Story and Photo by Matthew Yoder –
The Arcadia Firebirds put on an impressive display of offensive fortitude on Senior Night, dismantling the Northampton Yellow Jackets 8-1.
Individually, Franklin Juarez had a breakout performance with six goals, but to gain a perspective of his exploits is to also mention the tremendous efforts by his teammates in setting him up for success.
The game started with a light, steady rain, and the equally steady pressure of the Firebirds approaching the Yellow Jackets zone. Time and again, Arcadia challenged loose balls in the midfield and translated them into opportunities for its strikers. The game remained scoreless, however, until the 24th minute, when Alex Soto threaded a low pass to Juarez who connected on a mid-range shot.
Northampton struggled to enter Arcadia’s zone, as the Firebirds defenders used their speed to swallow any open spaces for movement. When Jose Gomez found Elder DiazReynoso with a pass, Arcadia’s goalkeeper, Jenrry Vasquez, simply ran to the action to neutralize the opportunity.
Arcadia added to their lead in the 36th minute after Larry Velasques precisely directed a free kick in the direction of Juarez, who headed the ball to the back of the net.
Coach John O’ Brien Jr. substituted Jon Molina in goal for the second half, but the action largely remained on the Yellow Jackets’ end of the pitch. Two minutes into the second half, Sergio Escalante sent a beautiful, cross field pass to Juarez, allowing him to run out and score his third goal of the game.
Despite the deficit, Northampton continued to seek any moments of complacency to their advantage, and after the referee called an Arcadia player for not defending the ball, Abraham Guerreo made the most of the free kick opportunity, sending a shot soaring just above Molina’s hands.
From there, the Firebirds quickly regained their focus and started to score goals at a torrid pace. Juarez scored his fourth goal fighting for a loose ball. Next, Escalante sent a perfect corner kick for a Velasques header. For goals six and seven, Llilmer Perez set up Juarez with scintillating passes, and Perez rounded out the scoring chipping in a goal off a pass from Kelvin Perez.
While the stats sheet largely lists one man for the majority of the goals, the total team effort from Arcadia made Perez’s amazing efforts possible.
The win was the Firebirds’ fourth on the season, on Senior Night, which honored the contributions of captains, Ronaldo Lopez, Angel Larreinaga, and Larry Velasques, as well as Abe Mateos and Jenrry Vasquez.