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Winder Soccer Dogg looks ahead

Barrow MVP

POSTED: June 25, 2014 12:26 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Juarez assists a teammate during the 2014 season's game against Archer.

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Despite the Winder-Barrow Soccer Doggs finishing their most recent season one spot shy of the playoffs, it was still a memorable year for the team and for one member in particular.

“I think it was a pretty good season at the end,” Senior Soccer Dogg and Barrow MVP nominee for Winder-Barrow High School’s men’s soccer team Manuel Juarez said. “We fought through every single game. We won like a team, we lost like a team.”

Juarez wrapped up an exemplary high school soccer career in April as the leading scorer for Winder-Barrow with 17 goals and 10 assists. In fact, the 2014 varsity soccer season was Juarez’s third consecutive finish as the team’s leading scorer. 

“He’s a very difficult forward and midfielder to mark who always manages to win the ball and find space,” Winder-Barrow varsity soccer coach Levi Karas said of his graduating senior. “He has great ball control and can shoot the ball from a distance with power and accuracy. He is always a goal threat.”

This most recent season also featured Juarez as a team captain. 

“He is a very versatile player,” Karas added. “He can also play goalie very well and has started as a goalie for us in the past.”

While he can play in goal, Juarez clearly prefers to attack the goal.

Juarez needed less than a minute to net his first goal of the season as he blasted a shot with just 48 seconds gone to kick off the season opener against East Jackson, which the Doggs won 4-1. 

For Winder’s lead scorer, the decision to focus on soccer came easy.

“I always thought that it was a fun sport to play and that I was going to get somewhere, play with a high school team, and that somewhere in life I could play professionally,” former Soccer Dogg Manuel Juarez said of his love for the game. 

One place that soccer has taken Juarez is to the forefront of Region 8-AAAAA’s attention. Juarez was one of three Barrow County athletes named to the men’s soccer first team All-Region list, where he was honored as one of the best forwards in the area.

Although he has not yet reached his goal of playing professional soccer, Juarez still keeps himself involved in the sport even though his high school career is done. He currently gets to enjoy playing alongside his father on a travelling adult league team while shopping out different colleges to possibly attend for soccer in the near future.

“I’m still working on some colleges to see if I can go play or tryout,” Juarez acknowledged.

While Juarez looks forward to his future soccer career, he still cherishes the years he had with Bulldogg teammates at Winder-Barrow as a special time in his life.

“My favorite memory was when I scored for my team and getting to share soccer with my teammates,” Juarez added.

Then again, one of Juarez’s most despised memories comes from Winder-Barrow soccer, as well.

Most senior student-athletes look forward to their senior night when they get to walk in front of the school and share their pride in graduating. For Juarez, senior night took on another color.

Due to a pair of yellow cards in the overtime 3-2 loss to Apalachee in the next to last home game of the season, Juarez was unable to participate in what would have been his final high school soccer game. 

“I couldn’t play with my team that night, and I felt really bad because I let my team down,” Juarez said of the Apalachee game where he was ejected after the second yellow card. “That’s when the team put their heads down, and that was kind of my fault on that.”

Just four days later on senior night, Winder-Barrow would fall 4-0 at home against Clarke Central, a state semifinalist in 2014, and Juarez was powerless on the sidelines.

 “It was really tough. I felt really bad because I really wanted to play my senior night,” Juarez admitted. 

Soccer may be Juarez’s greatest passion, but it is often a neglected sport in America except every four years when the World Cup draws sports fans of nearly every ilk to their television screens. As exciting as the great stage is for laypeople and everyday fans, soccer players such as Juarez are that much more deliberate about their revelry in the game when World Cup season comes around.

“Teams that I never see play, I actually get to see them play. National teams I don’t get to see, I actually get to see them play in the World Cup,” Juarez noted, saying that he has watched much of the World Cup but has missed out on some matches for work. 

While soccer has taken a backseat to America’s more popular sports such as baseball and football, there is evidence that fans of “the beautiful game” are growing in number and steadily taking their place in the athletic world. 

Either as a result of this growth or as proof of it, one, Atlanta will be adding a Major League Soccer franchise as early as 2017 when the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium is completed. With the MLS adding such a market as Atlanta, Juarez is excited that the sport is finally gaining some much deserved traction in the southeast.

“I actually think it’s a pretty nice idea that they made a team here in Georgia that people think we are actually getting better at soccer,” Juarez admitted.

With a few years yet to build the Atlanta team, perhaps Juarez’s dream of playing professional soccer will keep him here in the southeast as a founding member of the state’s MLS franchise. Either way, Juarez knows exactly how long he plans on playing the sport of soccer: forever.

As Juarez put it, “I’m going to play until I die or I can’t really play anymore.”

 

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