Simone Leitner, left, and Molly Altreuter after the Hudson Valley Invitational Tournament.
A natural in net, travel team goalie is a keeper
By Judith Stiles
Five months ago, 10-year-old Simone Leitner of Greenwich Village showed up for Soccer Moms Night with her mother Cindy to hang around and watch the ladies play. Simone herself had played for about two years in the recreational games, nothing too serious. Even though the ladies scrimmage began at 8:30 p.m. on a school night, she begged her mother to allow her to come along and hang out on the sidelines. She packed a pair of goalie gloves just in case, and sure enough, a half hour into observing the games, Simone was invited to play goalie for the ladies.
Soon after that, Simone could be found every Wednesday at Pier 40 stopping shots on goal until 10 p.m. when most of her classmates were in bed sound asleep. This is a girl who loves soccer.
The word got out at the Downtown United Soccer Club that a 10-year-old was moonlighting with the soccer moms, and by April Simone was drafted to play on the U-10 (under-10) girls travel team with Coach Jose Cedeno. One thing led to another, and Simone on a lark tried out for the five-borough Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League Select Team, where top players are chosen to compete during the summer at regional tournaments. She made the team and in her first outing at the Hudson Valley Invitational Tournament in LaGrange, N.Y., Simone was picked to be the starting goalie, playing in every moment of every game.
The team finished their first day undefeated as they headed toward qualifying for the playoffs. Simone was basking in her newfound glory. Most of all, she enjoyed playing with girls on the select team from Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and even players who were their regular season rivals, from the Manhattan Kickers.
Summer select teams have done wonders to build bridges between the boroughs, creating a congenial sense of community within the Cosmopolitan League, where once parents from different clubs were bitter enemies. A report at the year-end Cosmopolitan League revealed a shocking statistic that in New York State an average of two assaults a month occurred at youth soccer games, involving players and sometimes parents. To address this issue, the girls select program instituted a yellow card and red card system to warn parents when they are being unruly on the sidelines, just like the referees do with the players.
In a soccer match the referee reserves the right to give a yellow card (warning) to any player who has unacceptable physical or verbal behavior during a game. Even spitting on the field can result in a yellow card. Cards can be given without comment by the referee and if a player gets a red card he or she is ejected from the game. So why not the parents? Parents have been known to argue with opponents, the refs, even their own children on the field. So with C.J.S.L. Girls Select teams, the manager of the team (usually the chief parent) reserves the right to yellow card or red card other parents if their behavior gets out of line. None of this was necessary at the Hudson Valley Invitational, but the possibility of getting a card reminded the parents to stay cool.
In the first round of the playoffs rookie Simone found herself in a full-blown shoot-out that would determine which team would advance to the finals. During a shoot-out, which occurs to break a tie, the goalie faces a shooter without any defenders to help stop the shot.
Coach Tom Siller was aware that Simone knew very little about shoot-outs, so he briefed her on the basics and off she went alone into the net. Unlike other goalies, Simone seemed serene, almost nonchalant. She made a few saves, a few went in (no tears) and then she readied herself for the final shot that would determine the outcome. Mother Cindy was about to faint and the other parents and players were holding their breath as all eyes were on Simone. She centered herself on the line, knees bent, with her arms splayed out to her side, looking like a pro. The ball went high and wide and Simone dove to her left, making a spectacular save. The parents were high-fiving each other and her teammates ran into the goal box to hug Simone, the new hero of the team.
The C.J.S.L. girls made it to the finals where they played a game in the blazing sun, not quite up to their full speed, understandably so, having played four different 50-minute games in 2 days. They put up a valiant fight against Deer Park, a Division One team from Long Island, and although they had tied 1-1 earlier in the tournament, they lost in the finals 3-0. They took second place in the tournament, a great showing for a brand-new team from the Big Apple. Whats next for Simone? Practice in Brooklyn, a goalie clinic with a coach who specializes in goalie training and another practice on Wednesday night at Pier 40, where she can showoff her shiny new trophy to the ladies.