Monday was a special day out at Sounders FC training as the team returned from a four-day break. Servicemen from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord 46th Aviation Support Battalion, who had won an intramural soccer tournament on base, were invited guests at the Starfire Sports Campus.
Two members, Specialists Alidou Ali and Chino Loredo, participated in a skills competition with the Sounders after practice.
“It’s a great opportunity,” said Loredo. “I didn’t think it was going to happen, especially being in the military. We just play the game that we love so much. It’s a passion, and it’s so surreal being here and watching them practice. … I’m excited. I want to play. I love the sport, love it. Either with them or just with us, I want to play. I’m happy to be here. I love my country and love my soccer.”
Let’s get to the photos:
* * *
1. Ali, coach and captain of the “Bellators,” shows off some skills. “Hopefully next time it’s possible to have a short practice with them,” Ali said. “Maybe we can mix into two teams and play a short game, even if it’s 15 to 20 minutes, just to show our skills.” Added Loredo: “We’re undefeated. If they want to give us our first loss, we’ll take it.”
2. Loredo, who admitted he was shaking with excitement, and Ali showed us their commemorative coins they got from their commanding officer and the Sounders. Particular pride came from beating the Air Force team. “We have to carry these coins everywhere we’re going,” Loredo said. “You can take this to the bar, slap it down, and if you don’t have a coin there, the person who doesn’t have a coin has to buy everyone a round of beer — coin check.”
3. The JBLM servicemen made sure to bring their cleats: “We’re ready. Always ready.” In a random bit of trivia, coach Sigi Schmid said one Sounder has served in his country’s military — Michael Gspurning, for about six months in Austria.
4. After the Sounders trained on the grass field, action went over to the turf field for the skills competition. Here guys lace up. Ali and Loredo competed along with David Estrada, Servando Carrasco, Fredy Montero, Michael Tetteh, Andy Rose and Alex Caskey. “Tetteh was out there, quite serious, on our side of things — it was good,” said Schmid. “It was good to see the guys from Fort Lewis have a good sense of humor about it, as well.”
5. Ross Fletcher was the master of ceremonies. He had a thinly veiled shot at some soccer federation before one matchup, saying a coin toss was held “behind closed doors.” Looks for a video series to run on SoundersFC.com.
6. A pair of roommates, Rose and Caskey, faced off at one point. “This one’s for who does the dishes!” joked Andrew Weber.
7. A little off topic, but Rose was pretty pleased that England earned a 1-1 tie with France in the Euro ’12 group stage earlier in the morning.
8. At one point, Rosales exchanged cleats for boots. Also entertaining was when assistant coach Brian Schmetzer tried to back-heel a ball back into play, but it slammed instead into Schmid’s face. “No concussion, but I will be looking for a new assistant coach — Brian Schmetzer will be replaced,” Schmid joked. “That was a horrible back-heel. … Under the new concussion protocol, I might be out for about three days.”
9. Osvaldo Alonso tried on a jacket for a photo op. It was an example of the social aspect of the visit that Jeff Parke enjoyed. “You see so many (servicemen) and it’s tough to always be like, ‘Hey, thanks for everything that you do, protecting and serving our country and putting your life on the line,'” Parke said. “It’s good to actually walk around and see them in our comfort zone at our training. You can kind of relax more and have more of a social environment with us. It’s not really serious. … It was good to actually hang out for 20 minutes or so and thank them — and watch them juggle.”
10. It was clear both sides were appreciative of the experience. “All our guys realize that there are a lot of facets of life, and we bring a little bit of entertainment to people, but these guys do a tremendous job of protecting our country and the service they give our country is outstanding,” said Schmid.