Dmitry leaped forward and started running, blue jersey sticky with sweat, ready to take on anyone. He kept the soccer ball between his feet, keeping absolute control, taking care not kick it out of reach. A member of the opposing team quickly approached, hunched over, ready to challenge. He kicked the ball hard past him and winced as the inside of his foot stung with pain from the blow. The ball sailed over everyone’s heads, over the goal and out of bounds.
Casey threw up his arms. “What are you doing? Try kicking the ball to Rick!” Casey shook his head in discouragement.
Dmitry jogged slowly back to his position just below the middle of the field. An opponent ran towards him sure and steady with the ball and stopped. The challenger darted sideways to the left and Dmitry followed, getting close, brushing shoulders. The opponent suddenly reversed direction and tried to kick the soccer ball. Dmitry kicked back at the same time sweeping the ball away past the enemy’s foot.
Rick raised his hands in the air waving. “Pass it over here!”
Dmitry caught up with the ball, gained control of it and looked at Rick standing in front of the waiting goal. He brought his left foot back and wailed it. The ball sailed over the goal again.
The whistle blew sounding that it was halftime.
Casey quickly ran over to Dmitry. “That’s twice you could have kicked the ball to Rick! He was standing right there at the goal both times!“
Dmitry covered his mouth with the side of his hand and whispered. “He can’t play, if I give him the ball he’ll just screw it up.“
“How do you know if you don’t give him a chance,” said Casey grabbing a white Styrofoam cup from a small card table set up at the edge of the soccer field. He held the cup under an orange Igloo beverage dispenser full of lemonade while pushing its stubborn, stiff button. ” You should give everyone a chance.”
“I guess so,“ said Dmitry. He grabbed a baggy of sliced oranges out of a little cooler sitting on the grass.
Rick walked over to his parents on the sidelines, black shoelaces flopping in the breeze and he tripped over them, stumbling forward.
Dmitry watched and slapped the palm of his hand to his forehead, while closing his eyes. He sighed heavily. “Are you sure you want me to pass the ball to him?” He said to Casey as his confidence in his teammate was shaken.
“He’s always in front of the goal,” said Casey. He took a sip of his lemonade and his face twisted at its lack of sugar.
“But he doesn’t hold a candle to my playing. We’re going to lose this one huh?” Dmitry peeled back the flexible skin of his last orange slice with his thumb.
The ref blew the whistle signaling the players to get back on the field.
Casey dropped his cup beneath the table not seeing a trashcan. “No one’s losing at the moment. The score’s still zip to zip. Just try passing the ball once in awhile. We‘re not a one man team.”
“Teamwork. Right.“ said Dmitry rolling his eyes. “Coach is always saying that, but I just watched Rick trip over his own shoelaces.“ He pointed loosely over at Rick and tossed his bag of orange peels back in the open cooler.
The other team, sporting green jerseys and red shorts started with the ball. Dmitry sprinted, cleats digging in to the soft grass and he ran past Rick, quickly stealing the soccer ball from the other team.
The goalie in the distance stood ready, bent knees, clapping his hands, taunting Dmitry. “C’mon! Give it your best shot! You haven‘t made it yet!“
Dmitry put on the brakes, his eyes narrowed in concentration and he put his right foot on top of the ball.
Rick flew by him. “Pass it here! Pass it forward!”
Dmitry kicked the ball with the side of his foot. The soccer ball spun out in front of Rick's feet.
“C’mon Rick! Kick it in!” Yelled Casey from his position, left of the goal. He was ready to follow the ball through to net if Rick missed.
Three members of the opposing team surrounded Dmitry.
Rick swung back his right foot, gritted his teeth and kicked as hard as he could. He nicked the side of the soccer ball, sending it out in front of his left foot.
“Follow it through! Kick it in!” Dmitry said excited. The goalie stayed in his position with his head lowered and arms outspread.
Rick put his left foot in front of the ball and kicked in backwards with his heel so the goalie couldn’t get it.
“What are you doing?“ said Dmitry. He broke free from the other teams’ guards and ran to the ball. Here was his chance and it was time to score the first goal; there was no missing it now. In his peripheral vision he could see the blue jersey and white shorts of one of his own teammates and he knew it was Rick. The goalie slid to his knees, fingertips touching the ball, hands groping for it, ready to pull it in, safe to his body. Dmitry kicked the ball with the side of his foot again.
The ball hit Rick's feet. He brought his foot back and kicked it hard; the back of the opposing teams net flew outwards. Parents, brother and sisters cheered from the sidelines. Dmitry ran over to Rick and patted him on the back.
“Why did you do that?” asked Rick. “You could have scored a goal.”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I guess I couldn’t win the game by myself. Besides, I‘ve missed every goal I‘ve tried.” He patted Rick on the back again and smiled for the first time that day. “C’mon, let’s do that again. This game is ours.”