On Tuesday night, the MetroStars joined the Clifton Stallions U-11 girls travel team for a private training session held at a place that for many of the Metros it all began: a backyard.
The MetroStars held an online contest for the chance to have the clinic in one lucky fan's backyard. Carmen LoBue of Clifton, N.J., was ecstatic to learn his favorite MetroStars players would literally be in his very own backyard. Passing their knowledge to the youngsters were MetroStars defenders Jeff Parke and Tim Ward and midfielder Michael Bradley.
The afternoon began with MetroStars Player Development coach Lee Pollard challenging the girls to juggle their new soccer balls, which were provided by Valley National Bank. Lee proved that learning the skills of soccer merely require shoes, a ball, and a backyard.
As the girls focused on passing drills, the MetroStars players jumped in. Michael Bradley and Tim Ward participated in a rectangular drill that specifically emphasizes timing on their passes. Bradley and Ward composed opposite vertical sides of the rectangle while the girls were lined up on the horizontal sides. Bradley and Ward attempted to pass the ball across the rectangle to each other, without colliding with the girls' passes. For every ball that was successfully passed through the gauntlet, the team would earn a point. The Stallions upset Bradley and Ward in a close one, five to four.
After the training session ended the girls sat down for a little one-on-one time with the Metros to learn more about the players' on and off-the-field interests. Among other topics, the Metros spoke of life as a professional soccer player and the different challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.
As the girls posed for some photos to capture their memories, a special guest arrived to deliver gifts for the group. James Palmer of Valley National Bank stopped by to drop off piggy banks and water bottles to complement the girls' soccer balls.
The Stallion girls expressed their gratitude towards the MetroStars by giving each player their very own Stallions soccer ball, autographed by each of the girls on the team. You never know, they could be holding the autograph of the next Mia Hamm!