By Jeff Nations - email@example.com
QUICKSBURG -- You can bet Stuarts Draft's boys soccer team has seen quite enough of Roberto Cardoso.
A dangerous playmaker for Stonewall Jackson, the sophomore forward seemed to be on a personal mission to make life miserable for the Cougars this past season.
Three times Cardoso faced the Generals' Shenandoah District rivals.
Three times, Cardoso produced heart-breaking, pivotal goals to lead the Generals to victory.
Stuarts Draft has had enough -- but then, so has the rest of the Shenandoah District. Cardoso finished off a dazzling sophomore campaign with an area-high 28 goals and nine assists to earn the Northern Virginia Daily's 2012 Boys Soccer Player of the Year honor.
"Excellent player, very dynamic player," Hissong said. "He had an incredible season. He's responsible for us maintaining our unblemished district record over the last four years. In all three Stuarts Draft games, he had the game-winning goal. And in dramatic fashion, each one of them."
In the first meeting down in Stuarts Draft, the Cougars looked primed to end the Generals' three-year run of district excellence. The game was tied with just a minute left in overtime, and Stonewall's long unblemished district slate was in serious jeopardy.
Enter Cardoso, who scored the game-winner.
Second meeting, more of the same -- with the game tied 1-1 with about two minutes to go, Cardoso broke loose for the game-winning goal.
Third time's the charm? Nah. Cardoso struck again, this time in the Shenandoah District tournament, with perhaps the most dazzling goal of the season.
"It was hands-down, our best goal of the year," Hissong said. "He ripped a shot from probably 30 yards out from a pretty wide angle. It was swerving and one of those balls that was just spinning backwards and rising as it goes, and hit the upper 90 [corner] -- unbelievable shot, definitely the goal of the year."
Cardoso admits that was his favorite goal as well, the one that springs to mind out of all those tallies this season. Teammate David Dodson set him up for the assist. Cardoso did the rest.
"Dodson gave me the ball, and I didn't know what I was doing -- well, I kind of knew what I was doing, but I didn't think it was going to go," Cardoso said. "I didn't think I was going to get through the defense, and then I shot it and it went upper 90 so I was happy about it."
There were other highlights, of course -- how could there not be? -- a hat trick against a tough Riverheads squad on the road stands out in Hissong's mind. The game was tied 2-all, then Cardoso struck twice. Stonewall won it, 5-2.
Combined with the 19 goals he scored last year -- a school record for a freshman -- Cardoso's output this year has put him well on pace to break Stonewall's career scoring record of 66 goals currently held by Charles Metz (2002-05) and Roberto's cousin, Guillermo Cardoso (2003-06).
"He definitely opens himself up a lot," Hissong said. "He kind of has to because he's not the fastest player and he's not the strongest player. I mean, you look at his size -- he's pretty small. But he can get behind the defense a lot. He can be sneaky, but he can also open himself up."
Sneaky maybe, but Cardoso also has a lethal shot. That leg strength, Hissong thinks, is Cardoso's best attribute as a soccer player. It's something he's worked at, too.
"I'd say his shot is probably his big strength," Hissong said. "He can open himself up, but literally his shot and his placement are probably his strongest attributes. Very strong shot -- when he keeps it low and on frame, it's very tough to stop."
Cardoso credits his teammates with much of his success, with communication being the key element. He has played with teammate Jonas Jacuinde since rec league, and to hear Cardoso tell it there is practically mental telepathy at work. It's much the same with his other teammates, as well.
"They know I might not be one of the fastest in the area, but I've got good footwork and I know what to do with the ball," Cardoso said. "I know what they're going to do with the ball, and they know what I'm going to do with the ball. So just knowing where to be at helps a lot.
"Over the summer, we get used to playing with each other. We've played a lot of years with each other. Even over the summer, we go to the park and play. We basically get down what we show on the field."
Cardoso set some lofty goals for this season -- reaching regionals, for one; surpassing his freshman goal total another. The goals were no problem, the regionals didn't happen. Already, Cardoso has new goals for next year.
"Maybe I can break [the scoring record] next year, or my senior year," Cardoso said. "And I want to go to states with my teammates, see what the experience is like."
Hissong won't be around to see it -- on the sideline, at least. He took a teaching job at Harrisonburg and won't return to coach next year.
"These guys have created a really strong legacy four years in a row," Hissong said. "You kind of want to turn the program over in a good situation, and this will be it. Anyone coming in is going to find a lot of success next year."
Losing Hissong makes Cardoso anxious, but he's hopeful the next coach can continue the legacy the current crop of Generals has helped maintain and build.
"Hissong has been a great coach to us," Cardoso said. "If it wasn't for him and all the other coaches we had, we wouldn't have made it that far."