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Coach: Mark Valintis
Assistant coach: Jim Rossetti
Alfredo Recendez So., GK
Marcin Machnik Sr., GK
Kevin Ziobro   Sr., M
Zlatomir Todorov Sr., M
Freddy Suarez Sr., D
Moises Merlos Sr., D
Kevin Flores Sr., M
Noe Centeno Sr., M
Joaquin Cardenas Sr., D
Tony Guzman Sr., M
Christian Hernandez Sr., M
Hector Arroyo Sr., M
Arturo Vidal Sr., F
Elvis Castaneda Jr., D
Yonatan Abarca Sr., D
Diego Lorenzana Sr., F
Christian Rodriguez Sr., F
Hector Herrera Jr., D
David Senk So., M
Dario Salgado Sr., M
Christian Rubio So., D
Cesar Franco So., D
Jaime Gamino Sr., F
Albert Arabik So., F

Eagles grab momentum, top Whitney Young


By Dave Owen

Leyden used an explosive start to the second half to continue its midseason resurgence with a 3-1 win over Whitney Young, but not without an early wakeup call.

A Young goal in the second minute of Saturday’s Pepsi Showdown match at Lyons Township put the Eagles (5-6-1) in an early 1-0 hole, but the Eagles dug in with numerous chances the rest of the first half before emphatically swinging the momentum after the break.

Leyden has won four of its last six games after a 1-4-1 start to 2013.

“We had a tough game Thursday (a 2-1 loss to Kelly) in which we didn’t play well at all,” Eagles’ coach Mark Valintis said, “and we came out and it was a continuation for the first two minutes (Saturday). We let up a goal, and then finally we start to turn it around. Especially in the second half with a few minor adjustments we put a good half together.”

Good was an understatement for the opening minutes of the second half.

Joaquin Cardenas helped ignite the Eagles with strong set pieces, starting with his corner kick with 38:43 left. The perfectly placed Cardenas send was headed just inside the right post by Elvis Castaneda to tie game 1-1.

With 35:05 left, Leyden took the lead for good. On Cardenas’ direct kick from right of the box, a diving attempt to grab the cross by Young’s goalkeeper went off his hands to the Eagles’ Albert Arabik for a point blank putaway and a 2-1 score.

“I just focused more on my touch (on the restarts) in the second half,” Cardenas said of the set piece successes. “I really knew where I wanted to put the ball, and my teammates got there.”

“We’re not usually a team that’s going to score on corner kicks,” Valintis said, “but today was good for us. We’ll take it. We needed it.”

The Eagles’ third goal came on a great individual effort through the flow of play. Christian Hernandez made a long dribble drive up the left wing and drove a 15-yard blast into the net to make the score 3-1 with still 32:43 left.

“I think we picked up the pressure, played with high intensity and just played better as a team,” Cardenas said of the comeback. “We had them on their heels.

“We were off guard in the first two minutes and didn’t start right, but then the rest of the (first) half we had scoring opportunities and they didn’t get close to us. We really picked it up in the second half and knew we had them. We got three goals in 10 minutes – that speaks for itself.”

The Eagles nearly scored again off a Cardenas corner kick with 9:45 left, but Arabik’s nice header attempt was stopped inches (or millimeters) short of the goal line by a Young defender. Arabik later lined a 22-yard direct kick just right of the net with 7:05 to go, capping his day of persistent threats throughout each half.

“I think today was the first game in a while when everybody had a complete game and played well,” Valintis said. “Christian Hernandez, Tony Guzman and Albert Arabik are our three leaders on the field, and when they play well everybody else does too.

“Today was a complete effort. Offensively and defensively, everything was clicking.”
Leyden’s defensive stand after falling behind 1-0 early included goalkeeper Alfredo Recendez’s leaping swat upfield of a Young corner kick with 24:40 left, which ignited another Eagles’ rush into the offensive end.

Hector Herrera and Moises Merlos (header clear of a direct kick into the box) had strong defensive plays in the last 20 minutes. Castaneda, Cardenas, Yonatan Abarca, Zlatomir Todorov, Freddy Suarez, Kevin Flores and Cesar Franco were among other notable players in defender and midfield roles.

Leyden’s offense was in the spotlight for the last 75 minutes of the match. Even down 1-0 early, the Eagles pounded on the door the rest of the first half.

The best chances included consecutive nice saves by Young's keeper on Hernandez (a 12-yard shot) and Arabik (rebound header) in a sequence in the 15th minute. Hernandez was also denied on a 6-yard shot off a Todorov cross 4:15 before halftime, and Jaime Gamino had a corner kick batted out of a crowd late in the half.

Arabik’s three quality first half shots on the frame included a high 15-yard blast 2:40 before halftime that was barely deflected over the crossbar by a leaping Young goalkeeper.

Beyond those threats, Diego Lorenzana’s sliding shot at the left post off a 35-yard Guzman direct kick was deflected just wide by a Young defender in the 18th minute, and Arturo Vidal’s steal and 30-yard shot required a reaching save.

With strong momentum from the second half Saturday, Leyden is geared up for the post-Pepsi portion of its schedule.

“The tournament’s great,” Valintis said. “We got four good games and ended up 2-2, played (defending state champion) Warren to a 3-2 loss in double overtime and had the lead twice in that game.

“We come up against conference foe Morton on Tuesday,” Valintis said, “so today was huge for us in terms of getting in a good frame of mind and getting some confidence as we go to Morton. It was very important.”

Cardenas is equally confident of the long-term benefits from the four Pepsi Showdown matches.

“It really shows us how we match up against better teams,” he said. “We gave Warren a battle and they’re state champs. We have high hopes for the rest of the season.”

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