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hardwork 05-10-2005 07:38 PM

Branch plays a little soccer
 
Branch has roots in soccer
By Frank Dell'Apa, Globe Staff *|* May 10, 2005

FOXBOROUGH -- Penalty kicks have never been a specialty for Deion Branch. But Branch, the Patriots' Super Bowl MVP wide receiver, is still capable of running through the midfield, taking corner kicks, and launching front-flip throw-ins, judging by his brief workout yesterday during a promotion filmed for the Revolution.

Branch took a break from weight training with his Patriot teammates and alternated taking penalties with the Revolution's Clint Dempsey against goalkeeper Matt Reis. Branch was successful on two of five, Dempsey on four of five. Branch then went into goal, and though he might have the best hands in the NFL, he failed to come close to stopping a penalty kick, retiring after a rocket from Dempsey zipped into the upper left corner of the net.

"We had a good penalty-kick taker in high school, so I didn't take them," Branch recalled. "I took all the corner kicks and throw-ins and I was the guy dribbling in the midfield."
Branch was the most valuable player of his high school soccer team in Albany, Ga., but quit to concentrate on football and track in junior college and college.

"If I was not [playing in the NFL], I would be playing soccer, or I would be acting," Branch said. "Soccer helps with footwork, it helps with everything, really.

"We had a good team my freshman and sophomore years, but we couldn't match up with the soccer schools after that. My senior year, we only won two or three games. We played against Fernandina Beach (Fla.) and lost, 10-1. The football coach was the soccer coach and there were mostly a lot of football players out there. There would be seven of them chasing after the ball, no spacing, but the coach had them out there for conditioning so he wanted them running and hustling all over."
Such lack of tactics can be frustrating, especially for someone with an understanding of the game and who is accustomed to sporting success.

"You can't get mad," Branch said. "You have to realize what you've got. If you are a quarterback and you don't have any receivers, you have a problem. There were only a couple of us who had really played and we were on an AAU soccer team.

"There were a lot of fights because guys didn't like slide [tackles]. They were worried about guys diving at their shins. Sometimes there were red cards, but there were mostly warnings. I never got a red card, but I did get some yellows."

Branch, 25, still can generate distance on his flip throw-in but is clearly out of practice.

"I weighed 160 [pounds] then and now I'm 190," Branch said. "I could do three flips then. I saw a guy do it when we played against Lee County and I worked on it for two weeks. After that, my teammates were always asking for it and I would have to run all the way down the field to take throw-ins."

more at: http://www.boston.com/sports/footbal...ots_in_soccer/


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