The British side - which featured former U-20 Wales, Liverpool Academy and Coventry City players - defeated the Americans in a competitive soccer match.STAFFORD, Va. -- Many stories have been told of soccer that often transcend the sport. Stories like the unheralded player who rises from rags to riches through determination or of a pickup game played between unlikely friends for the pure fun of the game.
This love of the game and camaraderie were shared on Wednesday, just off the I-95 corridor when the U.S. Marines played a soccer match against the British Royal Marines.
“We each got our fair share of bumps and bruises, but at the end of the game there are no hard feelings,” said British Royal Marine Cpl. Davie Carns, the team’s captain, after their 6-1 win over the U.S. Marines. “We are all friends here and this is a great chance for us to meet and show that.”
The two All-Marine teams competed as part of Exercise Virginia Gauntlet, a series of competitions between the two nations’ Marine Corps. Although a dozen sports are being competed in, only the All-Marine team games in soccer, rugby and boxing will count towards the event’s trophy awarded May 1.
Even though the U.S. Marines were playing against players who formerly wore the colors of the under-20 Wales, Liverpool Academy and Coventry City first-team sides, they were still confident before the game.
“We like our roles as underdogs,” said U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Clinton Dyer, the team’s assistant coach. “Marines never go into a fight feeling like they’re about to lose. We are bred to win and will fight to the end.”
The U.S. All-Marine team was close to getting the upset versus the Brits back in 2010 when the two squads faced off in Washington D.C., resulting in a 5-4 British Royal Marines win.
However, on this day the Brits showed the Americans they still have a lot of catching up to do with their convincing victory.
Photo: Cpl. Kuiper
The British Royal Marines stuck to their game plan by playing quick passes and showing patience as they drew their opponents out of position before they dissected them with cutting passes towards goal.
Early on the Americans looked overwhelmed after going down 2-0, but they kept pushing their attack which led to the best moment in the game, when a U.S.M.C. forward received the ball with his chest and his back to goal before bicycle kicking it into the bottom left corner of the goal.
Still, the Brits consistently showed their quality and put the game out of reach with three more goals before half.
While both teams were frenzied with competitiveness, neither lost the essence of the game. When a Royal Marine went down a U.S Marine would help him up and when the U.S. Marine keeper made a save the Royal Marine’s bench would cheer and applaud. When the game ended 6-1, both teams were in good spirits.
“We both took our chances, but ours just happened to fall in today,” Carns said. “I thought the U.S.M.C. played admirably. We just happened to have our best game in three years in my opinion. I think it was fun for both sides. Now I think we are going to be meeting up with the boys and having a social over some drinks.”
Photo: Cpl. Kuiper
Many of the members of the teams had recently come off deployments from Afghanistan and other parts of the world.
U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Gabriel Jaramillo, a defender for Quantico, had encountered playing soccer with the Brits before. Mere days before he pushed out for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, he had played with the Brits in pickup games in Saudi Arabia. For him, this game was another chance to foster that friendly rivalry.
“The games then, just like today, were very competitive,” Jaramillo said. “We weren’t playing for anything. Just to go out and have fun. That was more than enough.”
Cpl. Kuiper is a Combat Correspondent in the U.S. Marine Corps