It is tradition for members of the Mount Vernon boys soccer team to follow their coach on a run from the locker room to the field prior to a home game. Head coach Robert Garza maintained the tradition on April 12 by leading the Majors to the field before their contest against Centreville.
He did so with a broken left foot.
Garza, who suffered a hairline fracture while playing soccer one day prior, removed his protective boot before the run and put it back on for the game. But exhibiting toughness didn’t stop there for the coach, who told the Majors during a halftime speech they needed to pick up their play during the final 40 minutes. If Garza could run on a broken foot to maintain tradition, he expected the Majors, who during the opening half fell behind for the first time this season, to suck it up.
Mount Vernon responded to its coach, highlighted by the effort of junior captain Francisco Rodriguez. With the game tied at 2 in the 74th minute, the forward pulled himself off the ground just long enough to score the deciding goal in a 3-2 victory over the Wildcats. Rodriguez, positioned to the right of the goal, found the net after initially falling to the ground. He fell again after striking the ball, but at that point he was able to sit back and enjoy the result.
Sophomore Bryan Castellon "chested [the ball], I called for it and he just let it go," Rodriguez said. "I fell, but I still fought for it and shot the ball in. I was watching the ball go in laying down."
Mount Vernon defeated Falls Church the following evening, 3-2, to improve its record to 6-0, 2-0 in the National District.
THE MAJORS entered 2010 with the motto "new year, new look, new attitude." After blowing a pair of leads last season during a playoff loss to Yorktown, Garza decided it was time to blow up the team’s philosophy. The Majors use new formations, approach practices and games with a new confidence and even sport new kits. Several returning players were let go and younger athletes, like freshmen Simond Kargbo (midfielder) and Lucas Belanger (goalkeeper), have seen extensive playing time.
The result is, to this point, an undefeated season.
The biggest difference this season is "the change in the whole attitude of the team," senior captain Dylan Bischoff said. "This is my fourth year and in the past we never had real good chemistry. Practices were always disruptive. This year, the team’s finally come together."
Against Centreville, Mount Vernon twice fell behind by a goal. A header by senior Adam Garrity gave the Wildcats a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute, but Kargbo answered with a ball in the upper right corner of the goal from 30 yards out to tie the score in the 25th minute. Another Garrity header put Centreville up 2-1 two minutes later, an advantage the Wildcats would take into halftime.
Castellon tied the score at 2 when he chipped the ball over the Centreville goalie in the 59th minute.
"We played good," Kargbo said. "All the guys gave it all they got. Even when we were down we still didn’t give up."
AGGRESSIVE PLAY and disagreements with a referee’s calls led to emotional play on both sides. In the end, it was the Majors celebrating.
"I’ve been here for four years and that was definitely the most intense game I’ve ever played in my life," Bischoff said. "The lead changes, just going back and forth and tying it up and [the game] coming down to the last minutes like that, it gets real intense. People’s emotions kind of get in the way of their playing, but it’s all for love of the game. It’s nothing personal. It’s just playing hard."
Kargbo, Amardo Oakley and senior captain Dannish Decardi-Nelson scored goals for Mount Vernon during its victory over Falls Church.
Castellon, Bischoff, Damaro DaCosta, David Heller and keeper Belanger are key defensive players for the Majors. Rodriguez, Kargbo and Nery Cruz –Lainer are standouts at midfield or forward.
Kargbo showed Garza what he had as a junior high athlete.
"He practiced with us once as an eighth-grader," Garza said, "and embarrassed our whole starting defense."
Whether Mount Vernon can maintain its new approach could have a lot to do with the Majors’ long-term success. As far as continuing their pregame tradition of coach running with players?
"I guess I will keep taking the boot off, it’s tradition," Garza wrote in a text message. "I always tell my players to suck it up so they are expecting me to as well."
Mount Vernon’s next home game is against Yorktown at 7 p.m. April 16.