Eliason gained fame for a bicycle kick in “Messi & Friends game in July (Eliason is on the far left).
Corporate risk analyst Matt Eliason, who gained fame when a bicycle kick he scored became a viral sensation, has been granted a tryout with the New York Red Bulls. Eliason, who is Northwestern’s all time leading scorer, had given up hope of a professional career in soccer after failing to make the draft in 2011 and breaking his foot a week before a tryout with Sporting Kansas City.
Two years later Eliason received a text from his former Northwestern coach Tim Lenahan, who was scrambling for players for a Messi & Friends charity match after a number of high profile names had backed out. The text read:
“You interested in playing w/Messi next Saturday? Seriously.”
Eliason, who was in shape after running a half marathon, replied:
“Haha. Yea I would be interested. . . . I’m fit but my soccer skills might be lacking.”
This turned out to be untrue in the 28th minute of the game, when Eliason drifted in behind the Messi & Friends defence, turned to receive a lofted ball in from Thierry Henry on the chest, and pulled out a textbook bicycle kick to score. He was mobbed by a delighted Florent Malouda and congratulated by his Rest of the World team. During the match Eliason also drew a penalty from Javier Mascherano, and scored a glancing header to cap off the evening.
On a recent corporate-training trip to Connecticut, besides visiting ESPN studios in Bristol, Eliason attended a Red Bulls game. He posed for pictures with Henry, the team’s striker. He heard his legend exaggerated to the point fans allegedly asked Henry if he knew Eliason. More importantly, Eliason strengthened connections that smoothed the way for a tryout.
“Either the story becomes more incredible, or he’ll get closure so he doesn’t go through life saying, ‘I never got an opportunity to try out for MLS,’ ” Lenahan said. “But I think something even bigger happens.”
Eliason has been training hard around work in the build up to the tryouts, which begin on August 27th, running five miles every day before going to the office and in the evenings taking the train to Evanston for individual drills with Northwestern coaches. During the tryout, he will stay at the New Jersey home of former teammate Nick Gendron.
“After a couple unfortunate events and once I got the GE offer (GE Capital), the time seemed right to hang up the cleats, although I never stopped loving the game.” Eliason said, “But the Messi & Friends game has opened the door to give it another shot and I want to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity”.
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