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Golden Valley's goal machine

Sophomore midfielder Francisco Perez is nearly unstoppable in the Foothill League

Posted: February 2, 2014 9:32 p.m.
Updated: February 2, 2014 9:32 p.m.

Perez has scored six goals in Foothill League play so far. His four goals in the Grizzlies' last two games have helped Golden Valley resurface in the Foothill League race.

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It’s been said that the game slows down for great players.

If that’s true, then Foothill League soccer matches must drag on like a Martin Scorsese picture for Golden Valley midfielder Francisco Perez.

The sophomore is in the middle of a brilliant 2013-14 campaign, scoring 14 goals and tallying four assists for a Grizzlies team that is currently tied with Valencia for second place in the Foothill standings following recent offensive explosions against Saugus and Canyon.

Perez scored two goals in each of those contests, and now the Golden Valley boys are in a good position to reach the playoffs after a disappointing start in league play.

“I’m taking a chance by playing only three defenders, but that’s because I know if he gets the ball he’ll get loose for at least a few seconds on the field,” says Golden Valley head coach Juan Paolo of his captain. “He’s an amazing player — the guy is just incredible. I might pay the price for this next year, but I ask myself sometimes ‘Why isn’t he on an academy team?’ He’s that good.”

After going 7-11-4 a year ago in his first season as the team’s head coach, Paolo anxiously awaited the start of the 2013-14 campaign.

Behind Perez and senior captains Billy Torres and Michael Richardson, Paolo believed this year’s Grizzlies team could raise the bar of expectations for a program that has struggled historically.

Given the position the Grizzlies are in this late into the season, it’s not a leap to say that this Golden Valley team is indeed raising the bar.

But when one looks at Golden Valley’s team it’s easy to get distracted by Perez’s individual talent whenever he’s burying goals amidst double- and triple-teams.

Those around the program say it’s obvious Perez is an NCAA Division I prospect.

“He’s Division I, no question. That’s clear in my mind,” Paolo says.

“Oh yeah, of course he can,” says Torres, Perez’s counterpart in the midfield, on the likelihood Perez makes an impact at the collegiate level. “He has a lot of potential, as long as he continues to make the right decisions and improve he’ll definitely be able to do it.”

It turns out the person that’s the most modest about the midfielder’s abilities is Perez himself.

“I’ve talked about it (his potential) with my parents, but I try not to look at it like that,” says Perez, who according to Paolo carries a 4.2 in the classroom as well. “When I was thinking about what direction to go with for soccer my mom encouraged me to go to Golden Valley for the traditional experience of high school varsity sports.”

The Grizzlies are forever in Mrs. Perez’s debt.

Not only has Perez come up big in Golden Valley’s Foothill wins, but he’s done just about as much as one could ask in the team’s losses and draws.

On Jan. 17, Perez scored a go-ahead goal in the second half of his team’s 3-3 tie at home against Valencia, as well as the Grizzlies’ lone goal in a 3-1 loss at Hart on Jan. 21.

In all, Perez has six goals in Foothill play.

That’s three more than Saugus has scored as a team, and three less than Canyon and Valencia.

Of course, Perez’s influence goes well beyond his goal-scoring abilities.

Many of Golden Valley’s players speak Spanish as their primary language.

For those Grizzlies, English speaking skills range from remedial to nonexistent, and it’s up to Perez to communicate to them what the gameplan is when the match is in full swing.

“If he knows someone can’t understand what’s happening he tries to help them out,” Torres says. “He’s not a player that will put you down. He’ll pick you up.”

Perez is glad to be the team translator, as it provides the Grizzlies with an interesting cultural identity.

“With everybody in countries that speak Spanish being so into soccer, it’s cool that a team out here has so many Spanish speakers,” Perez says.

Next up for the Grizzlies is a road showdown with the Vikings tomorrow.

If Golden Valley wins, it will assume sole possession of second place heading into Friday’s contest with Foothill leader Hart.

“It’s exciting. We haven’t had a lot of success here before so it’s about doing the small things and continuing to work hard to make ourselves the best people we can be,” Perez says.

According to Paolo, Perez makes himself better by practicing well beyond reasonable expectations.

“One time I came to school and he was there by himself,” Paolo says. “He had five balls lined up at the penalty box and he was just shooting and practicing everything he could. I didn’t know why the last coach would name a freshman a team captain on a team full of seniors. It made sense when I saw what kind of kid he was.”

All that’s left now is for the Grizzlies to take care of business.

A heads up to opposing coaches — watch out for number 10.

ernie@signalscv.com

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