part two: growing up
Even though running chaotically around the Salvation Army soccer field, which also happened to be the football field, baseball field, kickball field, recess area, and excess parking lot during basketball games, with 21 other kindergarteners was a ton of fun, I wanted more soccer. I wanted structure, I wanted to compete. Hell, I think I just wanted to play soccer on a true soccer field. I wanted my own jersey, I wanted to be on a team. I wanted to win.
I wanted more soccer, but like I said in part one, my parents were relatively new to Raleigh, neither one of them played soccer growing up, neither really knew anything about it nor did they follow it, and to ice the cake, I was their first kid. So you should understand me when I say youth soccer was unchartered territory for the Lasso’s. After 2 years of soccer at the Salvation Army I would join a CASL recreational youth soccer team called The Express. CASL, Capital Area Soccer League, was a youth soccer club in the Raleigh-Durham area that just recently became North Carolina FC. I’m sure I could ask my parents how and why they chose CASL and The Express, but I’d rather tell you what I can remember.
To help explain the level of soccer at that time, youth soccer had 3 levels - Classic, Challenge, and Recreational (Rec.). The Express was a rec. league team. But let me tell you what, there was nothing recreational about it. We were out to win games.
So I joined The Express. Yes, joined. There weren’t tryouts or anything of the sort. I can’t speak for every rec team out there, but the team that I played for, and the teams that we played against, were coached by dads as a hobby or side job. The Express was coached by the dad of one of my friends, who also happened to live in our neighborhood. A few of my teammates lived in my neighborhood as well. That leads me back to where I started and to my next point - the teams were coached by dads and were made up of players that were typically in the same friend group, neighborhood, country club, you get the point. Like I said above, there weren't tryouts, but the Coach still had to ask you to play. So in a way, you still had to be able to play, or at least be able to stand on your two feet.
The Express was no joke. We would practice one, maybe two times a week. And our practices, from what I can remember, were ideal. We would of course have soccer specific drills that would focus on improving our game both as a team and individually, but the practices were more for exercise, or simply put, having fun. I mean at the end of the day, we were all still kids.
I don’t remember how long our season was, but if I had to make an educated guess, I would say we played 6 to 10 regular season games with a tournament at the end of the year. The tournament I remember clearly, and that’s because we lost it 2 years in a row in the finals… to a team that was made up of classmates of mine, just to make things worst.
The games were intense, though, and at that level, everyone plays every position. Sure, there were a few kids that specifically wanted to play keeper, but usually every kid got a run at every position at some point during the season. I can’t remember exactly what position I played, but I typically played on the offensive side of the ball. By no means did I think I was a natural center back, or even a defender at all for that matter. Humbly put, I scored goals. There were games where we would win 10-0, 14-2, and I would walk away with a hat trick - or three. It was more competitive than before, but I knew there had to be more out there.
I loved playing for The Express. I was able to play with some of my closest friends growing up - memories that still come up in conversation when we’re together, and memories I still hold close to my heart. Although, just like my days at the Salvation Army and playing for my Dad, I wanted more. I wanted more structure, I wanted stronger competition, I wanted to be the best. I knew that to be the best, I needed to play against the best - Classic was the best.