I slowly look her up and down and cannot believe that she looks even sexier than she has up to this point. "Wow." I mouth to her silently again.
Ainsley's smile somehow brightens even more. "I'll never get tired of you doing that when you look at me.." Ainsley says lovingly.
"And I'll never get tired of looking at you." I say as I pull her wet, hot body into me.
"Matthew? Hey Matthew?! Are you playing today?!"
"What? Oh. Right. Sorry." I say sheepishly as I try to dismiss the memory of Ainsley's hot, wet body pressing against me, her breast in my mouth as I suck the water off of it. I shake off the image and pass the ball back to Kris.
"What's up man, you were totally gone there?" Kris asks as he receives the ball and kicks it sharply back, but off just a few feet, causing me to quickly focus and move to my right to trap it.
"Yeah...thanks for bringing me back; a lot on my mind." I laugh at myself as I know Kris purposely passed me the ball inaccurately to get me moving again.
"I understand. Just pack it away for now; it's a big game today, or maybe you haven't heard?"
"Ok. Yeah. Sorry! I'm back!" I return the favor to Kris by making him work for an "errant" pass.
"Good to see!" Kris says laughingly as he finally recovers the ball and holds it as he hears a whistle.
"Ok men; bring it in!" Kevin hollers from near our goal. We all jog over to Kevin and circle up.
"Alright guys, I don't have to tell you how big this game is right?" Kevin asks, raising his eyebrow.
A chorus of "no's!" rings out among the 10 guys gathered in front of Kevin.
"Well, you all know me, so I'm going to tell you anyways." He says with a laugh. "Win this game today, and we lock up the first seed heading into the tournament. Lose, and we could drop all the way to fourth depending on how the game after this goes. Oh, and we are playing United, which you may or may not have heard is our biggest rival, headed by our long time "friend," Jason Simpson."
Groans escape our mouths at the mention of Jason Simpson. The guy was born and raised in Australia where he did nothing but eat red meat, drink whiskey, get laid, and play rugby. Coming to the US and discovering that rugby wasn't nearly as popular, he switched to soccer. The man is a beast, with athletic talent anyone would be envious of. The only issue is that he is also a complete asshole and doesn't care to hide it. Jason "knows" that soccer isn't rugby, but he sure doesn't play that way. Over the last five years, three guys have been injured to a level where they can no longer play, including one who is living with a permanent limp. Players and coaches across the league have tried to get him banned, if for no other reason than he is in the "hall of fame" for securing the most yellow and red cards. However, Jason is also really good at playing dirty just inside of what would otherwise be considered assault, and so the league officials have had to begrudgingly suspend, but not expel Jason for his actions.
Jason and I have a history; he started playing a year or two after I did and as I play right side defense and he is a natural left foot striker, we get "matched up" a lot. Jason is consistently in the running for the annual "Golden Boot" award for most goals in a season, and I do my absolute best to deny him that honor. I've had both excellent, okay, and downright awful games against Jason and we've gotten ejected three times over the years for fighting; nothing serious, just shoving. I honestly don't know if I could take him in a fight; he's a lot stronger for sure, but I'm quicker than he is. I'm really not interested in finding out.
"Ok, given that, I want to play a ball control game; Jason can't score if he doesn't have it. Matthew, you are going to be his shadow today, but everyone else, your job is to distribute to the open man. Take calculated risks, but get your asses back to help on defense if you screw up. If we lose this game because of mistakes or because we are out hustled, I'll personally see to it that you are all banned from The Taproom until next season." Kevin says this seriously, and we all respond in kind; he would do it and he knows we know this.
Kevin still "plays" on our team, but really has taken the role of coach and he is great at it. At 45, he's a little older and can't quite keep up with us children, but he is never outworked in practice and will always sub in for injuries or when we are in garbage time of a game. His value on our team is based on his ability to view the game strategically and to boost our morale; no one praises our efforts more when we do well and none of us wants to disappoint him by doing badly. He was MVP of the league 4 years in a row, so he's earned our respect and trust. Plus, Cindy, his wife, is definitely the team "Mom" and loves us almost as much as she loves her 19 year old twin girls who are off to college out of state. The number of pounds of food she has "forced" down our throats would keep a third world country fed. The Crew is definitely a family and Kevin and Cindy are the heads of it.
"Alright then boys, let's huddle up!" Kevin exclaims as we all meet in a tight circle, each with an arm raised in the air.
"Olé! Olé! Olé! Olé!....Go Crewww...Gooo Crewwww!" We chant.
"Olé! Olé! Olé! Olé!...Go Crewww...Gooo Crewwww!" Our small, but fiercely loyal fans consisting mainly of wives, girlfriends, kids, and a few drinking buddies, responds loudly.
And together we all yell, "OLÉ!! OLÉ!! OLÉ!! OLÉ!! GO CREWWW...GOOO CREWWWW"
With that, we all cheer and the players slap each other's backs and head out to our assigned positions. The United players finish up their ritual and start to head out as well. The refs call the coaches and captains over, Brian, our left forward and captain, jogs over.
The rest of us jump in place and work out any minor kinks as we let the adrenaline kick in. I am lost in my thoughts as I look down the field toward Jason, when I hear, "Whoa, check out that ass!"
I look up toward Connor, our leading scorer and resident playboy, and see him looking off to the left where the spectators are sitting. I turn there to spy a young woman, her back facing us, climbing the bleacher steps to find a seat. She is wearing a short khaki skirt, hugging an incredible ass, and very silky looking polo. She turns to sit down, in the "neutral zone" between each team's fan bases, and I see that the polo is wrapped tightly around Ainsley's amazing breasts and that the buttons at the top of the shirt are undone, thus allowing those looking at her to see some incredibly lovely decolletage.
I smile to myself as I notice players from both sides checking Ainsley out. Each team's cheering section is small enough that someone new is noticed quickly, but someone looking as good as Ainsley does is going to be stared at and she is. Whether she notices it or not, I'm not sure, but she calmly sits down and casually scans the field.
I quickly look away toward the gathering of captains, coaches, and refs as they break up. I'm not interested in causing a commotion on the field by having everyone wondering about me and Ainsley if she caught my eye.
"Ok boys, it's game time!" Kevin yells as he walks to the bench. The ref comes out to the middle of the field with the ball, United has the kick off. The crowd from both teams begins stomping on the bleachers, a tradition as long as I've been in the league. I quickly catch a glimpse of Ainsley looking at all the fans in a slightly confused manner and then begin to stomp her own feet.
I look back at the field and my eye catches Jason's. He gives me a sneer so I pucker my lips and blow him a kiss. He looks pissed off; it's going to be one of those games. The ref blows the whistle, the United striker pushes the ball forward a few inches with his foot, and his right forward passes it back to the defender. With that, we are off!
The crowd cheers as the defender slowly dribbles up the field...
The first half was a chess match, both teams doing a lot of passing and not a lot of pressing. Jason got a couple of really good shots off, but fortunately Justin, our goalie, was up to the task and kept the score at 0-0. Jason and I were physical, but well within the bounds, which I was surprised at given the look he gave me before the match. Our offense was less successful than theirs and didn't put pressure on their goalie.
"Well, no score for either side is really good for us, considering it should be about 4-0 them," Kevin says, shaking his head." "I'm not sure what you ate or didn't eat for lunch..." sighed Kevin, "I don't know, what's up guys?"
We each looked left and right at each other, shaking our heads or looking embarrassed. We've played worse, for sure, but not when the stakes were so high. No one had answers and none of us was brave enough to speak up.
"Alright, enough hanging your heads. It's a tied game and you have 30 minutes to pull your heads out of your asses and get it done. Now get some water, warm back up, and get out there and win this damn thing."
It's surprisingly rare for Kevin to swear even when hanging out with a bunch of hooligans like us, so when he does it like he is now, we know he really wants this victory. I jog over to the sideline and drain a gallon of water. I'm pretty spent after hounding Jason for 30 minutes. Of course I've spent a lot of energy in the last 48 hours I didn't plan for. Not that I'm complaining.
"...seriously great tits! She's probably here for some United asshole; God I hope it's not Jason, that'd make me puke!" Connor says to Brian and Scott as they come over for water, nodding in agreement and looking over their shoulders to catch another glimpse. I laugh to myself.
"Yes, her tits are wonderful indeed, Connor, thanks for pointing out the obvious. Now keep it in your shorts and focus on the second half, please!" Kevin barks. We all laugh at that and Connor looks stunned. For Kevin to notice a pair of tits not belonging to Cindy, let alone saying anything about them surprises the Hell out of all of us. Kevin gives me a funny look, and I realize I'm blushing a bit as everyone, even Kevin, has taken an interest in Ainsley. I turn away and swig some more water as the official blows the whistle for the second half.
I set my bottle down and jog out. Almost immediately Kevin yells at me to come off the field. I hold my arms out with a puzzled expression, and Kevin waves me off, while Aaron comes charging onto the field.
"What gives?!" I ask Kevin, with a bit of annoyance in my voice.
"Is Simpson hurt?" Kevin asks me as he points to the United sideline. There sits Jason with an ice pack on his left hamstring.
"Damn! Maybe?! Hey you know that play where they crossed it into him and he just missed the header, we got a bit tangled up when he landed and he did seem to limp for a minute or so after that, but then he seemed fine. Maybe it tightened up on him during the break."
"Tough luck. Well, we know he'll be back in, so until then, I want you to get some extra rest. You're winded today." Kevin looks at me annoyed.
"Yeah, uh, sorry Kevin. Not a lot of sleep the last few nights."
"Whatever. Sit down and be ready to go back in as soon as he does."
I turn and sit on the bench. Kevin turns his attention back to the game, calling out movements and egging the guys on. I watch for a moment and then look up at the stands to see Ainsley staring right back at me. She puckers her lips for a kiss and smiles. I smile back; damn she does look good.
I see a shadow to my left and Kevin sits down next to me. I quickly look back on the game.
"Is she the reason you haven't been sleeping?" Kevin asks very calmly, his eyes still on the game.
Shit, I think to myself. After a moment's hesitation, I reply, "Maybe."
"She's pretty young looking. Wait, please don't tell me she's a student?!" Kevin turns with a look of concern.
I look down and can only say, "Ok, I won't tell you."
"Ah Hell! Dammit Matthew! You're the one on the team with the brains! What are you doing?!"
"I honestly don't know. But I know it's something we both want from each other..."
"You're in love with her! Aren't you?!" Kevin exclaims; interrupting me.
"No! I'm not! At least, not yet. But I do care about her a lot and I know she cares about me"
At that moment I see Brian just miss a shot far post that their goalie would never have saved had it been on target. Another missed opportunity. With that, Kevin and I also see Jason leap up from the bench and toss an ice pack aside. He begins jogging in place; obviously warming up to go back in. That's my cue to warm myself back up, so I too get off the bench and walk away from Kevin. I'm relieved I won't need to continue talking to Kevin about Ainsley.
"We will continue this discussion later." Kevin calls out to me as I'm walking away.
"I know." I reply; my back to him. I commence jogging in place and stretching. After about a minute I see Jason walk to the official's table to check in. We sub "on the fly" in indoor, not needing to wait for a stoppage of play, but we are required to check in. I hustle over to the table, but not before noticing Kevin making gestures and eyes across the field to the stands. I turn that way and spy Cindy leaving her seat and walk down to sit by Ainsley.
"Oh shit." I say to myself. Somehow Kevin has communicated the whole damn thing to Cindy through telepathy or something. I see Ainsley look up with a bit of surprise as Cindy motions to join her. Well, I've got other things to worry about, like Jason, who has just run onto the field. I motion to the official and then call out to Aaron to come back off. The kid does so willingly, he's an awesome team player and will be with us for a long time.
The ball is down on United's end, so I have a moment to get my head back in the game, but I can't help but look to the stands. Cindy and Ainsley seem to be having a blast, both smiling big and making gestures. God only knows what they're talking about, but I'm not going to complain if they are both enjoying themselves.
The ball starts moving down toward our half of the field so I reengage in the game. Justin and the other forward switch sides as they run down, with their defender dribbling up the far side. The defender lobs it to the forward who is now on my side and I already know what's going to happen even though I am powerless to stop it. The forward receives the lob and immediately sends it back across the field as Jason blows by a helpless Kris, receives the pass, and one-times it far post as Justin can only watch. The United fans roar to their feet and we are suddenly down 1-0 with only 20 minutes remaining in the half.
Justin walks toward me with a shit eating grin and brushes my shoulder as he passes by. "That should about lock up the Golden Boot Award for another year...oh, and lock up the first seed," he sneers. It's all I can do to keep myself from shoving him, but getting ejected at this point would devastate our chances. Instead, I turn to Kris and Justin.
"Tough one guys; let's pull ourselves together, there's plenty of time." Even though Justin is the goalie and let one in, he knows the fault didn't lie with him and he gives me a strong nod. Nothing else is getting by him today. Kris, on the other hand, looks like a kid who broke his Mom's favorite knick knack. He's upset, embarrassed, and knows he let his team down, by allowing Jason to fly by him like he was standing still.
"Kris, it happened, it's over, and it's time to put up the wall. Move on!" I demand, forcefully. I can see Kris' demeanor change; he steels himself and is mentally moving on. Another United goal puts this game out of reach, so it's time to get strong.
As the ref starts calling the cheering United players to get them back so we can restart, I look towards the stand. Ainsley is biting her lip and giving me a concerned look. Cindy is looking towards Kevin and has the same look. They are both really into this and know that this goal hurt us dearly. I give Ainsley a small smile and then turn back to the field.
The ref sets the ball down, backs away, and blows the whistle. Scott taps it to Connor who turns and passes it back to me to start things up. I dribble forward and wait for Jason to come at me. He expects me to pass it up the line to Brian and so doesn't notice that Brian is trailing him instead of moving toward the corner, his usual move. I start moving faster, right at Jason. He has a gleam in his eye, until I make a fast juke, first left, and then to my right. He thinks he has me as I move past him, until he runs right into Brian. I dart forward as fast as possible, aware that Jason and Brian are tangled up. United's center and defender both start toward me, thus leaving the area of the field in front of the goal open. I move a few yards closer and send a cross to the flying Connor who strikes the ball before it touches the ground; a perfect volley to the back of the net.
The Crew fans erupt as we all rush to gang tackle Connor. He bear hugs me yelling, "most beautiful cross I've ever seen!"
"One hell of a shot!" I yell in return.
Our fans begin chanting "OLÉ! OLÉ! OLÉ! OLÉ! Go Crew! Go Crew!!" I smile as I see Ainsley yelling and jumping with excitement, right alongside Cindy. I'm not sure Ainsley is wearing a bra, and I'm in heaven.
As I turn to walk back to the sideline to high five the bench, I hear whistles. I turn to see Brian and Jason chest to chest yelling. The ref gets in between them and pulls out a yellow card and shows it to both of them. Not only will another yellow for either of them get them booted from the game; it will also mean missing the next game as well. Scott pulls Brian away and walks him over to us for some water. Kevin gives him a brief look and then turns to hug Connor and then slap me on the back. "Nice of you boys to finally wake up and play!"
We all laugh as the ref blows the whistle to get us all back on the field again to restart. I see Jason with a slight limp and a very pissed off expression make his way to the center of the field. On the restart, he passes the ball and charges down the field...
The last 15 minutes of the game go by very fast and are very physical. Neither team has a good scoring chance, as the play was mostly around midfield, both teams playing conservatively to avoid making a mistake that would cost us the game. The ref blows the whistle and we head to the sidelines for a short water break. We'll have a ten minute, sudden death overtime.
Kevin waves us over and we quickly grab our water bottles and gather around. "Boys, I've been looking at the rules for playoff seeding; if we finish in a tie, it may not matter what happens in the other game, we'll likely fall to third in the seeding. We need a goal."
We all look at one another, each seeing grim determination. We nod, put our bottles down, and walk back on the field.
United successfully plays keep away from us the first five minutes of sudden death. They must have figured out, like Kevin had, that a tie was as good as a win for them.
The ball is on the far side, deep in their end. They are baiting us, trying to get us to overcommit by charging too far in, and it almost works. Scott goes in and their defender passes it by him, up the line to the forward, who immediately receives the ball on the run and moves to midfield. He is looking to pass across the field to Jason. I make as if I am turning back to run toward our own goal, so he makes the cross. Just as his foot connects with the ball, I stop, pivot, and am in the perfect position to cut Jason off and intercept the pass. I chest the ball in stride and knock it down to my feet. I dribble as fast as I can; Jason's the fastest player in the league and I know he'll be on my ass in seconds.