MVP frontrunners meet in CMAC clash
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune Madera South’s Carlos Cardenas dribbles around a San Joaquin Memorial defender during Friday’s 4-2 victory. Cardenas scored a goal in the win.
The Madera South Stallions and the San Joaquin Memorial-Fresno Panthers are two of the top boys soccer teams in the County/Metro Athletic Conference. Combined, the teams have scored 163 goals, including six more in the Stallions’ 4-2 win at Memorial Stadium.
In the middle of it all Madera South’s Christian Garcia and Memorial’s Max Arfsten have been the driving force behind their teams’ success.
Arfsten won the CMAC MVP award last season with 20 goals and 21 assists, but the senior has outdone himself this season with 45 goals and 14 assists. The Panthers forward has scored in every game except two and has scored three goals in a game seven different times.
His ruthless nature in front of goal has been evident this season, including scoring the Panthers’ only two goals in Friday’s match against Madera South.
His counterpart, Garcia, is a swiss-army knife. There isn’t a position on the pitch that Garcia can’t play, except goalkeeper, but even then, his knack for tireless work on the pitch might make him a decent stopper.
Garcia was last year’s Madera Tribune Most Valuable Player and was also named All-CMAC first team for his 11 goals and 10 assists. This year, he has doubled his statistics with 21 goals and 21 assists in only 19 matches.
“I’m really excited on how we performed throughout the game. We had our lapses in concentration and we started to make mistakes and started forcing stuff,” Madera South head coach Enrique Garcia said. “But the boys kept their composure heading into the second half and let Memorial go with their wave of pressure and just stayed strong. Putting away the fourth goal ended the game for us.”
Christian Garcia scored a goal and set up two others. His play this season hasn’t gone unnoticed and Garcia let his player know what’s at stake for his personal career.
“I told him if you want CMAC, you have to show it today,” coach Garcia said. “If you want the MVP, if you want to compete with Max, and he is playing amazing soccer, you have to show it today. I’ve watched (Max) play soccer from Odyssey and playing here and knowing that they can compete and knowing Bullard has players in the hat for MVP, he had to show it.”
Madera South’s Carlos Cardenas opened the scoring early in the first half with a well-timed finish after Garcia set up his teammate with a close-range finish.
Madera South took a 2-0 lead shortly after David Vasquez utilized his time and space for the goal.
Abraham Vasquez made a darting run down the wing, to set up the Stallions’ possession in the Memorial final third. David Vasquez was the beneficiary as he took the ball and found a way into the goal.
The Stallions scored back-to-goals in a flash after Garcia led a destructive counter. Garcia found himself on the left wing before sending in a low cross that flashed in front of goal, pulling the Memorial goalkeeper out in the process. Angel Avila made a run into the box on the other side of the pitch, where he collected the ball and fired into the empty net.
Arfsten brought one back at the end of the half to make it 3-1, but Memorial wasn’t finished.
They grabbed a second goal in the 52th minute of the second half to push the score 3-2. Arfsten won a penalty for the Panthers and finished for his second goal of the game.
The Stallions’ effort paid off in the final minutes of the match after Garcia volleyed home Madera South’s fourth goal. The midfielder made his way into the box where a pass sailed into the air, before Garcia gathered under it for the volley. The ball whizzed past multiple players into the goal.