Warming up before the game
Sometimes it seems a tournament involves more costume changes than a fashion show. Here the boys are in their warm-up gear, getting ready to put their game faces on.
Coach Shawn Hart giving midfielder Ilyasa some final instructions. Shawn is not Italian, but his hands think they are.
More pre-game advice
Coach Shawn Hart and center back Lamin discussing top secret defensive plans.
Is this foreshadowing?
Pablo is pondering Coach Hart's instructions. Is Shawn telling the team he wants them to be Number One?
The MSC Athletic is a diverse team, and they perform an African dance as part of their pre-game ritual. Are you ready? Yes! Sosolaso! So!
The coin toss
Don't laugh. It really matters which side of the field you want for the first half.
Captains shake hands
It's nice to see certain gentlemanly traditions upheld in the world of sports.
And you thought soccer was for the meek
Sometimes you just have to throw your body as well as your soul into the game.
Someone's gotta get it, and it had better be Xavier or coach is gonna be unhappy.
A mesmerizing sport
George hypnotized by the ball.
A great first touch
George bringing a ball down to earth with ruthless efficiency.
There's a reason why he's called "Special K"
Karamba may well be the fastest kid in New York City, if not New York State, and he's just as fast with the ball as without, which is what makes him truly special.
Tak spotting his man
For a sport that uses feet mostly, it's amazing how far the guys can hurl the ball on a throw-in.
My son Haden is a mid-fielder.
Recovering from a tackle can require acrobatic skills.
Haden's got it under control
No way is that guy going to get possession.
Defense can be a form of dance
Can't remember if Ilyasa converted on this run at goal, but he looks good.
Do goalies get combat pay?
They should. The fearless ones throw their bodies into a roiling sea of cleats.
Tak will stop at nothing to keep the forward at bay.
You can't knock a good forward down
"Special K" Karamba is usually surrounded by three guys trying to smoosh him, yet fouls rarely get called because he-just-won't-ever-go-down, being a mutant endowed with powers of antigravity.
Pablo doesn't need the mohawk to intimidate
He does just fine being gigantic, tough, and skilled.
Sometimes you have to use your noggin in more ways than one
Winning the ball in the air is crucial, albeit painful at times.
The many hairstyles of the athletic
Half-time break. Pablo, Walker and Karamba.
I wasn't kidding when I said it was hot
The boys get props for playing in such melting heat.
Orion letting one rip.
Getting caught in traffic
Sometimes clearing the ball is not the only option in the back. Here's defender Lamin at work.
It was all ball
George making a beautiful clean tackle.
And it's fast too
The older the boys get and the more competitive the teams they play, the faster the pace of the game. Even the spectators feel exhausted.
Goalie saves are my favorite kinds of shots
It gets so primal -- the last man between ball and net.
Showing beautiful form
Not only is his form beautiful, but you should have seen how far George kicked that ball.
Sometimes soccer can be balletic, and sometimes it's .... well ... more primal.
Haden going for a header
Heading is a mother's least favorite part of soccer. I hope does not lead to scrambled brains.
Playing keep away
Max keeping the ball away by any means necessary, even if it involves Greco-Roman wrestling techniques.
The agony of a missed tackle
Defenders just HATE it when one gets past them.
Alex making a save
Atta boy, Alex!
Tak keeping cool
Did I mention it was hot and humid? I hate to think of the pile of discarded water and Gatorade bottles at the end of the tournament.
That's one way to keep Karamba under control
His feet were free, though, and that's what counts.
That goalie can sky
He wasn't super tall, but he had a great vertical leap.
Some rituals that start in the pee-wee days endure, including the post-game handshake/slap/fist bump.
OLE OLE OLE Champions Champions
Athletic Number One
We're number one!
Team photo after beating the Albany Alleycats 4-0 and winning the tournament. I was told the picture had to be taken in the goal to make it official. My younger son Lucas snuck into the picture, as he's the team mascot.
The post-victory coach cool-down
Sadly, I did not capture the "money" shot of the boys dumping the coolers on coach Shawn Hart, but this is a pretty good one of him looking like a wet rat. Thanks to goalie Jean Carlo's foresight, the team manager (my husband) borrowed his phone, so that it wouldn't short-circuit.
Cheers after the awards ceremony
The boys did a final sosolaso! so! dance after receiving their awards. They're a little bit happy about winning the tournament, don't you think?
Ilyasa and Karamba after the awards ceremony
They're showing off their medals in front of the home stadium of the Washington Freedom, a women's professional soccer team.
The best kind of souvenir
The boys all got medals. Coach Shawn Hart got a plaque. Whatever happened to loving cups and trophy bling?