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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 come back to top St. Charles North



By Gary Larsen

Trailing 4-3, St. Charles North had one final chance to salvage a tie on Saturday but a North Stars head shot headed into Leyden’s goal never made it there.

“Our smallest guy and our weakest guy in the air saved us,” Leyden coach Mark Valintis said.

Leyden’s 5-foot-6 Joaquin Cardenas headed the North Stars’ shot off the goal line in the game’s final minute to preserve a whale of a comeback effort from the Eagles.

St. Charles North (2-7-2) led 3-1 in the second half, only to see Leyden (6-7-1) bury three unanswered goals to secure the victory.

Leyden’s Albert Arabik netted the game-winner at 72 minutes, taking a feed from Kevin Flores and using his left foot from 18 yards out. Flores also scored a pair of goals to knot the game at 3-3, and spoke afterwards about the value of staying mentally strong in the face of a two-goal deficit.

“I think this game is a great confidence builder,” Flores said. “We play a conference game against Willowbrook on Tuesday and now we’ll go in there with confidence to get it done.”

And where confidence is concerned, a North Stars team with high potential has struggled to turn that potential into wins this season. Senior Matt Picinich believes he knows what might be missing.

“We know we can do it but we need to come together as one, and that’s what we’re struggling with,” Picinich said. “It’s all about team chemistry but we’re still fighting and disagreeing with each other on too many things.

“I think we need to bond as a team, to be honest. We need to find some team unity because when we do come together as one, we can move the ball around and play. But too much of the time, we get the ball and we play nervous, then we force it, and that’s just us not feeling like we can rely on each other.”

Early in the contest, the North Stars’ Dylan Mientus took a ball up the right flank and fired towards the far post, where Leyden defender Moises Merlos made a sliding stop over the endline.

Picinich opened the day’s scoring with a nifty left-footed goal from 18 yards out, set up by a Brandon Stricker corner kick in the game’s 25th minute. North’s 1-0 lead held to halftime.

Leyden’s Tony Guzman tied the game six minutes into the second half, but St. Charles North found a pair of goals to grab the game by the collar.

After North’s Ryan Olson sent a shot wide at 50 minutes, Philip LeGare gave North a 2-1 lead with a goal at 54 minutes, receiving a ball with his back to the goal before turning and tucking a shot inside the post.

“(LeGare) had his back to the goal and made a very nice turn and placed it in the corner. I’ll tip my hat to a goal like that every time,” Leyden coach Mark Valintis said. “I told (LeGare) after the game, that was a world-class goal. We had our guys right there and there wasn’t much more we could do.”

North took a 3-1 lead when Lorenzo Estrada hustled after a ball to the right corner and crossed it nicely to the far post, where Zach Michieli roofed a shot at 55 minutes.

“Lorenzo came in and gave us a nice game off the bench but again, it was all for nothing,” North Stars coach Eric Willson said. “If you score three goals you should win the game, so we’re obviously not happy.”

Leyden cut the deficit to 3-2 three minutes later when Flores followed up a Christian Hernandez shot and buried a ball from point-blank range. Guzman pointed to that goal as the key moment in his side’s comeback.

“With Kevin’s first goal, that was just all effort,” Guzman said. “And because of that, it got us back in the game. That goal really sparked us to get another, and then everyone wants to get a shot, and everyone feels like we can get there.”

Flores tied the game at 69 minutes when he blistered a ball past diving North keeper Billy Larsen from 16 yards out.

“On the second goal the ball bounced my way and I just took a shot and put it in the corner,” Flores said. “It started on a throw-in and it hit off a defender and just landed right in front of me, and I placed it in the goal.”

After the Eagles went down 3-1, Valintis was happy to see them show the determination needed to claw back in the game.

“When we were picking that third (North) goal out of the net, they were hanging their heads a little bit,” Valintis said. “You could see the forwards were yelling at the defense, and you saw eight guys walking up with their heads down, bad body language, and I’ve seen that movie way too many times.

“When we got our first goal I thought ‘good for us’ and thought maybe we’d get another. But I didn’t think we’d get three. In the past, if we’ve gone down 3-1 and I’d see them hanging their heads, I would be all over them. Just don’t quit. Fight, because you never know what can happen.”

Arabik’s game-winner came at 72 minutes, when the talented sophomore striker took a feed from Flores, switched it to his left foot and buried it from 20 yards out. The North Stars’ backline battled well to keep Arabik bottled up all day, but they let him find dangerous space at exactly the wrong moment.

“The ball is on our eighteen and we don’t react right away. It’s almost like we’re all waiting for someone else to take care of it,” Picinich said. “We need people to step up and take responsibility to get that ball, because we can’t just allow a guy to have the ball on our eighteen and have an open shot. Billy (Larsen) can’t do anything about that shot. We’re giving up too many open opportunities.”

Valintis applauded the combination of composure and relentlessness that Arabik displayed throughout.

“That’s the special thing about him. They did a very good job of marking him up but he was dangerous the whole game and he never stops,” Valintis said.

None of Leyden’s four goals on the day could be blamed on either Larsen or backup keeper Kevin Sabres.

“Both goalkeepers played well. Kevin (Sabres) made a nice save when he came on and Billy (Larsen) played well today,” Willson said. “Billy came off his line much better than he has in the past and it was good to see him command his box the way he did.”

“Winning can be contagious and I think losing is the same. Right now, we’re in a spot where, even with a two-goal lead, there’s some feeling on the field like ‘what’s going to happen to us?’ It’s like that in all sports. You need to find a way to win and maybe we need a little more leadership on the field to get us through that situation. You can see that we’re certainly capable of good things, and we’re working hard. But we have to find ways to win games like this.”

Many of the usual Leyden suspects played well on Saturday, like Flores, Hernandez, Guzman, and Arabik, “and my outside mid, Jaime Gamino, played hard, he hustled, he challenged every ball, and he played well,” Valintis said.

“He might have made a few mistakes but when you see somebody challenging for every head ball and going hard into every challenge, I’ll say he probably had his best game for us today. And when you get an effort like that from a senior who steps up – I’m very happy with the way (Gamino) played today.”

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