So Saturday was the Messi and Friends event in Chicago. Cody will write more about it later -- he played against Lionel Messi! -- but I can't resist. It was too cool.
It was supposed to be a charity soccer game for Lionel Messi, featuring Thierry Henry, Florent Malouda, Julio Cesar, and several other brilliant international soccer players. But it turned into a two-hour informercial for Northwestern soccer, which was awesome.
Before we talk about anything: THIS HAPPENED:
OH MY GOODNESS. That's Matt Eliason, Northwestern's all-time leading goal-scorer and current analyst for GE Capital -- as in, not a professional soccer player -- with an absolute golazo on national television, getting hugs from Henry and Malouda and stealing the show. It was the No. 1 play on SportsCenter, and it was by far the highlight of a lackluster evening. Thierry Henry is the bicycle kick guy, but last night, it was Matt Eliason.
Long story short: I have a soft spot in my heart for Northwestern soccer. I covered the beat as a sophomore, spending many a chilly night at Lakeside Field. As far as Northwestern sports go, they're damn good. Back-to-back Big Ten titles in 2011 and 2012, a pretty field, and what's not to like about soccer?
Unfortunately, they don't produce much in the way of pro talent. For most of these dudes, NU soccer is the pinnacle of their soccer careers.
Until last night. When Northwestern was front and center in a soccer game filled with international stars.
Seriously, watch NUHighlights, with all the announcers namedropping Northwestern like crazy:
And that's not even all of it!
It's just surreal to see that. I covered that dude. He was a partial walk-on when he came to Northwestern. He ended up as the school's leading scorer. He once referred to a game against Loyola as "The Chicago Derby," pronounced like a British person. And there he is, scoring in ridiculous fashion at Soldier Field on ESPN. Crazy. (To be fair, he's scoring on Northwestern backup keeper Tommy Tombridge, who made some nice saves and got some airtime for the fact that he's about to become an Air Force pilot, but, who would've stopped that goal?)
The other highlight? Cody, who writes here about stuff and will write about his experience later, randomly got the call-up yesterday afternoon. And he played! How did it go?
Not particularly well, Cody:
a) AAAAH! Cody got to play against Lionel Messi! Lionel Messi is the best soccer player in the world! Cody found that out in excruciating detail!
B) The problem here, Cody, is that you're an actual soccer player. I played sparingly in middle school and in IM soccer. If I had been a defender tasked Lionel Messi in this exact same scenario, he would've run right past me, easily, and scored without thinking. But you made the mistake of being almost fast enough to catch up to him, and making a soccer play: anticipating where Messi would be, and going for the tackle to try and stop him from scoring.
Unfortunately, it's Lionel Messi. He scores. He scores regardless of what you're trying to do. He scores against defenders in La Liga. He scores in the Champions League scores against defenders on top teams in international play. He scores against pretty much everybody, including you. We're sorry, but delighted, that this is how you found this out.
Northwestern soccer has already won back-to-back conference championships. Now, the guy who does the recruiting gets to tell incoming players that, hey, WE DID A CHARITY SOCCER GAME WITH LIONEL MESSI. You think that's going to help? Last night was the coolest; nothing will be better for Northwestern soccer than last night. But it will help going forward, no doubts about it, and they can almost achieve that coolness level by being crazy successful on the field.