When Molalla junior soccer star Miguel Maldonado says he's not much of a vocal leader, one can tell he means it. He's rather timid and doesn't much care to talk about himself.
That's because he'd rather let his play on the field do the talking for him.
Maldonado was a second team All-State selection as a sophomore last season as he led the Indians in scoring, sending them to their second straight Class 4A semifinal appearance.
Maldonado is a threat from anywhere on the field, and if he sees a shot he likes, he'll take it; during the Indians' play-in game against Cascade at Dick Baker stadium in Gladstone last season, Maldonado scored all four of the team's goals to lead them to a 4-2 victory and send them into the round of 16 playoffs.
And while Maldonado recognizes that he's not much of a vocal person, he says he hopes to embrace that role a little more this season.
"It's good for me to step up into that position," Maldonado said. "I'm not too much of a vocal person, so hopefully I can lead by example; I hope to try and help people learn and maybe give advice when they mess up, but it's kind of hard since I'm one of the younger guys on the team."
Maldonado is one of seven returning juniors from last year's roster, while the team will be senior-heavy with nine players returning.
He said he has a few things in mind that he hopes to improve in his own game, particularly his focus levels and making sure he stays positive when something goes wrong.
"If things don't go right or the way I want them to go, sometimes I'll lose my head in the game, and that's not good," Maldonado said. "My teammates around me see that I'm putting my head down and it just drops the level of play."
Maldonado has been playing club soccer with the Westside Timbers Premiere Soccer Club since 2013, and he said he want to continue playing soccer after high school at a Division-I school if possible, with the University of Portland and Oregon State University at the top of his list.
Looking back on the Indians' run last year, when they eventually fell 2-4 to eventual state champion Newport in the semifinals, Maldonado said they don't talk about it too much. They'd rather focus on moving forward.
"We try not to talk about it, but it's good to know where we went wrong," he said. "We take some mistakes that we made during practices like not being serious sometimes, just messing around, so this year we're going to try and be more focused. It's good to have fun, but when it's time to do drills, we've got to be focused."
Maldonado's expectations for the team are nothing short of complete success: he's got a state title on his mind and doesn't want to think about any other option. The Indians expect to win league and topple last year's champion, Madras, which graduated five seniors but has a plethora of juniors returning that all gained heavy experience last season as they made their run at a title, eventually falling to Newport.
"I want to play Madras again," Maldonado said. "They came here and beat us and then we went there and they beat us; I want to beat them this time."
Maldonado and the Indians will have their chance at revenge on Sept. 19 when they travel to Madras. Their first game is Aug. 30 at home against Sisters at 4 p.m.
Sports Reporter/News Contributor
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