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Under pressure, p.9

Under Pressure, page 9


Under Pressure

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Everyone chatted and giggled, and I felt like the strain we’d all been under had finally lifted. When we took our places back on the field, I felt a calm focus descend on our team.

  When a Panthers midfielder had the ball, Anna swooped in and stole it, making a nice move around the Panthers defender who was blocking me, opening me up to receive her pass.

  Anna sent the ball my way, and I buried it into the far post, zinging it right past the Panthers’ goalie.

  The crowd went wild. I had scored the first goal of the game!

  Grace and Anna came running over to high-five me. It was 1– 0.

  It turned out that a dog running loose on the field was just what the Kicks needed to get rid of our nervous energy. And the Kicks scoring a goal was what did it for the Panthers.

  After that, Mirabelle played like a fire had been lit under her. Our defenders couldn’t control her. She dribbled her way through our defense and sent the ball flying high over Emma’s head. It brushed the tips of her fingers before landing solidly in the net behind her. We were now tied.

  I heard some voices raised in the stands, yelling. It was hard to hear on the field during a game. Usually Coach was shouting so that we could hear her directions, and Emma was calling out to us from the goal. When people in the stands started getting noisy, it became totally confusing to the players on the field. This sounded as though Megan’s dad, who had the loudest voice of all the parents, was saying something. I couldn’t make out what it was.

  Again, I had other things to worry about. After Mirabelle’s goal, our defenders tightened up, making things really tough for the Panthers’ offense.

  “You shall not pass. I, as the queen, command you!” Frida’s voiced boomed across the field. The Panthers’ offense exchanged confused looks with one another, while Mirabelle just rolled her eyes.

  “Ignore that weirdo,” she told her teammates, which made Frida angry.

  “Ignore me at your peril, girl. With just one word from me, the entire Amazon tribe will rain flaming arrows upon your head,” Frida yelled.

  Just then the whistle blew. It was halftime. The flaming arrows would have to wait.

  All of the Kicks gathered around Coach Flores. She was about to give us one of her inspiring halftime pep talks when Megan’s dad walked up to us and interrupted.

  “When are you going to put Megan in?” he asked angrily.

  Everyone glanced at Megan, whose cheeks flushed bright red. Poor Megan. If my dad did something like that, I’d be so embarrassed.

  My grandmother had left the stands and was standing behind him as we huddled around.

  “I’m sorry, I don’t think we’ve been introduced,” she said politely to him. “I assume you are the coach?”

  “Me? No,” he said, surprised.

  “Are you sure?” my grandmother asked sweetly. “Because the way you were yelling during the game, I thought you must be.”

  “My daughter is one of the players,” he said defensively. “I just want them to win. Is there anything wrong with that?”

  Grandma shook her head. “Of course not. But you have to remember that these young people are trying their best. Soccer is hard, and it gets harder when everyone is yelling at them from the stands. Let your daughter and all of the other players have a chance to listen to their coach. It’s the most important thing they can do to win the game. Now, why don’t you come sit with us? I’ve got some muffins, and extra poster board if you want to make a sign for your daughter.”

  With that, Grandma led the bewildered man away and back into the stands. He didn’t know what to say.

  “Your grandma is awesome!” Jessi whispered to me, a look of admiration on her face. I was pretty impressed with how Grandma had handled the situation too.

  Coach Flores smiled at us. “It is important to listen to your coach. And this is what I have to say. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re playing your best. I’m so proud!”

  We huddled up in a circle and put our hands on top of one another in the middle. “Go, Kicks!” we yelled.

  At the start of the second half, we were like a well-oiled machine. Zoe fed a shot to Grace down the left wing. Grace sent it soaring toward the goal, giving the Kicks a 2–1 lead.

  But anything could happen in soccer, and when it does, it happens quickly, so we were all on our toes.

  Frida, Sarah, Giselle, and Anjali made it practically impossible for the Panthers attackers to get through.

  “Move!” Mirabelle yelled in irritation once, shoving Anjali to the ground, which resulted in a foul for the Panthers and a yellow card for Mirabelle.

  The frustration sapped Mirabelle’s focus, and she couldn’t figure out a way to get through our defensive line. A few times a ball got loose, thanks to one of the other Panthers forwards, but Emma made the saves.

  We had several more scoring opportunities on the Panthers, but weren’t able to connect again. Their defense had tightened up, resulting in fewer successful shots at the goal.

  The clock was running out, and it looked like we might be able to pull this one off.

  “We got this! Stay focused!” Grace shouted encouragingly to the Kicks.

  I itched to make another goal to solidify our lead, and I got my chance—thanks to Hailey!

  Hailey had possession of the ball and was running down the right wing, when two Panthers charged her. Hailey remained cool and calm, faking left and then running with the ball to the right. It threw the defenders off her long enough to give her a chance to pass the ball.

  “Hailey! I’m open!” I yelled. Hailey heard me, and so did a Panther, who came running to try to intercept the pass.

  But I was faster. I guessed all that extra running had paid off after all! I zoomed around the defender and got to the ball first. I sent it flying into the back of the open corner of the goal.

  Yes! The crowd started clapping and hollering. We were now 3–1. The whistle blew, and time was called. The Kicks had won!

  The entire town hadn’t watched us lose. We hadn’t disappointed my grandparents, who had flown all the way across the country to see me play. Sally Lane wouldn’t be taking back all of our new equipment, and we’d get that new sod for our field. A smile filled my face. Despite the intense pressure, we had done it!

  All the Kicks swarmed out onto the field, hugging each other in happiness. Grace had a huge smile on her face too. I could see the relief. We had set the tone for the season, and it was a winning one!

  Even more important, I thought as we lined up to slap hands with the Panthers, we were back together as the Kicks. Win or lose, this was where I belonged!

  Chapter Seventeen

  “Spike the V.

  “Dot the I.

  “Curl the C.

  “What do you get?



  The Kicks chanted the cheer together, standing in a big circle with our arms around one another, jumping up and down with our excitement. We were at Tina’s Taco Shack, eating outdoors at picnic tables to celebrate our win.

  We ended our cheer with, “Goooooo, Kicks!”

  I was glad that Jessi had suggested eating here. We were too rowdy and loud to be indoors!

  We sat down and began to devour our tacos. Everyone was really hungry after the game.

  “This is good, but your grandpa’s chili dogs are better,” Emma said between bites. “I hope your grandparents come back to visit a lot!”

  “Me too!” I said, my mouth stuffed with a spicy taco called the Hornet. “I really liked having them here. And I’ll miss Grandma’s muffins, and Grandpa’s world-famous chili.”

  “Speaking of world famous, I got a part,” Frida announced. She was no longer the Amazon queen. In fact, tired out from the game, she didn’t seem like a Miriam clone either. She was back to being Frida.

  “Yes!” Jessi pumped her fist into the air.

  “I knew you wouldn’t be out of work for long,” Emma shared. “You are too talented!”

at is it?” Zoe asked.

  “It’s a commercial,” Frida said. “And it’s all thanks to Miriam that I got the part. So that means it’s thanks to Jessi, too!”

  “What can I say? Every once in a while I have a good idea,” Jessi joked.

  “This one was genius,” Frida said. “Not only did Miriam give me confidence, but the retro hairstyle I’ve been wearing, inspired by all those old movies, is what got me the part!”

  “Really?” Zoe wondered. “What kind of commercial?”

  “It’s for a music streaming service,” Frida said. “I get to play two parts—a retro girl listening to music on an old-time phonograph, and then a modern girl listening to music on her portable device. My ’do really sold me to the casting agent.”

  “That sounds so cool!” Zoe replied. “So that must mean you’ll have two different outfits. What are your looks for each?”

  Zoe and Frida got into a huge discussion about fashion, while the rest of us went over the game, play by play.

  “That final goal was sweet, Devin,” Jessi said admiringly.

  “I couldn’t have done it without Hailey,” I admitted. “She broke around those defenders and fed the ball to me.”

  “Three cheers for Hailey!” Jessi jumped to her feet, and everyone began cheering.

  Hailey, sitting at the end of our table, blushed.

  “Devin and I had some great teamwork on the field,” she said.

  I smiled at her. “The way you faked out those defenders was skilled, Hailey. I got to hand it to you.”

  “Let’s face it, all the Kicks are just plain awesome!” Jessi yelled, and everyone clapped and cheered again.

  Grace stood up. “We gotta admit, we did make some mistakes at the beginning of the game. We were all feeling anxious. Until Shadow showed up to save the day. I say, three cheers for Shadow!”

  “Shadow, Shadow, Shadow!” everyone started chanting. The other people eating at Tina’s Taco Shack were looking at us like we were crazy, but none of us cared. We were all too happy about our win over the Panthers.

  When I got home after our taco celebration, I was still riding high. Yes, the Kicks had practice again on Monday and the season had only just begun. But for now I wasn’t going to worry about the next game. I was going to enjoy our victory and the time I had left with my grandparents. They were catching a flight home the next day.

  “Noodles!” Grandma hugged me tight. “I’m so proud of you!”

  “You did great, Devin,” Grandpa said. “Two goals—now that was something to see!”

  “Thanks!” I said. “Our team worked hard.”

  “How about that dog on the field?” Grandma wondered. “I’ve never seen anything like that!”

  As they talked, I felt myself get a little teary. I would miss them so much. Everything they had done—Grandma’s pep talk, helping my parents throw the barbecue, their support and laughter. There was nothing I wouldn’t miss! My grandparents had been so encouraging. It gave me an idea.

  “Maisie,” I pulled my little sister aside. “Do you want to help me plan a surprise for Grandma and Grandpa?” I whispered into her ear.

  Maisie nodded, her eyes getting wide as I outlined my plan. “I know it’s last-minute, but we can do it!”

  “I’ll let Mom know,” Maisie answered in a loud whisper as I ran off to take a shower and change. We had work to do!

  While Grandma and Grandpa were packing up their stuff, Maisie and I made a banner of our own. We also blew up some balloons and found some streamers left over from Maisie’s last birthday party, which we hung in the dining room.

  Dad was making his special turkey burgers, and after helping with the decorations, Maisie made her Everything and the Kitchen Sink Salad. It was a struggle to get Maisie to eat healthfully, until my mom let her make the side salad for dinner one night.

  She’d thrown in raisins and even some goldfish crackers. At first I hadn’t even wanted to try it, but it had turned out to be pretty good.

  “Grandpa might make the best chili in the world, but I make the best salad,” Maisie boasted as she tossed ingredients together in a bowl. It was never the same salad twice, but no matter what was in it, Maisie ate every bite on her plate.

  I knew that both my grandma and grandpa had a soft spot for chocolate, so I made one of the only recipes I knew—brownies. It was pretty easy. I just mixed all of the ingredients together in one bowl and then poured it into a baking pan.

  We got everything set on the table, and then Mom called Grandma and Grandpa.

  “Dinner’s ready!” she said.

  They came into the dining room, and Maisie and I both yelled, “Surprise!”

  “Isn’t this something?” Grandma said as she eyed the balloons and streamers. “And just look at that banner!”

  We had written, WE’LL MISS YOU, GRANDMA AND GRANDPA! LOVE ALWAYS, NOODLES AND MAISE. Maisie had gotten really artistic with a picture of both of them, an airplane flying in the sky, and a picture of her own face with tears falling down her cheeks. Maisie had a little Frida in her—my sister could be just as dramatic as my friend! I had kept it a little simpler, adding only a border of hearts and flowers around the edges.

  “You even signed it ‘Noodles’!” Grandma sounded surprised. “I’m sorry, Devin. I know you’re growing up, but you’ll always be Noodles to me. At least in my heart. From now on I’m only calling you Devin.”

  At the moment, I wouldn’t have minded if she called me Noodles!

  “I made dinner!” Maisie said, tugging at Grandpa’s sleeve. “Come and eat!”

  I stifled an eye roll at that. She had made only the salad, but leave it to Maisie to take all the credit.

  “I bet it’s delicious,” Grandpa said. “I can’t wait to try it.”

  As our family sat around the table to eat, I realized how lucky I was. The pressure had lifted. My grandparents were proud of me. And the Kicks were off to a great start! Even better, I knew that even if we had lost, my family still would have been proud of me. Who could tell what the season held?

  Surrounded by family and friends like this, I knew one thing for sure—no matter how bad the pressure got this season, I wouldn’t have to deal with it alone!

  About the Author

  ALEX MORGAN became the youngest member of the US Women’s National Team in 2009 and competed in the 2011 FIFA World Cup. She was the first overall pick in the 2011 Women’s Professional Soccer draft and landed a spot on the US Olympic women’s soccer team in 2012. At the 2012 Olympic Games, held in London, Morgan won her first Olympic medal, a gold, with the American team. In 2015 she achieved her lifelong goal of winning the FIFA World Cup, in the most watched soccer match in US history. Morgan now plays for the Orlando Pride of Orlando, Florida.


  Simon & Schuster • New York

  Visit us at

  Also by Alex Morgan:

  The kicks series

  Saving the Team

  Sabotage Season

  Win or Lose

  Hat Trick

  Shaken Up

  Settle the score

  Breakaway: Beyond the Goal


  An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division

  1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

  This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Text copyright © 2017 by Full Fathom Five, LLC, and Alex Morgan

  Jacket illustration copyright © 2017 by Paula Franco

  All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in par
t in any form.

  SIMON & SCHUSTER BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS is a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  For information about special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact Simon & Schuster Special Sales at 1-866-506-1949 or [email protected]

  The Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau can bring authors to your live event. For more information or to book an event, contact the Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau at 1-866-248-3049 or visit our website at

  Book design by Krista Vossen

  The text for this book was set in Berling.

  CIP data for this book is available from the Library of Congress.

  ISBN 978-1-4814-8150-2 (hardcover)

  ISBN 978-1-4814-8152-6 (eBook)



  Alex Morgan, Under Pressure



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