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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' strong start dooms Warriors


By Dave Owen

Leyden played like a team on a mission Tuesday against Willowbrook.

And thanks to high-scoring sophomore Albert Arabik and a dedicated corps of seniors, that mission was quickly accomplished with a 5-0 win in Northlake.

“That’s the best way we’ve started a game all year,” Leyden coach Mark Valintis said, “and it was nice to keep that level of play and intensity up for the whole game. I’m very happy.

“A week ago when we lost to Morton (1-0) we said, ‘let’s take a minute, regroup and treat every game as if it’s a playoff game.’

"You don’t want to come out and not give your best effort, but at times this year I think we’ve done that,” Valintis added. “It kind of happened to us a little bit on Saturday (a 4-3 win over St. Charles North), but I credit some of our seniors for getting us ready to play that well at the beginning of the game.”

Arabik is always ready for big things, and the 6-foot-2 striker struck early to immediately tilt the match in favor of the Eagles (7-7-1).

Just 90 seconds into the match, Arabik put Leyden ahead 1-0 off an assist from elusive senior midfielder Christian Hernandez. Then seven minutes later, Arabik struck again (this time assisted by Dario Salgado) for his 11th goal of the season and a 2-0 Eagles’ advantage.

“Coach always tells us that you need to get on teams fast,” Arabik said, “have the killer instinct and finish chances. That’s what we did today. We’re getting better at it.

“I really worked on my finishing this summer. I want to score more goals than I did last year.”

Arabik’s 15-goal total as a freshman on varsity is well within reach.

“Wow – I could talk about him for days,” Valintis said. “He’s that kind of special player that commands a lot of attention from other teams, frees up guys, and because of his strength and skill it’s very hard for teams to match up with him.

“Even when he’s not scoring, he’s giving everybody else time and space to move, create and do things. I think that’s how we got our third goal just like that.”

An incredible athletic play by Hernandez figured largely into that insurance strike with 22:43 left in the match.

Hernandez broke in on left wing off a pass from Elvis Castaneda. Then despite having a Willowbrook defender draped on him at the end line, Hernandez sent a perfect cross to the front of the net where Moises Merlos nicely put away a point blank header for a 3-0 Leyden lead.

The Eagles added two more late goals – Arturo Vidal headed a Joaquin Cardenas cross across the crease and into the far corner of the net with 10:27 left, then Christian Rodriguez put away an 8-yard rebound shot with 8:06 to go. A nice sliding save by Willowbrook backup goalkeeper Mark Hernandez denied Vidal’s initial shot before Rodriguez’s putaway capped a big night for the Leyden offense.

“I give them a lot of credit,” Willowbrook coach Peter Ginter said. “They’re a very good team. They were a step faster, and technically they’re better than us.”

Despite catching a talented opponent at the top of their game, the Warriors produced plenty of positives.

“It was tough for our young players in a game like that, but I like that our guys never gave up,” Ginter said. “They kept fighting back. I told them to forget the score and try to get as much out of the game as you can, like trying to get possession and work possession from defense to offense. That’s something we’re struggling with but we got a little bit more of that in the second half.”

The Warriors generated many second half challenges to goalkeeper Alfredo Recendez and the Leyden defense.

One strong sequence came with 15 minutes left – Tito Cabral’s close-in chance off a Mike Rogalski direct kick  was deflected just wide of the net, and on the ensuing corner kick, Leyden’s Yonatan Abarca (header out of the crease) and Zlatomir Todorov (block and steal at the top of the box) repelled the continued Willowbrook challenge.

Cabral also produced two unlikely dangerous chances off long distance direct kicks, one a 65-yarder that was headed out of the crease 2:40 before halftime. And other Warriors left an impression.

“I like the way Anthony Pieroni played in the back, and Dan Torres stepped up at the right fullback,” Ginter said. “That’s the first time he played at that position, and he gave something we need in terms of defense. He’s just coming off an injury. I like the way he played.

“Aaron Johnson gives us a lot of minutes as a sophomore. He gets the ball up the wing really nice, and I liked his effort today.  I saw a lot of good individual effort. We just need to play a little better as a team, especially against this caliber of competition.”

Leyden’s near flawless night was a tribute to the entire roster.

“No matter who I put out there today they were ready and had the same level of intensity,” Valintis said. “It never dropped from one sub to the next, so credit everybody for being ready.

“I haven’t seen a team like that here in a couple of years that there’s no noticeable level of drop off in play when I sub in. Today there wasn’t. I could have thrown anyone out there in any spot and I would have had the same effort and consistency. It’s great to see to see them finally playing to that level.”

There were truly Leyden standouts all over the field.

Defenders Tony Guzman, Hector Herrera, Freddy Suarez and Castaneda aided Leyden’s fourth shutout of 2013, with Guzman also generating offensive threats off long direct kicks. Herrera and Kevin Flores each had nice clears of the zone on Willowbrook threats in the final 10 minutes of the first half, and Diego Lorenzana made a midfield steal to create a Christian Hernandez offensive zone attack earlier in the half.

Leyden midfielder David Senk was in on two big first half chances. His header off a Jaime Gamino cross went just over the net, then Flores’ 12-yard shot off a Senk pass was nicely saved by Willowbrook keeper Asmir Perviz.

Just 30 seconds into the second half, Merlos broke free up the middle but had his 10-yard shot denied on a diving save.

Arabik made a strong bid for a hat trick with 31:30 left, breaking in off a Merlos pass. But Willowbrook’s Dylon Jones made a nice defensive play to prevent an Arabik shot deep in the box. Arabik later sent a 25-yard direct kick over the net with 24:30 to play.

The Eagles have clawed back from a 1-4-1 start, and now feel ready to soar even higher through October.

“Right now we’re aiming for 7-0 (the rest of the season),” Arabik said. “We want to go into the playoffs feeling good about ourselves and just keep winning.”

The large group of 17 seniors on Leyden’s roster will play key roles in that goal.
 “(The key) is to come with that mentality of let’s work hard, put in our best effort and let’s be ready every day,” Valintis said.

“We’re getting close to the end of the season and we have a lot of seniors. This might be the last time they all get to play together and play organized soccer. They need to take advantage of it, and on a night like tonight they definitely did.”

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