Notes from my experience at my first official men’s college soccer game

So the last and the only men’s college soccer game I ever attended was UNO’s exhibition at Omaha South high school against Penn State.  It was a decent time even though the Mavs could not pick up the win.  I was incredibly taken away that the close to brand new program could get 2,800 fans at an exhibition event like this.  Maybe it was the fact that they were playing Penn State, or maybe it was just that the game was in South Omaha, or that a free t-shirt was given just for showing up, but it was still a great time.  I have not gotten to a game since because life has just gotten in the way…stupid life.  Oh by the way, walking from wherever I parked in South O to the stadium, I learned that you can rent a room for an hour in a shady establishment nearby…no I did not get a room for an hour.  My wife and I badly wanted to go when the Mavs played Belmont last season, but we had a softball game to play that interfered.

Anyway, I did not have to work this Sunday, and it was an early afternoon game so it seemed like a great opportunity to get to Caniglia.

12:00- I debate of texting my friend who goes to more sporting events than anyone I know if he wanted to go to the game.  Nah, I don’t want to be the guy that invites at the last minute.

12:15- I stop to pregame with myself at Wing Stop.  I order some boneless Garlic Parmesan and some boneless BBQ wings.  Seriously, I think they have the best BBQ flavor in town.  Buffalo Wings & Rings, they have a really good GarliQ (sp?) flavor that I think about once a week.  They are my mistress.  While at Wing Stop, I check the updates of the Women’s game on Twitter.  I know the men’s game is supposed to start at 1, but realistically I know that is not a quick enough turn around time between games.  I am more than positive that the men’s game will start at 1:15 or 1:30.

12:55- I stop at an ATM.  Why is it so necessary that I carry cash for this event?  I will tell you why.  I have a Creighton Bluejays first national card…if they made a UNO card, I would have the UNO card.  But you get deals and stuff with the Bluejays card, and I like saving money.  Come out with a UNO card already, First National!  I cannot in my good mind go up to a UNO ticket window and pay with something that says Creighton Bluejays on it.

1:00- I stop for some coffee at Starbucks and order my drink, and I pull up to the window so I can pay and receive my drink.  I am pretty lucky because there is absolutely no one else in line.

1:01- I am checking the tweets for updates on the women’s game.

1:03- What the hell is taking so long to make my coffee and give me this thing?  This is Starbucks!  You are supposed to be quick.

1:05- The lady apologizes for the wait.  I guess I can accept your apology.

1:08- After worrying about what the parking situation was going to be, I find a pretty decent parking space in the library parking lot.  After seeing how many fans UNO was drawing into games, I was worried I was going to have to park up by the science building and walk.

1:09- Walking by the Sapp Fieldhouse, I see what I think is the women’s soccer team.  I congratulate them on a good game.  I really hope that was actually the women’s soccer team and not a group of random girls wearing UNO gear.

1:10- I arrive at the ticket window.  I ask for a ticket, and the dude is like “are you a student?”  I wish.

1:11- I slowly walk in with my Starbucks drink wondering if this is cool that I bring in an outside beverage.  Also no one ever checked my ticket other than the guy in the ticket booth.  I could have easily walked in without paying.  Just saying.

1:13- I find a good seat in an actual chair.  Naturally, I picked the side of the stadium closest to the men’s room.  This is basic strategy.

1:14- I take a look around the stadium and I reflect on the last time I was here for an athletic event.  I was sitting in stands that have been since torn down, and I was watching Zach Miller throwing touchdown passes against Missouri Western.

1:20- Some Spanish speaking folks sit two rows behind me.  I bet they are talking about how cool and handsome I am.

1:30- We rise for the National Anthem.  The girl who is singing is doing a great job, but I actually cannot spot the flag for the first minute of the song.  I thought we were just standing there and facing a random direction.  Lay off, there was hardly any wind and the flag was not beautifully flowing from that wind.

1:31- The game begins.  Mims is sitting casually on the sidelines.  This seems completely different.  Mims was standing up and pacing the sidelines the entire time it seemed like the last time I was at a soccer game.  Maybe this is a good sign, like he trusts his players more now.  Granted, I was at an exhibition game so there was a lot more of him trying to figure out line ups and rotations and all the fun simple things.

1:32- I really want to think of a nick name for Mims.

1:33- I hear the ref say something in Spanish.  Is it a requirement to be bilingual in order to be a soccer referee?

1:34- Pacific had what I thought was going to be a shot on goal, but the ref blew the whistle and UNO got the ball back, the dudes next to me yelled “good call, he was off.”  That probably means a player was off sides, right?  I just smiled and nodded.

1:35- How about Mimsy?  Probably too easy.

Shut up Mimsy.
Shut up Mimsy.

1:38- After hearing how much the Mavericks are communicating on defense, I take the time to take in a appreciate how much communication is essential to the sport of soccer.  Our defense is looking pretty good right now, and better than Pacific’s offense for sure.

1.39- I had no idea that the bench players did foot work drills and did whatever they could to stay loose on the sidelines this much.  It makes sense though.  Clearly, I will never coach a soccer team my future kids would be on.

1:45- Mark Moulton’s shot off the goal post breaks my heart.  I like Moulton’s control of the ball though, he seems to play very patient and seems to make great decisions.  This is coming from a guy who only played two years of competitive soccer though, and I remember nothing of what my coaches taught me, except for “you cannot use your hands like that, ever.”

1:46- I think Kevin Correa just sat down for the first time, he’s been stretching, riding the stationary bike, and getting taped up the entire time so far.

1:47- Okay, Kevin Correa is running up and down the sideline.

1:48- Hey, Kevin Correa is going in for Logan Mendez.  I just remembered the first time I read an Omaha World Herald article on the signing of Logan Mendez, it seemed like a pretty big deal at the time.

1:52- Kevin Correa hits the ball too hard and it goes over the goal post.  Were his legs TOO warm and loose?

1:53- I constantly feel like there is an extra defender on the team because of Pacific’s color scheme being similar to the ref’s colors.

1:54- How about Coach GQ Magazine?  That’s dumb, but at least I am spit balling.

1:55- I am thirsty, the worst thing about soccer is the no stoppage.  I mean it is cool and all, but as a fan you risk missing a goal or something cool happen if you get up and go to the bathroom or get a bottle of water.

1:58- I think Mark Moulton kicked the ball into the defender’s privates.  The defender appears to be in immense pain.

1:59- Kevin Correa hits the ball over the net again.

1:59- Mass substitution for Pacific, yay.

2:02- Damn it, I am thirsty.

2:04- This no stoppage thing has me thinking.  There is far less interaction with the organization and fans during the game as compared to football, basketball, baseball, and hockey.  It would be nice in pregames and/or halftime if UNO had a UNO video or something…or someone interviewing Mims going into the locker room into the half.  Or something like a Jason Mims show talking about the team’s last game and/or their week of practice, and maybe some analyzing of this game’s opponent.  With no stoppage you cant just have the cheerleaders come out and throw out t-shirts when a player is hurt, that would be pretty awkward.

2:05- How about The Executive?  Sounds like he is the team president of operations instead of a head coach.  I will table this one.

2:09- The athletic training staff has A LOT of fruit punch Gatorade.  I thought we were getting rid of red?

2:10- Two corner kicks in 30 seconds from UNO turn out to be no good.

2:11- I think the Pacific coach got up and talked to an imaginary friend.  He stood up and talked in the team’s direction, but there was no one person in the direction where he was looking and talking to.

2:12- I see a kid, who apparently is not amused by this game that has no general feel to it, walking up and down the stands.  He has a really awesome Mavericks black shirt with the bull logo on it though, I want that shirt.  Is the book store open on Sundays?  Does Caniglia have a gift shop?  Damn it.

2:15- Scoreless at half time.  I need a freaking water.

2:16- The Mavericks are heading to the locker room, fans are cheering them on and giving them high fives to help give them some energy.  The players seem genuinely thankful for this.

2:17- My friend texts me, who is an Arizona State fan, that she got us tickets for the UNO-Arizona State hockey game on December 19th.  I tell her that if there are no fights in that game that we are going to have to buy hockey jerseys, and then go to a kids’ open skate and start a brawl on the ice.

2:19- I am standing in line at the concession stand to get a bottle of water, the line is long enough to where I have to stand up against the wall, but there is an awkward gap where I am letting people walking by pass through the line and some kid cuts in front of me in line.  I want to say something, but he is a kid and an I am adult, I am in no rush.  I am not the President of Concession Stand Line Etiquette.

2:20- A girl walks by with her dog.  Dogs are allowed here?  And the dog is wearing a black, red, and white hula skirt.  Seriously, Starbucks and dogs are allowed here?

2:23- I get back to my seat.  I notice the two girls sitting in front of me, I realize that they have not said one word to each other the entire game.  They have not even looked at each other, nor have they even clapped when anything good has happened.  Are they two strangers that just sat in two seats next to each other?  Are they two stoned out of their mind strangers?  This would never work if I just sat down next to a random girl in general seating and did not say a word to her the entire time.

2:30- Start of the second half, and I am hydrated!

2:33- A Pacific player falls to the ground in pain.  A UNO guy and a Pacific player are jawing back and forth, so the ref unprofessionally yells at them loud enough for the entire stadium to hear.  He tells them to shut up and to read the rule book.  I like to think a UNO player told Pacific to stop flopping.  This is like watching the San Antonio Spurs play soccer.

2:35- Hey the sun is starting to make an appearance, and I am mad at myself for leaving my sunglasses in the car.

2:42- Joseph Ghitis saves what appears to be Pacific’s first shot on goal.  UNO’s defense has been so good that Pacific has not gotten even close to the goal.

2:42- As I am typing that note into my phone, I hear the crowd give a collective moan and Pacific is scoring a goal.  This is why I need technology that will transfer data from my brain into a database.

2:43- This seems like the opportune time to use the restroom.

2:44- The bathroom has no doors for any of the toilets, and it is discouraging that none of our male fans appear to know how to flush a toilet.  I am not the President of How to Flush the Toilets in a Public Setting, but I still feel like flushing a public toilet is necessary.

2:45- The blow dryer in the bathroom has close to no power, it is incredibly weak, and now I have to go back out there with wet hands.  This could be one of my worst public restroom experiences ever.

2:49- GOOOOOAAAAAAAALLLLL!!!  Or is GGGGGGOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!!!!!  Real glad the blow dryer in the bathroom mishap did not prevent me from seeing this.

2:50- There is a yellow card on a Pacific player.  A UNO player was in the air going after the ball and this jerk thought it would be a great idea to undercut him while in the air.  Who does he think he is?  Didn’t Bruce Bowen play at Pacific?  That would actually make sense.  (No he played at Cal State Fullerton, but still.)

2:55- Is the Annexer of Canigilia Field too dumb?  Too much?

2:59- Logan Mendez gives the ball up to Pacific while trying to get the ball to a teammate who was closer to the goal, but had 2 defenders close to him.  It looked like Mendez had an open path to the net though, and he appears pretty upset with himself and his decision making.  I highly doubt that Mendez is going to give the ball up again if he gets a path like that.

3:00- Logan Mendez misses with a close shot.  A kid near me yells “that was close.”  I am pretty sure the kid was shouting about the shot, but I cannot say with absolute certainty.

3:08- Logan Mendez misses another close shot.  You can tell Mendez is ready for something big.

3:10- Logan Mendez gets a yellow card.  The fans are not arguing it.  Our fans do not seem like a bunch of “soccer moms” and the people here seem generally pretty knowledgeable about the sport.  Me, I am the “soccer mom” fan.  I am just here to give support, and I have close to no idea what is going on in terms of rules and strategy.

3:12- The Executive, or Jason Mims, it’s a working title, yells at the referee after a Pacific player was kicking at the ball out of bounds and making contact with a Mav repeatedly.  The ref even looks like he knows he missed something or should have made a call.  Mims told the ref that the kid has done that 9 times because the ref continues to not make that call and the kid is going to do it a 10th time because he is not calling it.  Mims is right, if you let players get away with something once or twice, they find it acceptable and they start breaking the rules because the official is not making it official.

3:13- How about The Producer?  Please note that the Executive and the Producer are a bit because of Mims’ pants.  The dude has nice pants, and The Photographer wont work here as a nickname.  I bet he shops at Express.  I buy my pants at Express.  They have nice pants.  Terrible jeans though.

3:14- Okay, our fans are yelling at the refs now.

3:15- Where can I buy a rule book?  Would it look bad to be reading it at a game?  I would look like a Creighton fan if I wrapped the book in a 50 Shades of Gray paperback on the book.  Stupid Creighton fans and their reading of books during games.

3:17- Logan Mendez is on the ground after being knocked down on the ground.  The ref pointed at the player, I did not see a yellow card, but maybe I am wrong.  The Pacific player bitched about it, because you know it is legal in every sport to push your opponent from behind.

3:19- Logan Mendez gets the ball around mid field and he takes the ball all the way to the net and scores the winning goal!  With all that had been happening, I knew the second he got the ball that he was going to take the ball all the way, especially after that missed opportunity earlier (see 2:59).  My wife taught me that.  The leader of the team does not make the same mistake twice, and they don’t stay down on themselves for making a mistake.  They know they are always one moment away from winning the game.

3:22- Joseph Ghitis with a game winning save, boom!

3:24- The Mavs win!  Now where do I find that damn shit?

3:27- The book store is not open, it is Sunday after all.  UNO really needs a small stand to sell merchandise before and/or after games.

In the post game on my ride home, I am genuinely impressed on how far the men’s soccer program has come since its inception.  The team’s win total has increased each season since the start, and I think they could get more than 10 wins this year, especially since they should get one to three extra games with the Summit League tournament and possibly NCAA tournament.

Jason Mims has done an amazing job building a program from scratch, and if you have ever heard him talk outside of soccer, you know he is a genuinely great dude.  Even getting one win in the first year of the program was a big deal considering how short of a time Mims’ and UNO had to put everything together.  I know the schedule is not as difficult as compared to some other teams, but I feel like this team could get some receiving votes for the top 25 soon.  The Mavs have # 20 UC Irvine next at home, who will also play Creighton on Sunday.  I am just imagining the possibilities if UNO started the year at 4-0.

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