Ok, this entry doesn't really have anything to do with Christmas, except that Ben Olsen was at a Christmas party when he told me the tale.
So Ben Olsen and his famous soccer-playing friends head to Jamaica for Ben's wedding. Benny and others get there early. They start chatting things up with the soccer-loving kitchen staff. The soccer-loving kitchen staff starts talking a little trash. So the next thing you know, the kitchen staff has challenged Benny and friends to a soccer game. And the next thing you know after that, groom-to-be and former World Cup midfielder Ben Olsen is on a soccer field behind a police station in Jamaica, attempting to remove a goat from the pitch to get ready for an 11-on-11 against some cooks.
"Literally, leading goats off the field," he said.
So Benny's team consists of Ben Olsen, USNT
forward defender Chris Albright, Chris's brother and former AU star Sean Albright, former MLS defender Judah Cooks, and a variety of unaffiliated soccer stars such as Ben's father, his brother, his sister and his future father-in-law. They're feeling pretty good about their chances. Then the kitchen staff rolls up in a caravan and gets out, boasting uniforms, cleats, a referee and a cheering section of about 50 heckling fans. Which was probably to be expected, because those island nations always have a decent homefield advantage, right?
Team Wedding takes a 1-0 lead into halftime. Benny, perhaps sensing that you don't want to roll up the score against the people responsible for feeding your wedding guests, suggests at halftime that maybe they should play for a tie, if you get my drift.
"I said no way," Judah remembered. "He was trying to be the ambassador at that point, but I said no way. I convinced him to push on for the win. And it was a good win, a good win."
The final score wound up being 3-1, including Olsen's tally at the final whistle. The Albright bros. provided the other goals. Ben was sort of glad that Jaime Moreno hadn't yet arrived in Jamaica, because then things could have gotten out of hand. But Benny's father-in-law did have a highlight reel tackle, and his sister played a mean right flank.
I asked Judah whether national pride was on the line.
"For me it was definitely national pride; for Ben and Chris coming back from the World Cup, I don't know if pride was a factor," he said. "[But] you didn't want to walk around the hotel after a loss."
Attempting to be somewhat serious, I asked Ben why he wasn't worried about getting injured.
"When I'm playing with my dad and sister, in Jamaica, for the love of the game, if [something] happens, then that's the way to do it," he said. "I was talking to one of the guys in the kitchen the next day, a soccer fan, and he said 'That was my Christmas present.' For me, that's enough. That's enough, to hear that."
Incidentally, speaking of weddings, Ben hasn't yet received his invite to Landon Donovan's wedding later this month, but he said he planned to call Landon and sort of drop hints that he'd love to spend New Year's Eve in Southern California. You can read more about Landon's wedding and see his gift registry at The Big Lead, but you might not want to do so at work.