Francisco Correia ends Public League career in style

His soccer career didn’t start the way he expected, but the Northeast senior will end his career with four championship wins.

Alejandro Giraldo (from left), Francisco Correia and Sebastian Gimeno celebrate after winning the Public League soccer championship, their fourth in as many years. PHOTO: FRANCISCO CORREIA

It went a lot different than Francisco Correia figured it would.

Correia, now a senior, remembers freshman year, rooting around the Northeast High School locker room for the perfect jersey number. He was anticipating a slot on the junior varsity soccer team, and he couldn’t have been more excited.

He had no idea just how exciting.

“They started me right out on varsity,” Correia recalled. “At first, I was starting, then after we got through some scrimmages, when the games got harder, they didn’t start me and brought me off the bench. They explained it to me that I would play, but I was a little disappointed. I still played, but I had so much to learn.”

Correia learned a lot.

And he accomplished more.

Correia helped Northeast win four straight Public League championships, including a 2–1 overtime triumph over Central on Oct. 28.

Northeast then went on to play in the city championship, where it fell to La Salle 5–1 on Thursday. Despite the loss, the Vikings advanced to the state tournament. Their first-round game was against Council Rock North in a game that was played after the Times went to press.

“When I won as a freshman, people were telling me I was so lucky,” said Correia, who scored five goals from his left wing position this year. “Then we won as a sophomore and people were saying how incredible it was to win two championships. A lot of players play their whole life and their goal is to eventually win one championship. I won four. I never had a season where I didn’t win. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.

“This year was the best, because it’s the last one, but they’re all very special. Every win is great. Every playoff was great because when it comes, you know you have to work very hard and get ready to play. Every game is so important. We had a lot of important games and we won most of them. It was great.”

He also enjoyed playing the Explorers.

The Public League has a reputation for being not as strong as the Catholic League, but the Vikings have been the exception.

They raised more than a few eyebrows in 2015 when they bested Roman Catholic in the city championship and during their run, they have filled their schedule with opponents from the suburbs and the Catholic League. Those games are always fun ones for Correia and his teammates.

“I love playing those teams because it brings out the best in us,” Correia said. “It didn’t show against La Salle, but I think we play better and smarter when we play teams like that. The games are crisper, and there are always a lot more fans there. I love that. The (La Salle) fans were yelling at us a lot, but I love that. I always tell my teammates, at the end of the day, they’re watching and we’re playing. But it’s still fun to play in front of that type of crowd.”

The La Salle game provided just one of many memories Correia will leave the school with when his career is over.

His best memories will likely be from this season, where he became one of the team leaders and did his best to make sure his teammates were doing the things it takes to win a Public League championship. It wasn’t always easy, but it was always an important gig.

“In the beginning of the season, we had a player who was playing selfish soccer, he was playing for himself and not for the team,” Correia said. “I told him what he was doing, and at first he didn’t like hearing it, but then he started to change. Midway through the year, he was doing exactly what we needed. That made me proud of him and proud of the whole team, because when everyone plays together, that’s when we win.”

That’s something Correia has learned during his time at the school.

Now, Correia is a student of the game, but when he got there, he was learning on the fly. That’s when Northeast coach Kraig Feldman took him under his wing. He also got help from Feldman’s father, Sam, who serves as an assistant coach.

The Feldmans were stern, but helpful, and gave Correia the guidance he needed to become a Northeast soccer player.

“I’ve had a lot of help, but the biggest were Coach Feldman and Feldman Senior,” said Correia, who lives two blocks away from the high school. “They always believed in me and they made me a better player and a better leader. I was tough on them, and they always supported me. I wouldn’t be the player I am without them.

“There were times when I’d be mad at them for telling me what to do, but they were always right. That’s why this year I tried to tell other players the same things they told me. It worked for me, so I knew it would work for them. That’s how you be a leader.”

Correia hopes to continue his soccer career next year, though he’s unsure where he’ll go. He’s leaning toward majoring in business.

And while his soccer career at Northeast is nearly over, he’ll forever be a Viking.

“We did amazing things, four years, four championships,” Correia said. “I don’t think anyone expected that. I know I didn’t. It’s the greatest feeling there is.”