Goal! (Darn it…)

What the Heckle? Column by Benn Farrell

Posted 6/23/09

As shootouts go, this one rivaled those of the old west. Well… Colorado is in the west anyway. And I’m just old. In my efforts to see how …

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Goal! (Darn it…)

What the Heckle? Column by Benn Farrell


As shootouts go, this one rivaled those of the old west.

Well… Colorado is in the west anyway. And I’m just old.

In my efforts to see how talented athletes from our coverage are really are, I ventured out once again to find another challenge. Last time, I challenged CU-bound tennis player Erin Sanders to a match. This time, I not only wanted to change up the sport but also the location.

This took me to Highlands Ranch after I contacted Mike Mais, general manager of the Real Colorado Cougars, the area’s USL W-League semiprofessional women’s soccer team, who make their home at Shea Stadium. I told Mais I wanted to challenge five of the Cougars best players to an overtime shoot out scenario; five attackers, five penalty kicks and I would be the goalkeeper. He thought it was a great idea, and we made it happen later in Real’s season.

We decided to do the challenge at Highlands Heritage Regional Park on one of its fields. The Cougars brought with them a bag of balls, gloves for me to wear and their jerseys, as well as their coach Brian Haynes. I had hoped for them to also bring one of their goalkeepers to give me some pointers, but Haynes was more than willing to offer assistance.

Haynes, a former Trinidad-Tobago national team and former MLS player, was the goalkeeper coach for the MLS’ Dallas Burn, so I figured I was in good hands if he had anything to advise me on.

Unfortunately, I so didn’t realize what I was in store for. When I approached Mais with the idea, I figured I’d stretch out, meet the girls, take my five penalty kicks and go home. I figured I’d be done in 10 minutes.

Haynes had other ideas.

My opponents for what became my 1 hour onslaught—that’s right, an hour, diversely represented the team’s roster. Among them was Brittany McDonald, a product of the University of Miami. She hails from Littleton and attended Mullen High School. She was also the tallest among the shooters at 5 feet, 10 inches. Oh, yeah, and she happens to be involved with the freakin’ Olympic development team since 2003.

Two others were a pair of twins who recently graduated South Dakota State University, Kerstyn and Kellyn Farrell—no relation to myself. Both from Littleton and Chatfield high graduates, and it appears between them, the pair have been selected first team for just about any All-Everything honor the NCAA has. And Kerstyn happened to be named her league’s Defender of the Year too.

I wish I knew all this before I challenged them. I may have had a chance to run around licking doorknobs, just so I could get a cold and have to conveniently cancel.

A product of Gonzaga, the Cougars also brought Elle Sweeny. Now I remembered her from covering ThunderRidge High School soccer a few years ago. She’s now a Gonzaga sophomore, but since I remembered her at the high school level, I was less intimidated by her. Little did I know, she had no problems trying to bruise a 250-pound, bald guy who likes to talk trash.

Lastly, and possibly the youngest on Real’s roster, to face me was Bri Pugh. You may have heard of Bri recently. She was only a part of the Class 4A state runner up soccer team at Valor Christian. Next season, she said she’ll be wearing Golden Eagles colors for Mountain Vista. She is 16 years old. And honestly, she made me the most nervous.

What was supposed to be five penalty shots, after Haynes suggestion, became a goalkeeper’s workout. The five Cougars took turns cycling through different drills with only me to stop them. I knew I was in trouble.

I didn’t even bring water to stay hydrated. Remember, I thought I’d be done in 10 minutes. Fortunately, my photographer Courtney Kuhlen had a bottle I could suck down. It was the least she could do to make up for all the laughing I heard coming from behind the camera at my less-than-stellar goalkeeping skills.

Once I started hurting in places I long forgot existed, Haynes and I started to keep score. He gave me a handicap, but it didn’t help. I kept trying to cheat the score back to a 3-3 tie, but eventually Haynes caught on. I couldn’t catch a break.

I’d say out of the entire excursion, I had two saves my father would have been proud to see me make. If he would have seen the other 175 possible goals I let get past me, he would have been trying to adopt Brian Haynes instead.

After God finally answered my prayer and it was over, I was in pain. After I gathered the shattered pieces of what I could once called my ego, I went around the roster and thanked them for doing the challenge with me. They suggested I put some ice on the bruises.

Maybe in the future, when I issue these challenges, I should make my opponents play me in something I’m actually good at. Who’s up for a sick game of lawn darts? Just give me a few days. I’m still icing up from the Cougars.


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