SPORTS

  /  

October 2, 2009

Field Notes: Men’s soccer notches stylish win, and a first-year goes deep for football

Men’s soccer got three goals in Wednesday’s win over Elmhurst (6–3–1), and even more style points.

To start, there was fourth-year Edgar Friloux leading a one-man counterattack into the Bluejays’ box, where he stalled just long enough to slot the ball over to second-year Stanton Coville, who was rushing unmarked into the penalty area. Coville beat the keeper with a quick shot, putting the Maroons (6–1–2) up 1–0 in the 23rd minute.

Even prettier was a 40th minute goal scored by first-year Garrett Laird off an Alex Clifford free kick. The ball was spotted several yards outside the box, and Clifford, a third-year, had earlier blistered a shot just wide of the far post from the same position. Expecting more of the same, the Bluejays brought a five-man wall and readied to deflect a shot. Instead, Clifford played the ball along the ground, seeming to take everyone by surprise, save for Laird, who ran on and netted his first college goal with a one-touch shot.

“I just saw a lane to drive the ball down, and a hard, low ball on the ground to the back post is always a dangerous ball,” said Clifford, who also noted the play wasn’t drawn up ahead of time.

——

First-year wide-receiver D Brizzolara hasn’t taken long to warm to college football. Three games in, Brizzolara has two touchdown catches—one from 33 yards out, the other from 50—and over 600 all-purpose yards. True, that last number has much to do with the fact that he returns kickoffs and the Maroons (1–2) have allowed 116 points, but there’s no question Brizzolara is doing well for the team.

I asked Brizzolara what it’s like to catch a deep pass for a touchdown, and he told me that even though the ball is only in the air for a moment, he still feels the pressure.

“A lot of pressure,” he said, “as soon as you see it thrown to you. It kind of slows down, your eyes get bigger, you focus more on it, a lot of things change when you’re about to get the ball.”

And as for kick returns, which always seem terrifying to me, even as I’m eating my personal pan pizza 20 rows back in the stands, Brizzolara said they’re not so bad.

“It’s [the other team’s] job to stop you, you’ve just got to get away. And you’ve got ten other guys blocking for you.”

——

There are a lot of reasons for women’s soccer to be happy with their 3–1 win over fourth-ranked Wheaton on Tuesday, but here’s just one of them: The Maroons (8–1) now start conference play with one of the nation’s best records, and they won’t need to climb out of a hole to make the postseason, as they have in the past.

Last year, Chicago was sitting 4–3–1 when their first UAA game kicked off. Barely-better-than-500 probably isn’t good enough for NCAAs, and the Maroons had to go 5–2 in conference, plus win five straight down the stretch, to get their postseason nod.

It was an impressive turn around, but teams can’t rely on getting bunches of wins in the UAA, which is always flush with talent. Not that Chicago will let up, but they’ve earned themselves some breathing room. And come November, if Chicago doesn’t get an automatic bid, these non-conference regional wins will look awfully good when the selection committee looks over the team’s resume.

——

You know it’s over when the traveling beer vendors lose hope.

“Cardinals,” the Bud Light man told me during Tuesday’s Cubs–Pirates game at Wrigley, when I asked who he was picking in the NL Central. “What the heck type of ID is this? I can’t read it.”

“It’s North Carolinian,” I said, by way of apology. “And the Cardinals? That can’t play well around these parts.”

“What do you mean? The Cardinals clinched this weekend, they won already.”

“Now isn’t that the type of negativity Milton Bradley was talking about?” I asked.

The vendor shook his head, and by his look I gathered that Bradley remained a sore subject. Changing the topic, I asked him how much he grosses on a good day, shrewdly opting not to ask for the figure as a percentage of the cap room lost to Bradley’s salary. The vendor wouldn’t say, but as my questions continued, I did learn that no, vendors working along the first base line can’t lay out for foul balls, and no, it’s not clever to ask if beer sells faster while the Cubs are in the hunt, or after Memorial Day.

I guess the vendor and I didn’t hit it off, but I appreciated him humoring me. This was game 156 for the Cubs, and they had only to while away six more before the off-season.

I would say the setting was more Mudville than Wrigleyville, but if three seasons of casual interest in the team have taught me nothing else, it’s that this is how things always are for the Cubs. It stings, but I’d hate to watch all that tradition slip away for just a few World Series rings, the Commissioner’s Trophy, a celebratory parade, bragging rights over Sox fans, and a commemorative issue of the Red Eye headlined “CUB-BAM!” (Subhead: “Nothing Cubbie Finer”?)