My first goal was for the wrong team,
practice at San Marino High School,
Mini Titans I was five years old.
I dribbled the length of the field,
scored it beautifully…
That team was undefeated, I never
scored one in uniform during league
play, got close, started to score
the next year…
Fourth grade was the last AYSO
season for me, made All-Stars,
was a big deal…
Gave it up, moved on, then in
the middle of college between
sophomore and junior year a
friend calls me and says, “Let’s
go to South America!”
So I went, and it was great, and
among other things I fell in love
with soccer. Before that I liked
it, but Argentina… It’s a feeling I
still can’t stop, as I root for
Leicester City Football Club
on my radio link every week.
I got back from Argentina and
started juggling volleyballs in
volleyball practice, my coach
eyeing me a little funny.
I joined a club soccer team in
Santa Barbara, looked at the huge
mountain I wanted to climb,
which was becoming a great player,
and I started to climb…
I left the team, the coach not
playing me enough, kept training,
went to every World Cup game
played at the Rose Bowl in 1994,
played with friends, the passion!
I scored a good one at the Alumni
game, something some still talk
about, for me a midterm exam…
Then I overdosed on drugs, got
depressed, left everything and
everyone, lived in hospitals, let the
ball drop. Was hopeless!
(It’s called alcoholism)
I got sober, found the ball again,
started to play, found a team fifteen
years after I had last played.
Guess how long it took me to get
into real competitive game shape?
It took 365 days to get into real
football shape, to that place where
I wasn’t thinking about fitness, just
goals and winning games.
The coach looked at me one day,
said, “Bill we need you to score some
goals.” That’s what I was waiting for,
as I didn’t really think they cared until
then. He was of course younger than
me, my whole team with players younger
than me, I was thirty-nine on my last
Truth is I had retired twice already,
then I’d keep coming back when I
was shopping in the market and
emotion would come, tears that
meant I was not done yet!
“Okay,” I told my young coach,
and next game was on a good synthetic
field in South Central L.A., facing
a good league team with supposedly
one of the better goalies.
A couple white guys on their side,
goalie included, my team all Latino
and me, the lone white dude, playing
Striker, hungry for my first goal
on the team, green lit by the coach
to get it done.
The action was hot from the start,
we pressed, me and my striking
mate, criss-crossing, zig-zagging,
switching play, press, press.
Not long before we broke through,
three on two, I’m in front of the
touted keeper, too close, blast—
he blocks it and tackles me,
Rebound… my mate taps it in
for goal number one, 1-0!
Goalie’s cleat is an inch from me
and he looks disappointed he
Our team is pumped in our
Spain colors, an early lead—
almost too early for some of them,
who knew we needed the win to
secure a spot in the Playoffs.
From the back I heard, “It’s zero-
zero!” I said, “What? The goal didn’t
count?” And they said, “No! Play
like it’s zero-zero!”
They were wise for their age, those
kids, and I nodded, kept our press
going to try to get another…
Switch, switch, I criss-crossed from
side to side more than my striking mate
preferred, but the energy was there,
and it felt right to seek space wherever
Coming from left to right, I tracked
a long ball into the center of the pitch,
ten yards outside the opponent’s
eighteen yard box. It bounced a couple
times, and by the time I got to it,
their large center back had pushed up
to make a play on it, along with another
defender, one of those times you figured
less is more, let’s do something quick
before the big man has time to show
me just how big he is…
It’s near 50-50, the ball just about
equally between me and the big back,
close enough to him that he starts to
Instinct and speed, I got to it first,
chopped the ball out of the scrum
between or by the big defender’s legs
and into space.
He dove, missed, I stayed on my feet,
caught up to the ball I served up to
myself, now just me and the keeper,
as the center back was out of the play.
Best keeper in the league, they said.
And me? No goals for fifteen years,
finally in shape, just green lit by
a knowing coach,
I never moved my eyes from the lower
right corner of the goal, the ball at
good speed to be left alone as I jogged
at measured pace behind it.
The training’s all done, from San
Marino High School mistakes,
to an undefeated first season to
a spattering of goals, all-stars,
a long break leading to a South
American escape and falling in love.
Pinning the guy to his left, eyeing that
right corner like I was married to it…
I’m close enough now.
Pass it in, the left corner, goalie stuck,
2-0, my last ever goal, we won the
I shouted afterward, my teammate telling
me I was blessed, and perhaps I was,
that was it.
My coach kicked me off the team a couple
months later for insubordination; I didn’t
let him yell at our team one day after
a hard fought draw 1-1 with a nine-player
team, yes nine on our eleven. But they were
good, their coach in coat and tie, they
thought they’d show up and take care of us
with their nine…
We fought, it was tense, a great game!
Down 1-0, we fought back, scored the
equalizer, and were pressing for a second
and winner, had it been me I would have
climbed the fucking fence.
But we did not, and we ended in a draw,
the coach blasting us, saying he was
I stood up and patted our team on the
back, wouldn’t let him berate us.
He called me that night, suggested I
find another team to play on, as we
had different ideas on how to compete.
I switched teams, played a bit more,
stood tall and walked away knowing I
had scored the goal I needed to score.
I had climbed that mountain I started
climbing in club soccer in the Central
Coast of Santa Barbara; I never played
professionally, tried to get a tryout with
the Galaxy in 1999, but they never called.
The goal was enough, on that South
Central synthetic field one day in
December 2011, my hands became fists,
pumping at my sides—