Monday, April 25, 2016

Soccer Dad Weekend - and What do they feed them in St. Louis?

MLS Thoughts – St. Louis Products

This past weekend was a great dad soccer weekend, not the first one I have ever had and I hope it will not be the last one. 

The San Jose Earthquakes played Sporting Kansas City at San Jose’s wonderful fairly new stadium on a pretty nice Sunday afternoon.  While the Golden State Warriors were playing Houston in the NBA playoffs, this father sat in the stands and watched the soccer game – only his Warriors hat showing that he was missing the basketball game.  From time to time … a couple of granddaughters perched on his lap (which doesn’t make you feel young but sure makes life fun). 

A couple of things happened that afternoon that made me reflect on how the real parts of life exist everywhere because that is why they call it life.  It could be professional sports or recreational softball and the things that connect are really rooted similarly. 

At some point in the second half of the soccer game my phone started buzzing.  Many of my friends who were watching the game on ESPN (and no doubt mostly watching the Warriors and/or Giants … or possibly The History Channel but at least during commercials switching to the soccer game) texted me telling me that the ESPN announcers were telling the story about when Chris made it to MLS and I told him that I thought he could ‘be like Taylor Twellman’.  The ESPN translation on air was close but a little off and probably because they got the story from my son who has perfected the skill of barely listening to me over the years. 

Not that anyone really cares, but I have the keyboard so I’ll go ahead and elaborate.

Taylor Twellman was the most potent goal scorer in Major League Soccer history.  In professional sports where players change teams as often as homeowners change their smoke alarm batteries, Taylor Twellman never changed teams.  The New England Revolution appreciated this St. Louis product so much that he played his entire career with one team.  In the process he scored 101 goals with a goal production rate of 0.60 goals per 90 minutes.  To put that in perspective, nobody with more than 75 goals has produced goals at that rate. 

I used to watch Taylor drift off his defender when the ball was across the field, circle around and then make a purposeful run (without the ball and without the defender) into the penalty box in order to receive a pass that he could shoot on goal.  I saw him do this better than anyone else who was playing.  I also saw him create with the ball at his feet and run by defenders with the ball.  So when Chris was signed by the San Jose Earthquakes … when he was unknown and possibly just a body to fill a uniform at training … I told him that I thought if he worked hard he could be like Taylor Twellman.  I suspect that in February 2005 I was probably the only one with this theory.

The thing about being a father is that you say a lot of things that you don’t really believe but that you think you should say because everyone tells you that you need to be positive.  Well, I was probably just being positive but WOW.  I would have never imagined that Chris would have 10% of the goals that Taylor scored … much less more goals than Taylor scored. 

It might have been an amazing coincidence that in the very first regular season game that the San Jose Earthquakes played after Chris made the roster – they played New England at Spartan Stadium in San Jose. (Chris didn't score but Taylor did). 

The other part of Sunday was catching up with another amazing St. Louis soccer superstar.  Brad Davis has been Chris’ close friend ever since Chris entered the league.  They have continued their very close friendship – with wives and children – through a franchise relocation and a couple of trades.  One of the best personal memories of the World Cup in Brazil for me was that Brad and Chris were both on the team and we were able to spend a lot of time with the Davis family. 

Last night we were able to catch up with Brad and there may be no more underrated player in MLS history.  Chris is 4th in MLS in goals and I could not be prouder.  But Brad is 3rd in MLS all time for number of Assists.  Brad has 122 assists – he is only 14 behind Landon Donovan for the most number of assists in a career.  Brad is very likely to be the all-time MLS Assist Leader by the end of next year.  On top of all that amazing passing – Brad has 56 goals.  That offensive production puts him among the all-time elites in Major League Soccer. 

Brad and Chris (and Heather and Lindsey) have been friends for many years.  They owned homes across the street from each other in Houston and Heather used to chase down and retrieve Gattuso whenever he escaped (which was often).  Seeing Chris and Brad together last night made me feel good – that friendships transcend things like trying to trip each other when you are both at work. 

Pretty cool soccer dad weekend.  Back in the day my soccer dad weekends involved driving 5 hour round trips to tournaments in Fresno.  I appreciate my new soccer dad weekends.