Friday, November 7, 2014

Seniors Not Ready to Say Goodbye

Laurie Bell, a captain on the 2014 Milwaukee men's soccer team, will once again be blogging all season long on the UWM website.

Today is his fourth entry of the year as he chronicles the adventures of the team during his senior campaign.


As well as being a critical match in our season, tonight’s game is significant for another, more sentimental reason too: it’s senior night. When this season’s done – which we all hope is for a while still – the program will say goodbye to four of its servants, including three captains and three of us who have been here for at least four years.

The team will move on without us, and we will move on without the team. But for a time in each of our young lives, UWM soccer has been central to our existence. So, here are the men not quite ready to say goodbye:

For his recent Halloween costume, Kyle Neumann taped this year’s squad picture on his shoulders. When I saw he was wearing the photograph of us posing on Engelmann Field in front of the scoreboard, I asked him what the outfit meant. He replied: “I’m putting the team on my back.”

That’s Kyle. His bizarre sense of humor has provided UWM players with consistent laughs for almost half a decade now, even if we don’t always know what we’re laughing at. And throughout his career here, he has repeatedly sacrificed himself for the team. Except for putting on the goalie gloves, the Appleton native has done it all. He’s played in every position on the field without ever letting us down.

Luke Goodnetter joined the program three years ago. He couldn’t play his first year due to transfer issues, and so the biggest impression he had that fall was on the hearts of some of the UWM women’s team. “Who’s the new guy who looks like Ben Affleck?” one of them asked me. At that point, I didn’t know much about him myself.

But as soon as he could step on the field, he made an impact. The Affleck lookalike improved us with his standout midfield play last fall, and has stepped in capably at center back this year as well. And no matter how good looking he is, Luke will best be remembered for THAT volley he scored at Valparaiso last year.

I don’t know how Richard Johnson ended up in Milwaukee, and I don’t know what he’ll do after he leaves, but in his four and a half year career here he has been one of the most solid characters I have played alongside. Plucked from a Yorkshire chicken factory he was working in (whatever that entails), Jonno was offered a scholarship to America and probably thought ‘why not?’

Since he’s been here, he has performed strongly and been a rock in the locker room too. He’s fearless, he lets nothing faze him, and I can never quite tell whether he’s enjoying himself or not. But I do know that the program will miss a guy like Jonno, and so will I.

And finally, myself. Four years ago I took a chance, stumbling across the pond and finding myself in Milwaukee playing college soccer – wherever and whatever they were. I came looking for football and adventure, knowing I could always go home if things didn’t work out. I found both, and lots, lots more.

That tonight is almost certainly my final game on Engelmann is surreal. I remember my first match well. On a beautiful summer day, we lost 4-1, but I scored an equalizing goal just after half time and ran into the arms of celebrating fans thinking, “This is going to be fun.”

It has been. And now we must all ensure that this season has some more fun left in it.

So I think I speak for all four of us when I say thank you – to every teammate, coach and parent that have made our experiences in Milwaukee unforgettable – but not goodbye.