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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 solid again in win over Plainfield Central


By Eric Van Dril

The boa constrictor and cobra, while they're both deadly snakes, kill their prey in very different ways.

The boa constrictor suffocates its prey, squeezing the life out of it over an extended period of time. The cobra, contrarily, strikes quickly, pumping its prey full of venom.

The Leyden boys’ soccer team played like a boa constrictor in the final 20 minutes of the first half in its match against Plainfield Central, which took place at the Pepsi Showdown on Saturday. The Eagles put a strangle hold on the game. They won nearly every 50-50 ball, and they held possession for about 65 percent of the half's final 20 minutes.

Leyden, who beat the Wildcats 2-0 on Saturday, continued its dominance of the match in the second half, but the Eagles also showed the quick-strike ability of the cobra.

The team's first goal, which came with 35:57 remaining in the second half, was scored by sophomore midfielder David Senk on a header. Senior defender Freddy Suarez booted a perfectly-placed free kick into the box and Senk ran onto it and connected with the ball at the peak of his jump. He headed the ball down and to the left of Plainfield Central senior goalkeeper Kyle Oehler, who couldn't stop the shot because it was so accurately located.

“This was my first head goal for the varsity level, so I was pretty excited,” Senk said. “It was amazing. I felt like Superman when I was up in the air.”

Senk is one of Leyden's taller players and, on set pieces like Suarez's free kick, he has the freedom to try to find the weak points in the defense once sophomore forward Albert Arabik makes his run.

“We do tell players, 'I want you in this certain area where you end up,'” Leyden coach Mark Valintis said. “David, being a center mid, is more or less a roam-free guy. We'll tell Albert to go to the far post and David can kind of read (based on) where Albert goes.”

Senk added: “I try to get myself in the position to where if I see if it's going to front post, I try to sprint there. If I see it going to the back post, I try to sprint there and just get a head on it.”

Leyden earned six corner kicks in the first half, while Plainfield Central didn't have one. The majority of the Eagles' services were poor, however. Both the service and the finish on Senk's goal were superb, and it provided the Eagles (4-4-1) with a goal in the run of play.

Senk's strike only strengthened Leyden's hold on the match. The Eagles continued to hold possession and pressure Plainfield Central to such an extent that the Wildcats (3-1-3) didn't seem comfortable in possession.

The Wildcats often turned and booted the ball into a space where one of their players might be, but oftentimes a Leyden defender – Suarez, senior Moises Merlos, junior Elvis Castaneda, senior Zlatomir Todorov, senior Kevin Flores, sophomore Cesar Franco and junior Hector Herrera all had good games on defense – dealt with the pass easily and distributed it to a midfielder. 

The way Leyden possessed and quickly passed the ball were both things which the Eagles have improved upon as the season has progressed. They've become more cohesive, sharing the ball and making quick passes, and those things helped them play their best match of the season on Saturday. 

“This now marks four games in a row that we've played good. Tuesday we played well, even Thursday we played well,” Valintis said. “I thought what was best about today was our ability to play the ball quicker – instead of taking three, four, five touches, we're taking one, two or three. I think that's a familiarity with our guys knowing where each other is going to be and not having to think as much.”

Leyden officially put the match out of reach with 8:48 remaining in the second half. It was at that point when senior midfielder Christian Hernandez got loose inside the box and, from a narrow angle, rifled a right-footed shot into the net to ensure that the Eagles would play Warren on Tuesday. Warren defeated Niles West on Saturday, and the Blue Devils will host the match.

Plainfield Central, because it's the higher seed, will host Niles West on Tuesday.

Saturday's 2-0 loss to Leyden was a frustrating match for Plainfield Central coach Kevin Fitzgerald to watch, he said afterward. His team's lack of possession and inability to create any quality scoring chances were both discouraging, and the former has been a trend throughout the first month of the season. 

“We've really struggled to hold onto the ball all over the field (this season), and it seems like when we've gotten possession, we've just simply given it back,” Fitzgerald said. “We did that today. Leyden's a good enough team that they don't need our help, but I thought we helped them a little bit.”

Fitzgerald added: “You're not going to be able to move the ball up the field if you give the ball away. We've got to work on possession up top (to create scoring chances). Our forwards have got to be able to hold the ball, get out and we've got to be able to run off of them – have a little creativity.”

The bright spot for Plainfield Central against Leyden was its defense, which featured sophomore right back Phil Garcia, senior center backs Ola Shobowale and Tom Poznanski and junior left back Gage Wuestenfeld. That grouped helped limit the scoring opportunities generated by a dangerous Leyden attack led by Arabik and Hernandez.

Still, though, it was a frustrating day for Fitzgerald, one which he hopes drives home the point that the Wildcats must practice better in order to compete with teams of Leyden's quality.

“I think our guys need more focus and concentration in practice,” Fitzgerald said. “We haven't practiced very well lately. (Friday, Sept. 13) was a good example. At this point in the season, honestly, a lot of that stuff is made in the offseason and in the last 10 years of playing soccer. We can't do anything about the last 10 years or the offseason, so we're going to have to work on it in practice. We're going to have to recreate game speed and game intensity in practice, and we're a long way from that.”

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