Intuitive knack has Leyden on right track
La Grange, 09/08/12--Lane's Marco Ramirez fights for control of the ball with Leyden's Juan Recendez. Leyden High School played Lane High School. Lyons Township High School hosted the 9th Annual Pepsi Showdown Saturday featuring 32 boys soccer teams playing 16 games. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 12, 2012 10:49AM
FRANKLIN PARK — It goes by different names and expressions, but the meaning is unchanged. What makes athletes extraordinary is having that knack, that intuitive sense of where the action is and how to directly impact it.
Every good team has to have at least one player with that almost preternatural ability. Fortunately for Leyden soccer, Juan Recendez is just such a player.
He has a nose and feel for the ball his coach calls uncanny. The rest of the team rides off his good fortune.
“That’s when we are at our best when Juan gets the ball finds people to distribute,” Leyden coach Mark Valintis said. “He is very good going forward, dribbling, and he’s very good using both feet. He knows when to play a through ball, or a ball thrown in or pushed to the side, and how to create space behind him.”
Recendez has six goals and nine assists after his header late in the first half sparked the Eagles past Willowbrook 1-0.
A year ago, he was a defender who stabilized the backline. Senior forward Krystian Drozdz was the team’s offensive catalyst who helped the Eagles reach the Class 3A semifinals. Now, Recendez is the team leader. He sets the tone. His knack, said his coach, is not just to always be around the ball, but also to play with pride and spirit. The team rides on his selflessness.
“A good player creates for other people,” Valintis said. “When Juan plays hard and is focused and into it, the others feed off of that.”
Freshman forward Albert Arabik leads the team in scoring, underlining the mixture of talent, precocity and inexperience.
“With a young team, sometimes you have a lot of immaturity, and you try to keep that leveled out,” Valintis said. “When we work at practice, we try to make everything good and get the guys to focus and work hard.”
As the team catalyst, Recendez knows the pressure is on him to elevate the team. It is a challenge he willingly takes on.
“The strengths of my game, personally, are assisting others,” he said. “I have good vision for where people make their runs and things like that. I have to step in and fill that spot, make the team get that win, whether that means scoring goals and also getting assists.”
Behind Recendez, the Eagles have posted a 13-5-2 mark, and they own impressive victories over Lyons and Larkin. They are the No. 3 seed in a tough New Trier sectional. With just one week left before the start of the state tournament, Recendez said the team is sharpening its attack, an attack propelled by his special quality.
He has his own manner of saying it: “I’m aware of my surroundings.”