NU great Matt Eliason scores highlight-reel goal in Messi game
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media July 6, 2013 10:24PM
Messi's Friends' Lionel Messi handles the ball against the Rest of the World during the first half of the Messi and Friends charity soccer exhibition Saturday at Solider Field. | Brian Kersey~AP
Updated: August 8, 2013 7:15AM
With world-class players such as Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry playing in the Messi & Friends charity game Saturday at Soldier Field, no one thought the highlight would come from a former Northwestern star working in finance.
But Matt Eliason, the Wildcats’ all-time leading scorer, provided the most memorable moment on his goal in the 28th minute of a 9-6 victory by Messi & Friends over the Rest of the World.
Eliason, playing for the World, chested down a chip from Henry and — before the ball hit the ground —made good contact with a bicycle kick that beat Messi & Friends goalkeeper Tommy Tombridge, also a Northwestern alum.
An analyst for GE Capital, Eliason never was able to make it to Major League Soccer. So competing with players of this caliber is among the highlights of his career.
Eliason, who scored his second goal in the 61st minute, continues to train in his spare time should an opportunity in MLS present itself.
“Once the ball was in the air, I thought I might as well go for it in front of all these fans,” Eliason said. “It’s not every day that you get to play Messi. So I thought I’d give it a try, and fortunately it worked out.
“It’s just amazing to be on the same field as him.”
Nine former Northwestern players were added to the roster because Messi’s so-called “friends” bailed on him. Wildcats incoming freshman Brandon Medina, a goalkeeper, was added to the roster but didn’t play.
Northwestern coach Tim Lenahan coached Santiago Solari — who played for Messi & Friends — 20 years ago at Stockton College. That spurred Northwestern’s involvement in the event. A similar charity game was scheduled to be played in Los Angeles, but it was cancelled because of a lack of players.
Proceeds from the event will benefit Messi’s foundation, which helps sick and at-risk children in Argentina. Messi scored four goals before leaving the game in the 69th minute.