Stuck in Concrete
Ben ran toward the soccer ball, eager to stop the rush of the Panthers. His team held a narrow 2-1 lead with just a few minutes remaining.
"Go, Bobcats!" yelled Ben's teammate Erin, who was on the sideline. "Get that ball."
A Panther player reached the ball first, and he sprinted down the field. The kid was taller than Ben and very thin. Ben moved into his path, ready to knock the ball free.
From the corner of his eye, Ben could see players from both teams rushing toward the goal area. It was a blur of blue shirts on the Bobcats and green ones on the Panthers.
The Panther ran along the sideline, skillfully controlling the ball. But Ben stayed with him, not allowing him to angle across toward the goal.
The player stopped suddenly, stepping on the ball and pulling it back toward him. Ben stumbled as he tried to pivot, and the Panther sent a crisp pass to a teammate.
Ben's teammate Mark cut off that player's path, and another Bobcat ran over to help out. They had him trapped!
He has to pass, Ben thought. Get ready to spring!
The player Ben had been covering looped behind his teammate and yelled for the ball. The pass bounced wildly toward him, but he fielded it cleanly and came face to face with Ben.
Ben stood squarely this time, keeping himself between the ball and the goal. He won't get around me, Ben thought.
The Panther dribbled the ball straight toward Ben, then dodged to his left. Ben sprang in that direction, but suddenly the Panther was past him, taking the ball the other way. In two quick steps, he was in front of the goal, and he fired it hard into the net.
The game was tied.
Ben couldn't believe it. He'd been faked out, and it had cost the Bobcats a goal. "Let's move!" shouted Mark. "There's still time."
But time was running out quickly. The Bobcats moved up the field, but the Panthers were playing tight defense.
Mark passed to Ben, and Ben put his head down and charged. A trio of players in green shirts blocked his path, so Ben turned and passed the ball to Jordan.
But no one got off another shot. The referee blew his whistle and the game ended. Ben hung his head as he walked off the field. Erin patted his shoulder. "Hey, a tie isn't so bad," she said. "It's better than a loss."
"Not much," Ben said. Especially since it had been his fault. He was sure he'd had that player stopped, but he'd been left flat-footed as the tying goal was scored. "That kid made you look like you were stuck in concrete," said Mark.
Ben winced. Last week, he would have been ready to fight Mark over a remark like that. They'd been enemies for the first few games before starting to play like teammates. Was Mark starting all over again with the nonsense?
Ben glared at Mark.
"It's okay," Mark said with a slight smile. "He did it to me, too."
Ben shook his head and kicked at the turf. The Bobcats' coach had taught them all about shooting and passing, but a fake like that one seemed very advanced for a league mostly full of beginners. The kids in this program were nine and ten years old.
"How did he learn a move like that?" Ben asked.
"Who knows?" Mark said. "Where's a ball?"
Ben stepped to the bench and rolled a ball out from under it with his foot. He swept it over to Mark.
"It was like this," Mark said. He stepped toward the ball and moved it with his right foot, kicking it over to the left. Then he stopped and kicked it quickly to the right. He stumbled as he kicked it again, but the ball moved in the opposite direction.
"Pretty good," Ben said. "It was something like that."
"We need to practice until we can make that move on the run," Mark said.
"Yeah, and we need to learn how to defend against it, too," Ben said. "We both got burned today. It cost us a win." From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Kickers #2: Fake Out by Rich Wallace; illustrated by Jimmy Holder. Copyright © 2010 by Rich Wallace. Excerpted by permission of Yearling, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.