Advil-popping Moms are doin’ it for themselves

By Judith Stiles

“It was kind of a midlife crisis,” said Anne Koczka giggling, explaining why she ditched her family on a Sunday afternoon to join other soccer moms in a fast-paced futsal game in the Urban Soccer League’s women’s division. This fascination with soccer among many Lower Manhattan women began with a handful of Downtown United Soccer Club mothers who started practicing with a bona fide coach several years ago at Pier 40 at W. Houston St.

In 2006 the DUSC moms had a decent season, placing third in their division of eight teams in the U.S.L. indoor futsal games. Word of their success got out. Soon mothers from Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, New Jersey and even a few ex-patriots from France and Colombia had joined their ranks, entering the league as two teams, the Soccer Moms and the Dragon Moms.

Eager to play soccer competitively, they trained rigorously all fall, because playing soccer, even in the rain, sure beat helping their kids with homework on Wednesday evenings. The training paid off, because in the first game of the 2007 season, the Soccer Moms gave team Astoria (who were in their 20s and grew up playing soccer) a run for their money, beating them 3-2. The U.S.L. women’s futsal games were held at Borough of Manhattan Community College on rubberized flooring in the gym.

Futsal is played with a low-bouncing ball, with four field players, plus a goalkeeper on each side. There are no walls and no throw-ins, so when a ball goes out of bounds it is kicked or passed back into play. In the first 22-minute half of Soccer Moms vs. Astoria there was some dazzling of action. Kimie Kobayashi, in goal for the Moms, made four outstanding saves in the game’s first four minutes. Then forward Naomi Freundlich of the Moms took a rocket shot on goal that went high, missing the net. As soon as Moms’ coach Manny D’Almeida reminded his players to “move around and find the space,” Judith Wolff-Bates received a brilliant cross from teammate Sharon Fogarty, as Wolff-Bates turned quickly and rifled a shot just inches wide of the net. In the ninth minute, Ty Gonzalez of Astoria blasted one past keeper Kobayashi, scoring for Astoria.

Next, substitutions were made for the Moms, and as soon as Agnes Miccolis got on the field, she did some fancy French dribbling around her opponents, and — mon Dieu! — she tied the game 1-1,when she popped one in the right corner of the net past Astoria goalkeeper Keely Teemsma. Christina Cordero played an excellent defense for the “mamas,” thwarting many Astorian shot attempts.

This was the first U.S.L. game for Karen Bernsohn of Greenwich Village and she played a spectacular defense, always positioning herself well to intercept her opponents’ passes.

At the 20th minute, Emily Savage and Gonzalez of Astoria got behind the Moms’ defense as Savage passed to Gonzalez, who tapped the ball into the net, putting Astoria up 2-1. At half time the ladies downed their water and popped a few Advils, as they strategized with Coach D’Almeida. In the 32nd minute Mama Freundlich scored, knotting the game at 2-2. Then Kira Barry of the Moms, who showed an exceptional ability to see the field and create opportunities, made a quick pass to Miccolis, who — ooh la la! —shot from the left, sending the ball into the lower right corner of the net, making the score 3-2, Moms.

However, with minutes left in the game, keeper Kobayashi made a great save, but the referee called it a foul for “rough play” when Astorian Gonzalez fell over her. Typically, in women’s games, referees call every little nudge and shove, and the consensus among the Soccer Moms was that Kobayashi did not commit a foul, rather she just did her job like any guy would do. Gonzalez was awarded a penalty kick and hit the post. However, the referee let her take it again, claiming Kobayashi was off the goal line too soon. But the second attempt at the penalty kick resulted in a great save by Kobayashi, which soon added up to a big win for the Soccer Moms, 3-2.

“That was great!” said Bernsohn after the game. “You know, I got so tired of playing in my mind when I watched my daughter play soccer, and now it is great to play under Coach Manny, who is very calm and in tune with the rhythm of the game,” she added.

After the game some more Advil was passed around amid chatter of possibly holding some extra practices. They will be facing some tougher teams in the Urban Soccer League, which boasts more than 96 teams. Winter soccer and variations on futsal can be found through the Urban Soccer League, online at urbansoccer.com, Zogsports, Chelsea Piers, Metro Soccer League, Uncoordinated Soccer League, Central Park Rangers, Paerdegat Sports, as well as “show up and play” pickup games on Tuesday nights at Aviator Sports Complex at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn. And if the temperatures are reasonable — that is not freezing — there are pickup games from dawn to dusk at Pier 40, on the Lower West Side waterfront, where they welcome stragglers, even the moms from Greenwich Village.