An unlikely pitch for former U.S. players

FRANKFURT, Germany -- Brandi Chastain will play soccer anywhere. She will go to midtown Manhattan and dribble a ball on the street until people walking by stop and play with her.

And she will put a game together under a bridge next to the Main in Frankfurt, between her obligations working for ESPN at the Women's World Cup.

Chastain was on a run the afternoon of her first day in Frankfurt after the ESPN crew arrived in town and discovered a small cement soccer pitch with metal goals under a bridge next to the Main River. The pitch is flanked on both sides by cement walls covered in colorful graffiti. And there was a group of boys there playing.

So Chastain ran back to her hotel and brought back some friends -- former U.S. teammate and ESPN analyst Julie Foudy, play-by-play man Ian Darke, former U.S. coach Tony DiCicco and Mexican soccer star Monica Gonzalez. A couple of ESPN cameramen have even gotten in on the action. Mia Hamm stopped by one day, too.

"We just divided up teams and played five-on-five," Chastain said. "They don't bicker about the rules. They just play."

The boys, whom Chastain said range in age from 9 to 18, are German citizens, but many of them were born in other countries. The boys who have played have come from Croatia and Tunisia, Kuwait and Eritrea, Vietnam and Bangladesh.

By the time the first game was over, one of the boys asked Chastain, "Can you come back?" They exchanged e-mails, and Chastain and at least some of her friends have been back almost every day since.

Chastain said she doesn't think the boys know who they are.

"One of them said to me, 'You have played before,'" Chastain said. "I said, 'Yes, in the U.S.'"

Chastain said she loves their style of play.

"I think they're doing things our kids at home need to do. It's not their whole thing to score goals. They are holding the ball, keeping possessions, being patient and then scoring.

"Some of these kids are really good. We played for two hours one day. It's been awesome."

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