FORWARD OPERATING BASE ECHO, Iraq -- The 404th Battalion, 50th Iraqi National Guard Brigade, Desert Dogs squeaked past the Company A, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), Raiders 1-0 during a friendly soccer match here at the ING compound, Sept. 22.
"We're trying to get the Iraqi Security Forces in a recreational activity to build camaraderie and team spirit," said Capt. Robert B. Sotire, company commander, Alpha Co., BLT 1/4, 11th MEU (SOC).
A Desert Dogs' forward scored the only goal of the game in the first ten minutes of the match when a shot from the left edge of the penalty box partially deflected off a Raider defender, sending the goalie to the right and the ball to the left and in the net. After that goal, the Raiders' defense tightened up and frustrated the Desert Dogs' further attempts to score.
Lance Cpl. Mark Enrique, the Raiders' first half goalie and a rifleman with 1st Platoon, made several dramatic saves during the first 45-minute half.
The uneven field, pitted with rocks and large dirt mounds, frustrated the Raiders' attempts to control the ball and pass accurately, especially during the first half of the game.
"We took the first half of the game to get acquainted with each other and to get used to the way we each play," said HN Ivan G. Krimker, right forward and corpsman with 5th Platoon. "They had the first half of the game and we had the second."
On the other hand, the Desert Dogs' familiarization with the field, which they built, and their experience playing in a grassless environment allowed them to take control of the ball quite often.
"The ING had a lot of teamwork out the in the field," said Enrique. "They love competition and they fought for each and every ball they got as if it was their last."
Lance Cpl. Anthony Massa, the Raiders' second half goalie and a motor transport operator attached to 3rd Platoon, also made several spectacular saves and further denied the Desert Dogs' many attempts to score.
"Every possession of the ball was very important to them," said Krimker. "If they lost the ball they put forth 110 percent to get it back. They put a lot of effort into every play."
To the ING's dismay, the Raiders determined defense kept the score at 1-0 for the rest of the game.
"The Marines represented the Marine Corps and I think they did really well out there," Sotire said. "The game brought (the ING and Marines) closer together. There were Marines out there cheering for the ING and ING cheering for the Marines, all in all it was a good evolution."