by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
The Jet City Strikers, a Gay men's soccer team from Seattle, won Division 2 gold after defeating the West Hollywood Eclipse 3-1 at this year's International Gay and Lesbian Football Association (IGLFA) World Cup, in Washington, D.C., June 20. The Jet City Strikers were the only Division 2 team with a perfect record of seven wins, defeating teams from Boston, West Hollywood, New York, and London in the group stage, and going on to defeat teams from D.C. and Sydney in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. The IGLFA World Cup draws athletes from as far away as Sweden, Argentina, and Australia.
Getting everyone to Washington D.C. wasn't easy, it took some budgeting by each team member in order to make the trip a reality. The Jet City Strikers team manager Jamie Cross said the team found ways to save money to get there as well as while they were there. "Most importantly, we had a team happy hour in our hotel rooms before going out at night, to forgo exorbitant bar tabs!" said Cross.
"A lot of us had a sense that we could do well, but we weren't sure how we'd fare when push came to shove," said Cross. "At the end of the first round, with four matches under our belt, and being the only Division 2 team with a perfect record, I think we were in quiet disbelief."
According to Cross, the team didn't rack up a single win in the 2008 tournament. This year, as the week wore on and the Jet City Strikers kept winning, he said they felt a bit like The Bad News Bears.
Cross said the team relied on a crisp passing game, tight defense, and relentless offense to score a whopping 31 goals over seven games during the tournament - including 14 goals by forward Jared Auckland. The team's strong defensive line and goalkeeper Jeffrey Grice allowed only 6 goals during those seven matches.
"By the time we got to D.C. and were on a winning streak, we were able to sustain it by putting our heart into our performance when we walked onto the pitch [field], and that allowed us to walk away with the gold," Cross said.
Co-captain Jared Auckland was able to keep the entire team's head in the game, said Cross.
"During half-time at one of our games, Auckland said, 'We are leading 3-1. That's one of the worst scores to have because the other team is going to be hungry in the second half just when we want to rest on that lead.' He knew fatigue was setting in and that we were tempted to let our guard down," Cross said. "He said exactly what was needed for us to pull through with a win."
Cross said the team is really about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.
"The fraternal feeling on the team means that each guy gives it his all, leaves egos on the sideline, and is willing to work hard for the betterment of the team," he said. "Because of this, the team perseveres during rough patches and shines brilliantly when things come together."
During the final, after five minutes of play, the game was interrupted by a thunderstorm. The Jet City Strikers and West Hollywood Eclipse returned to the soccer pitch an hour later playing in very un-Seattle-like conditions - 85-degree heat with the grass steaming in the sun. Although the tough conditions wore on the team, they still went on to beat the competition.
"The team erupted with joy when the final whistle blew," Cross said, adding, "Tears of joy were everywhere when it sunk in that we were the new world champions of Gay soccer."
Special Effect, another Seattle team competing in the IGLFA World Cup, cheered on the Jet City Strikers the whole time.
"When it got really hot and humid, that support helped carry us forward," Cross said. "We are grateful to them and to our other sister team, Stonewall, who threw a great welcome party for us and Special Effect."
The Jet City Strikers formed in December 2007 and compete in the Greater Seattle Soccer League (GSSL). The team is one of more than 10 teams that form Seattle's Rain City Soccer Club (RCSC), which is the world's largest Gay and Lesbian soccer club. The team competes all year, except for six weeks starting in mid-July and around the year-end holidays. Cross said the Jet City Strikers are setting their sights on next year's Gay Games in Cologne, Germany. For more information about the RCSC, go to www.raincitysoccer.org and www.iglfa.org for details about IGLFA.
"The team trophy belongs to each player on the roster because each one of them made this team what it is today," said Cross.
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