Despite their intense preparation for Sunday's opening game against the Boston Breakers for the inaugural Women's Professional Soccer season, FC Gold pride players fit in a friendly competition with San Francisco 49ers kicker Joe Nedney at the 49ers practice facility in Santa Clara on Thursday. Midfielder Brandi Chastain, goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart, and goalkeeper Allison Whitworth teamed up with Nedney to offer a skills showcase highlighting the kicking talents of both sports.
"I've invited members of the FC Gold Pride Women's professional soccer team out to Santa Clara to see if they can kick a football," Nedney said. "We all know that they're good with a soccer ball. We've all seen Brandi make the game-winning goal, win the gold and take her shirt off in front of millions of people. But can she do it with a football? And, conversely, can I do that kind of stuff with a soccer ball?"
Accustomed to competing on the field during the season, the athletes faced off for three events: field goal, penalty and accuracy kicking. The FC Gold Pride players had no experience kicking footballs, so Nedney offered some tips on ball placement, kicking approach and ball striking.
"In all seriousness, he is an amazing kicker and just to see him step back each time, five, ten, fifteen yards from that first kick, that thing just takes off," Chastain said of Nedney. "It's not as easy as it looks on TV. He just makes it look easy because he's that good."
For the field goal competition, each player was given five attempts to put it through the uprights with one point awarded for each field goal made in the outside uprights and two points awarded for a field goal in the middle uprights. The 49ers have a unique goal post that has four uprights instead of two for the kickers to practice their accuracy and sharpen their skills even further.
In the penalty kick contest each player was given five chances to score a goal against another participant. Nedney served as the goalkeeper during the FC Gold Pride's kicks and the two FC Gold Pride goalkeepers took turns while Nedney attempted to put one in the back of the net.
For the final competition of the day, the four athletes took the field for a difficult contest that involved kicking soccer balls into three different two-foot by two-foot holes in the net. Each player was given five attempts with the middle hole worth one point and each outside hole worth three points. With Whitworth's stellar accuracy kicking, her final three point shot pushed her score over Nedney's by one point to win the contest.
"Being a soccer fan growing up, going to Spartan stadium and watching the [San Jose] Earthquakes games and being involved with soccer for so many years, to have a women's team back in the Bay Area I think is huge," Nedney said. "I think they're going to do an awesome job and I'm really looking forward to watching it. To have the 49ers involved in it, too, I think it's just a good thing all around for both teams."
The FC Gold Pride's inaugural season in the Women's Professional Soccer League kicked off on Sunday, April 5 at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara where they defeated the Boston Breakers 2-1. They will face the Sky Blue FC and Los Angeles Sol before hosting the Washington Freedom on Sunday, April 26 at Buck Shaw Stadium at 3:00pm.