Christian Cardenas was all set to be a midfielder.
The Northeast High School junior spent most of his soccer career playing up, either in the midfield or forward, putting up goals and setting up teammates.
But when the season started, the Vikings needed a centerback to shore up their defense, and since he had some experience playing the position when he was younger, he volunteered to make the switch.
The change would take him out of the running for being an elite goal scorer, but he didn’t mind doing it because it’s what the situation called for.
“It’s not my favorite position, but I like playing it,” said Cardenas, who lives in Mayfair. “When we needed a defender, I said I would do it. They didn’t really ask me, I kind of volunteered because I knew it was something that would help the team. I’m more of a midfielder, but I knew I was fit enough to play back there because I’m in pretty good shape, and I knew I could eventually get ready to play back there. I knew it would take some time, but I knew we could make it work.”
That’s an understatement.
With Cardenas being one of the leaders of the defense, Northeast had a great season and Public League play ended the best possible way.
Northeast defeated Franklin Towne Charter 4-0 in the Public League championship last week, avenging its only loss during the regular season and knocking off the defending champion.
It made a winner out of first-year coach John Psoras, who coached the girls team prior to this year.
Prior to last year, when the Vikings were knocked out of the playoffs in the semifinals, Northeast had won three straight Public League championships.
For Cardenas, who played as a freshman but didn’t as a sophomore, this championship was the best yet.
“I knew we were going to be really good, but we really played well to win this,” Cardenas said. “We were good in the beginning of the year, but in the second game, we lost to Franklin Towne. They’re a good team. But that was a good loss for us. As much as I wanted to go undefeated and win every game, that let us know that if we didn’t play our best, we wouldn’t win.”
The loss may have helped, but so did Cardenas’ ability to play a new position.
“Christian has a natural attacking instinct, which made it challenging for him to take a step back and to be patient, but he handled the job like a true leader,” Psoras said. “Christian was an instrumental part of bringing back the championship to Northeast this year and his selflessness did not go unnoticed by our team.”
Like a good leader, he wasn’t ready to accept all the glory.
In fact, he was busy passing it on to the rest of his team.
“Our defense was really good and for the most part, especially in the beginning of the year, they were doing things to help me,” Cardenas said. “When I needed help or someone to cover for me, they were there. I took some time to get up to speed at playing defense because it’s completely different. It was so much different than playing forward or midfield.
“I think I did OK. I think I could have done things better, but I learned a lot. I was in good shape, so that wasn’t a problem. Once we all learned how to play together, things went really well. Our defense was pretty good.”
Cardenas was happy with the play of his teammates. He was also happy to be back playing for the Vikings.
Last year he didn’t, but he was still playing soccer. He competed for Academy Soccer, a club that prohibits players from competing at the high school level. It was great competition and Cardenas admits he enjoyed playing for Academy, but for him, it was just good to be back playing for Northeast.
Especially when the Vikings hoisted the Public League championship.
“I knew we could do it, but it feels so good when you actually do it,” Cardenas said. “Our team really played together. I think that was one of the biggest things. We had great coaching, we couldn’t have done it without them, and we couldn’t have done it without each other.”
Cardenas is already chomping at the bit to defend the championship, and while he knows he will be on the field, he doesn’t know where he’ll be.
Perhaps he should get some gloves.
“I’d be happy to move back to midfield, that’s my natural position, but I don’t really care,” said Cardenas, who plans on running track in the spring. “Whatever they need, I’ll do. If coach wants me at defense, I’ll play defense. If he wants me to be a goalie, if it’s best for the team, I’ll try it. Whatever we need, I’ll do. That’s what I did this year and I loved it. I’ll do it again gladly!”