An early morning overcast settles over Ladera Linda Soccer Park. As we look out beyond the lush green field where our Flames will run with the wind today, towering mountain shale is to the left. That neverending ocean blue spreads gloriously on the right. Canopies raising. Chairs unfolding. Blankets spreading. Tents and tables rising. Grills firing up, and the aroma of breakfast is just awesome. We set up Camp Rancho and are asked, “Is this all….yours? No vendor here; right?”
Yes, this is us. This is how we roll. Welcome to our oceanfront property and the 2012 Armed Forces Day Tournament. Have a seat, make yourself super comfortable, and watch how we defend our U16 Armed Forces Championship title on this beautiful Pacific Ocean bluff above Rancho Palos Verdes on this Mother’s Day weekend.
Yes, this is just how we begin. I’ll show you now how it all ends:
Saturday’s Game 1 brings Woodland Hills to our pitch, and by the end of Quarter 1, Flames secure a 2 to 0 lead. In Quarter 2, Keeper Cris, with proud arms reaching high, claims his first goal of the season as Woodland Hills buckles and scores an own goal from persisting Flames pressure in their box. In Quarter 3, our 3 to 0 lead quickly rises 4 to 0, and rises further, 5 to 0, once an in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time header hits the net. We hold our shutout through Quarter 4, and this game ends 5 to 0 with our first Flames victory of the weekend.
A blueberry pancake, turkey bacon, strawberries, blueberries, and yogurt breakfast awaits our starving Flames Family, all cooked by Dads who spoil Moms. It is remarkable and rare our organizing of these delicious moments we plan as a team. It’s really so special and unique, and there is a calming relief knowing we are walking back to Camp Rancho and stepping into a delightful meal and a dependable sea of red home.
Energized and rested in preparation for their Ontario/Montclair match, Flames were back on the field in the afternoon and by halftime had earned a 3 to 0 advantage. You relinquished your one and only goal of this tournament in third quarter to another Ontario/Montclair penalty kick. Word to the wiseful future opponent: Lately this has been the only way through the RC Flames. Much luck in your upcoming attempts. Attitudes boiled and opponent conflicts arose in fourth quarter, but with Flames possession, harder play, and a nice corner kick and goal in the last 15 seconds of Game 2, we ended this day with a 4 to 1 smash.
We returned in the morning on Mother’s Day Sunday to our land above the sea to play around with Chino. With Flames scoring twice in the first quarter and once in the second quarter, another 3 to 0 lead was held by halftime. Not surprising on the soccer front, as our consistent Flames rarely disappoint.
But in this moment we all witnessed something unexpectedly beautiful by Flame Phil, just for Mom. After that third goal hit the net in Quarter 2, that quick-as-lightning Flame of ours is suddenly flying past the sidelines lifting his black jersey, revealing that white t-shirt emblazoned “I LOVE U MOM.” Okay, so we all definitely teared up a little on that one. You’re the man, Phil. I’m sorta thinking we should do this every once in a while, kinda like as both a goal incentive and a make-your-mom’s-day kind of thing. What’cha think? Perhaps?
So anyway, this game is kaput for Chino in the third quarter, especially after Chino’s keeper loses a secure hold of the ball and a Flame completes the fumble with a ball slam into the net. Final score of Game 3: another shutout, 4 to 0. Pool play standings: three solid wins catapults us into the championship final at 3:00.
In life there are moments when you witness thoughtfulness, kindness, and graciousness and you think to yourself how fortunate you are that somebody took the time from their busy life to make yours more wonderful. There are three Mother’s Day young, angelic souls named Clarissa, Frankie, and Alyssa, who planned, with great detail, an extraordinary Mother’s Day Sunday lunch for all of the Moms and Grandmas.
Flames and Girls, our hearts were swarmed with pride, warmed with love, and our smiles so darn big when we saw our long, tableclothed Mom Table you had arranged for us. I can tell you, as Moms, we felt so wonderfully special and lovingly appreciated on this day. And as Dads helped and our Flames sons served us sandwiches and Chinese chicken salad, as we ate those yummy chocolate chip cookies and chocolate covered strawberries, and as Moms were so touchingly handed a Gerber Daisy by their sons, I think we all just took a deep breath, looked around at our blessed life before our eyes, all of it sitting on this vast mountain in the ocean breeze and sunshine, and knew that all is right in the world. We were surrounded by so much love. We always are. It was unforgettable and will remain in our hearts and minds forever. Thank you, Sons, Daughters, and Dads.
The time came for Flames to do what Flames do best. And in the Armed Forces Day championship match, they did that and much, much more. Through a cheering and, yes, sometimes angry, yelling sideline, as Flames black dominated Valencia orange, Flames brilliantly played a game called soccer, and Valencia, well, just, at times, pulled their way through it.
With uncalled fouls yielding a collected composure for you, your Flames, and your families, you worked hard for this ending. You played through the bad, took advantage of an unprotected goal, controlled your middle, defended your net, and were ultimately faster and better than your opponent. There was no pulling you down as you grabbed Goal 1 in the second quarter. It was a fabulous sight. As the sun finally broke through for good at 4:00 pm on the dot in the third quarter, you all broke free. You were there for each other when needed as you scored your two final goals of the weekend. With 14 minutes left on the clock, after a Valencia keeper injury, your rival decided to call the game. Final score, 3 to 0, you. Final vision we will see always: Phil, Isaiah, and Ivo wearing more white t-shirts that shout to us all: “HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY.” Oh, and AJ, who had the invisible punctuation.
This was a weekend of so many great things. This was a weekend of A Moment of Silence, where, before game, both teams stand, as equals, in a circle and share quiet seconds honoring our men and women in the Coast Guard, Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marines. This was a weekend of helping others as Nilsa’s Flames Tournament Recap Photo Book and our personal care packages are sent overseas to the Armed Forces.
This was a fun weekend of kite flying memories, trail hikes, fake poop, fake parking tickets, shaving cream gone wild, and a little scrimmage — okay, except for when Mike really did hurt his knee.
This was a weekend where sons showed their moms just how much they love them.
This was a weekend where we drove, parked at the Trump National Golf Course entrance, and united above the water and below the dolphins for one of our best photos ever, ending it all with your final cheer, “Moms on three! One, two, three, Moms!”
This was the weekend we came to the coast to make sure our oceanfront property was alive and well. It is. And we put it to perfect use this visit. This was the weekend you became champions once again and won your fourth tournament in seven journeys. We have four more journeys to conquer.
And that is how it ends. See you next spring, Ladera Linda Soccer Park. Keep the grass green and the ocean blue for us. 4 wins, 0 ties, 0 losses, 3 shutouts.
Next stop: The Strawberry Cup, Camarillo, California, May 19th & 20th, 2012.
Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life. Sophocles