NAASA95 got its unofficial start on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, with an exhibition match pitting Inland FC vs. Riverside’s Best at A.B. Brown Soccer Complex in Riverside (Calif.).
NAASA, the North American Adult Soccer Association, is a nationwide set of leagues sanctioned by USSF and plays under FIFA Laws. Riverside’s new startup, the Pete King Memorial Soccer League, features four divisions of men’s and women’s soccer.
I’m in my fifth season with Inland FC, which previously played in the Riverside Adult Soccer League before switching to start the Fall 2013 season.
On Sunday, I started my 16th game at goalkeeper for IFC and provided the league with many of its firsts.
I allowed the first goal.
I made the first save.
I allowed the second goal, and the third, but then something happened.
We got one back. Daniel Arreaga scored on a pass from Ranjit “Bolo” Chahal and we all picked our heads up for a minute.
But it was only a minute as our tired defense was broken down again, and Juan Otero was called for a foul in the penalty area to set up the league’s first ever penalty kick.
Moment of truth for both the kicker and the goalkeeper.
My initial thought was to dive right. He was a confident player who had already scored and I was not going to let him beat me to my strong side. Before he struck the ball, however, I noticed his body tilt as he approached and quickly dove to my left where I stopped his shot before punching it away.
I had already made five saves in the game to that point but it was by far the most important. We took possession of the ball and went down the other end and scored.
It was the pivotal moment in the game, and for me the first time I’ve stopped a penalty kick in my career. (I cannot remember every time, but I’ve probably whiffed three or four previous attempts.) I was breathing heavily after the fact, and probably needed the adrenaline because I had to react again less than two minutes later when I came off my line to defend a 1-on-1. I stopped the shot and smothered the rebound before releasing a timely outlet pass that led to the game-tying goal.
With all players feeling the heat — relative and actual (100-degree temps by the final whistle) — there was a decision to finish the game in with “golden-goal” or last-goal-wins scenario.
Fortunately, we have “Bolo” playing for our side. Chahal calmly tapped in the game-winner to give Inland FC a 4-3 victory in the league’s first-ever game.
It was a game of many firsts — not lost among them “Bolo’s” first two-goal effort — and one that will go down as NAASA95’s Inaugural Friendly.