des Moines before I leave.


Digging deep

Susan Boyd

What was it I said yesterday?   ""What a game!""  I think I spoke too soon.  Today's game against the Kentucky State Cup champions United 1996 FC International came close to one of the most amazing and hard fought games I've ever seen my son and his team play. 

United had some amazing players and the ability to step up the speed of play testing all of our offensive and defensive capacities.  Magic entered the game with energy and a strong will to emerge victorious.  Likewise, United pursued the same agenda.   Magic scored first (I'm a mom, so I'll brag that my son scored off a very well place header from Bobby Novak).   United worked hard to offset our attack, but Magic thwarted them and when we didn't quite succeed in stepping in front of their shots, United had the soccer curse of hitting the post.  Magic had a few shots of their own that sailed over the net, or landed in the keeper's grip, but they kept their momentum going.  Magic also subbed early in some cases, and often, but there was little change in momentum with new players on the pitch.  In fact the team mounted some excellent offense.  One of our early subs, Geoff Bowman, was responsible for our second goal.  We ended the first half up 2-0.  Then things got really interesting. 

Both teams came on to the field to begin the 2nd half with renewed energy and the hearts of warriors.  Despite some very heavy air and temperatures hovering around 77 degrees, the players on both sides ramped up their intensity.  Unfortunately for Magic, United's intensity overshot ours for the opening moments.  They scored a quick amazing goal off a set piece, and then were awarded a PK, which they nearly didn't make thanks to our quick moving GK.  But alas it skidded out of the fingers and into the goal.  Because of our tie with Nebraska Arsenal yesterday, Magic could not afford another tie.  It was time to step up and give even more.  The team dug deep, and found it in their hearts, their legs, their lungs, and their minds to pour it on.

With a long rip following a great run, Magic went up 3-2 and then on our own PK Kevin Bick slammed the back of the net with the clincher.  With the whistle Magic had won 4-2, but the score didn't tell the story of how hard and well United fought.  They made Magic strive harder because they raised the bar for soccer play.  United maintained a fast pace, and didn't give up one second.

What I loved about this game was that every Magic player contributed on the field to the win.  This was a win for the team and this was a win for each boy.  I love when that happens.  I know that a coach can tell the players that their support on the bench is as important as playing on the field, but I don't think anyone really believes that.  Today, each player was needed, each player met the challenge, and each player fulfilled an important role in the win.  I'm not sure I can take a game more intense than was played today, but I'm sure that if Magic expects to move on to US Youth Soccer National Championship they will find themselves reaching deep to muster the intensity needed to win.  How often can I say ""What a game""?  As often as I need to!!


True grit

Susan Boyd

What a game!  I mean that in general about soccer and in particular about the Magic U16 boys' game today.  They played against the Nebraska Arsenal, a great team with tall, strong players.  The tenor of the game became clearly established in the first half where the teams battled to a 0-0 tie.  Magic had far more shots, but Nebraska used their breakaways well.  

In the second half, Magic managed to score a goal that was off the GK's miss (at least that's how we saw it).  But the referee (and I am sure Arsenal) saw it differently, and the goal was nullified as the ball was deemed in the GK's grasp.  Two minutes later Arsenal scored on Magic with 20 minutes left in the game.

Now the true grit of these soccer players would be tested.  Arsenal wanted to prevent a goal at any cost and Magic needed to score a goal at any cost.  What an amazing battle between these two teams.  Each player dug deeper, tried harder, and refused to give up.  With two minutes left, Magic scored.  I don't think a team was happier to secure a tie than Magic.  Although they worked hard to find one more goal in the short time remaining, the boys were definitely relieved to earn a point and to take two additional points from their opponent.

Games like this are what I love about soccer.  Magic had far more shots on goal than Arsenal, but it was the classic frustration of not finishing.  Arsenal was gunning (forgive the pun) for Magic and when they scored you would have thought they won the World Cup.  The emotional roller coaster of the back and forth play agonized me, but for the players on both teams, they remained calm and focused.

I credit soccer with teaching my sons the tenacity to fight for what they want, and the civility to do so fairly.  I credit soccer with providing my sons with some of life's toughest battles so that they learn to be humble in victory and unbowed in defeat.  I credit soccer for giving them reasons to be proud without arrogance, because they know that the next moment, the next game, the next season may not be as successful.  I credit soccer with opening doors for them, while reminding them that any door can close if the gift isn't respected.  I credit soccer for giving them friends who are teammates and teammates who are friends.  I credit soccer for offering our entire family a bonding experience.

All I can say is ""What a game!""


You can’t control the weather

Susan Boyd

We arrived in Des Moines around 1:00 PM.   We had to make a quick trip to a Target store to buy some khaki shorts for Robbie for the opening ceremony.  The one pair of shorts turned into an $89 bill since he couldn't decide between two pairs and so we got both, he also needed to get a PS2 game and some deodorant and I found some sweat pants.  We claim, and it is usually true, that we cannot leave a Target store for under $100.  We came close.

Then we went out for some lunch and that's when things turned ominous.  The TVs at the restaurant were all tuned to a local channel with a map of the Des Moines area, with red, orange, and yellow swirls, and occasional advisories to get to the lower level of your home and cover your head with a pillow.  The severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings were everywhere.  Of course, the face we barely knew that Des Moines was in Iowa only complicated our ability to interpret warning data listed by counties.  Unfortunately our waitress must have also recently arrived from Wisconsin because she had no idea what county we were in and where any of the listed counties were located.

Robbie is one of the bravest young men I know.  But he hates tornadoes.  It is one reason he doesn't want to remain in the Midwest (add snow, below zero temperatures, humidity, and mosquitoes to the list).  He had a chance to appear in one of my brother's movies, but because filming was in April in Omaha, he passed – ""Tornado alley in April…are you crazy?""  So he made it his mission to figure out how close we were to imminent disaster.  We were safe for the moment, but upon return to the hotel, it was obvious that this weather wasn't going away.

Ultimately the opening ceremonies to be held in an outdoor stadium about 10 miles from one of the tornado sightings were canceled.  I had mixed emotions about that.  I have attended four opening ceremonies for the US Youth Soccer Region II Championships.  The athletes march in by state and team.  With scores of teams from fourteen state associations the march becomes long and, dare I say it, boring.  On the other hand, this is an honor that few soccer players have the opportunity to enjoy, so I am sad that these players will miss out on their moment in the limelight.  Robbie and his teammates are still in their US Youth Soccer Midwest Regional League Champions shirts and khaki shorts wandering room to room in the hotel.  It's like getting all dressed up for the ball and then being told you have stay back and scrub the kitchen floor.  Nevertheless I was not really looking forward to sitting out in the open awaiting yet another cloud burst.   And I know Robbie was glad that he didn't have to be tornado bait this afternoon.

Now the games will get underway tomorrow morning without the usual fanfare.  I suspect that most players feel the joy of being here and will bring their own party to the matches.  Rain is predicted for the morning with a high of 82, so it will probably be humid.   Robbie's team plays at 10 AM, so hopefully we'll squeeze in between the rain and the humidity.  Tonight we go out for a team dinner which is always fun.  It relieves the tension and helps the team bond.  The other advantage of not having the ceremonies is that I was able to get my blog written in daylight rather than at midnight.   

As I watched the TV, the weather cams reveal a grey-out of rain and the meteorologist intones, ""What a horrible rush hour we're going to have.""  I didn't realize Des Moines had a rush hour (we have rush hour 5 minutes in Milwaukee).  But I also thought, thank goodness all those vehicles with soccer kids and their parents weren't rushing to the ceremonies.  We saved Des Moines from a total traffic meltdown.