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Caps' Carlson excited for celebrity soccer match

by Corey Masisak /
When John Carlson was growing up in New Jersey, he had plenty of arguments with friends thanks to the allegiance to Boston-area sports teams his father had passed on to him.

One of his heroes was Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, and Carlson will have a chance to meet him Sunday while also helping to raise money for charity at the fourth annual Celebrity Soccer Challenge in Washington, D.C.

"The people from the Capitals asked me if I was interested and I was pretty pumped," Carlson said. "Obviously, first off, for the cause, but also for the people that are involved it is going to be great. To be part of is going to be fun and it is going to be for a good cause, so you can't really go wrong with that.

"I remember back to the days when it was [Garciaparra] vs. Jeter and back then the Red Sox never had the edge really, but I always loved watching him play. I would always battle for him against all my friends from New Jersey who were huge Yankees fans."

The match, which will be held at Kastles Stadium, will benefit the Mia Hamm Foundation and the Children's National Medical Center. Hamm and Garciaparra have been a part of the event for all four years. It will take place in Washington for the first time.

Other athletes scheduled to attend include NBA players Kobe Bryant and Jeff Green (a D.C. native), several members of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team, and former MLS stars Eddie Pope and John Harkes. FC Barcelona will play Manchester United the night before at FedEx Field, and FC Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola is also slated to play in the match.

"My soccer experience level is maybe about two years starting when I was eight years old," Carlson said. "I'll probably be OK. We play soccer before every game to warm up, but there are some pretty good soccer players who are playing too, so I might be in trouble."

Carlson said he watched portions of the Women's World Cup despite doing some travelling during the tournament, but doesn't follow the sport as closely as some of his teammates. Most NHL teams have a group of players who kick a soccer ball around in the hours leading up to games, and Carlson is part of the contingent of Capitals' who make that part of their warm-up routine.

"Even just on our team, we probably have a group of about 10 guys who play every game and all of them are pretty impressive," Carlson said. "The Euros tend to be a little more natural at it off the bat, but you pick up on it pretty quickly."
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