Saturday, July 25, 2009

Clarence Goodson and the Saga of the Missing Jersey

The jersey-swapping tradition is great times. Every once in awhile, however, a player wants to keep his or her own jersey. There's no shame in that. Sometimes you want to rock your own kit instead of that Messi jersey you traded for, only to find out it was too small anyways.

One of those times came Thursday. When Clarence Goodson scored his first national team goal, he decided his U.S. jersey from that night would be a good memento of the occasion. Things didn't exactly go as planned. Here's what happened, as Clarence told it to us earlier today:

"At the end of the game I told Tim [Cook, U.S. Soccer MNT equipment manager and the overseer of such matters] I had to keep this jersey because it was special, being my first goal for the national team and everything.

"Tim said 'No problem', so I took it off and put it in a little plastic bag. I was in a little bit of a rush after the game because I did a few interviews and the boys were getting on the bus. President Obama was coming through [Editor's note - Obama's motorcade was scheduled to come up Lakeshore Drive just around the time we were leaving] so Ivan Pierra - MNT trainer extraordinaire- came and got me out of the cold tub. I had to get all my things on and get my stuff situated. I had it in my hand, and as we were walking out I must have set it down. I guess I zipped up my toiletries kit and didn't pick it back up.

"When we got to the bus we were rushing and I realized it was missing. I was taped up with ice and stuff, so Ivan said he'd go back and look. He went back to get it but he couldn't find it - there was nothing in the locker room!

"I was gutted because I knew I had it in there but didn't know what happened. Robbie Rogers and Jay Heaps stayed after for drug testing and we called them but they couldn't find it. Pam Perkins - MNT General Manager and resident problem solver - called some people but we still couldn't find it."

"I went out for dinner with my folks and my wife. I was so happy because we were in the final and we were all just enjoying the moment. But in the back of my mind there was this little downer that I didn't have that jersey. You know, it's just a jersey, but you still want it...

"Around midnight I got the text from Kenny Cooper, my roommate, and I thought he was kidding around. I was like "Kenny, this is the cruelest thing you've ever done. Stop messing with me." He said "No, no I'm not!" And I came back and Pam and Brad Evans were like "We got it!" Obviously it was a huge relief. Apparently somebody found the bag with the jersey in it in the trash can. Happy times."

"I've kept a fair collection of jerseys over the years. Ones traded in MLS, in Europe and with the national team. It's nice to have them and have something to look back on. Hopefully I can be able to hand them down to kids and grandkids in the future.

"The first of anything is special and you like to have that little piece of history.
If I score tomorrow I'll absolutely be keeping that jersey too. I'll just leave it on this time though and wear it all night."

It's always nice when a story has a happy ending. Big shout out to Hughie O'Malley, U.S. Soccer's Manager of Sports Medicine Administration, who trekked to our team hotel at 12:30 a.m. to return the jersey. The final mystery? In the bag with Clarence's jersey was his pair of shinguards. Those were never returned...

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