The game is on the line. It’s just you and the person with the ball. A save here will win the game. No pressure. None at all. It’s only game, so you think. Your teammates are over in the corner waiting for the outcome.
It’s a steamy day in August, the game has gone to penalty kicks. This is what you have trained for. They alway say all the pressure in the one kicking the ball - not trying to stop it.
Just think of Italy’s Roberto Baggio in the 1994 World Cup final in the Rose Bowl against Brazil. He was one of the best players in the world when he stepped up to take the kick. Even the best players in the world have an off game and he did as he missed high above the bar.
Even with the pressure falling squarely on the shoulders of the kick tacker, you still want to step up and make the save. You know you can’t rely on them to miss it. At some point you need to step up.
This is what you have been training for. This is why you became a keeper in the first place. You could have easily played a different position, but you wanted this pressure. You wanted the glory. You wanted this moment.
The kick taker is ready. The referee blows his whistle. The kick taker steps up and fires a shot to your left. You guess right and make the save, Your teammates run out onto the field to celebrate a win as you stopped not just one, but two penalty kicks.
It’s an exciting feeling, but for you it’s all in a days work.
“When I go into penalty kicks, I want to get inside their heads. I stand on the penalty mark until the ref tells me to back up and then I slowly back up to the goal line while staring the shooter down,” explained Cheektowaga keeper Ryan Moretta. “Hopefully they over think on where to put the ball and either miss or i go the right way and I make the save. But during the shootout against City Honors at the Frontier Kick Off Tournament, I tried to stay as calm as possible and stay in my own world. I didn't let the nerves or the pressure get to me and I focused on the goal of winning. I kept my head and didn't let anything to affect me.”
You could say Moretta is one of the best kept secrets in Western New York soccer. He has been a very good keeper for a long time - for booth club and travel. His time at Cheektowaga sit for a couple of years until he finally got his opportunity last year.
He could have pouted and maybe transferred to a Catholic high school where he would have started and played, but Moretta just got better. He worked on his game during the season. he worked on his game in the offseason.
He knew he would get an opportunity to show everyone in WNY what he was made of. And, when he would finally get his opportunity, you weren’t going to take him out.
“I've played for Cheektowaga since seventh grade when I was on the modified squad. I didn't play goalie in seventh grade because there was an eighth grader who had more experience and much more height than me so of course he started. Ever since eighth grade, I've been Cheektowaga's starting keeper. Although when I was on JV, Vvrsity had All-Star keeper Anthony Grabp starting so there was no type of opportunity to play at the varsity level at an early age,” explained Moretta. “My junior year was my first year at the varsity level and I believe that this was my best year at Cheektowaga. With earning First Team All ECIC III honors, Defensive player of the year (team), and getting third in voting for Player of the Year. This was such an incredible year. It wouldn't have been possible without the team I had in front of me though. With out center back Tim Cultrara, he was basically the second goalie on the field and deserves more credit than he ever got. Also, our team was the best team since the "'09 team" who won the division title in 2009. I wouldn't want to play anywhere else but Central.”
While he didn’t see much action until last year for Cheektowaga, Moretta did see time for his club teams. He first played for Global Premier Soccer (GPS) before moving over to BSA. The switch had nothing to do with soccer, but more a comfortability.
Moretta felt more comfortable at BSA and that comfort level helped his game take off. BSA just didn’t help him develop on the field, but off it as well.
“Playing for BSA has taught me so much more about the game of soccer and the strategy behind it and the tactics of going from defensive to attacking within a matter of seconds. They've helped me understand the game better and helped me read the flow of the game,” stated Moretta. “Having this type of knowledge has helped me learn more about my positioning in the box and playing more with my feet than with my hands and moving so I can help a defender who is under pressure. All of these things helped me understand the importance of moving the ball no matter where you are on the field.”
But it doesn’t matter how much training you get if you don’t have what it takes mentally. Keepers need a short memory. They need to be able to forget a bad goal, which happens in games. Even the best let in a bad goal - ask Gigi Buffon.
He let in his fair share of bad goals throughout his brilliant career. What makes him one of the best in the world is the ability to forget about it and move on. Moretta knew for him to become an elite keeper he would need to have to work on the mental part of his game.
“Being a solid keeper requires a high level of agility, leg power and strength, but most of all, mental strength. Having the mentality of "We're going to lose this game for sure" if the opposing team scores the opening goal,” stated Moretta. “The correct mentality is "It's alright we'll get it back lets work harder". You also need to have a really short memory because if a bad goal goes in or you just finished a really bad game, you simply need to forget about it and move on to the next minute/day.”
Of course none of this success would be possible without the love and support of his family. Parents usually live the wins and loses harder than the athlete themselves. If the team loses just look at the parents - they are wearing that loss on their sleeve.
They are there, however, for support. They know if you just had a bad game what to say to make you feel better. Athletes need that kind of outlet. They need to be able to go home and forget about a win or a loss.
That’s what family is for.
“The support of my family has been relentless over my seven year career of soccer. Through driving six hours away to tournaments, to comforting me after I messed up big time in a game and lost the game for our team. My parents, Kim and Tony, have always been there for me no matter what and have always pushed me past my own boundaries,” stated Moretta. “When I was 11 I didn't want to play anything else than a house league but they pushed me to tryout for the Cheektowaga Soccer Club travel team. When I was 14 I never wanted to play premier soccer but they pushed me and pushed me hard to get me to tryout for GPS. With all of this motivation, I wouldn't be the player I am today. They are my number one fans next to my girlfriend. Along with my parents, Julia has been there to support me and scream my name from the sidelines. I have nothing but appreciation for everyone in my family.”