The game was not going well at all. Lenny watched the jumble of players in the penalty area from his position. They were still behind—zero to one. Their disappointment made the air in the indoor arena seem thick and thicker. “Over there! Get into position!” Coach Vlado shouted from the sidelines. Yeah, but how? Lenny wondered. The other team just happened to have put their biggest and most dangerous player on him, outside right. The ‘Slide Tackle Monster!’Lenny ran to the middle; someone passed him the ball. The Slide Tackle Monster was already bearing down on him, snorting like a charging bull with lowered head. Lenny was too thin-skinned: he retreated. And that was the way the game had been going the whole time. Lenny was getting pretty angry with himself!

Full of hope, he looked across the field to the left side in Cara’s direction. Cara was his best friend and the only girl in their team. She was just standing there—frozen—her shoulders drooping and her arms dangling at her side as if she had just landed there in the middle of the game somehow by mistake. Cara had been in a jollier mood earlier, when Jonas’s mother had picked them up to drive them to the game. But right before kickoff the coach pulled her aside and changed the starting lineup. Cara was not going to play her regular position as defender: the coach had decided to put her in as left forward instead. But she was not charging downfield. She just looked as if she were lost. What in the world was going on?

Just then, Lenny got the ball. Cara was standing completely unmarked. Lenny made a long pass to her. “Please …” he begged silently to himself, wishing and hoping.

Cara ran. But she stumbled and lost the ball. The other team started the counterattack. Lenny could hear the Slide Tackle Monster laughing viciously somewhere behind him. He saw how Jonas’ head was hanging. Their only good fortune was that they had a great goalkeeper.

They needed a goal. They just had to get a goal right now!

Lenny spielt Fussball

Lenny concentrated on the play. Licking his lips, he suddenly saw his chance. They had practiced this new play. Lenny gave Jonas in midfield the two-finger sign; then he passed the ball to Jonas. Jonas ran with the ball as if he were going to storm the goal. This worked. The pass to Jonas drew the Slide Tackle Monster away from Lenny who now had open field in front of him. Lenny sprinted. Double pass! Jonas shot the ball at such an angle and so far downfield that only Lenny could reach it.