By Jeff Nations
Caleb Golladay didn't take the Stonewall Jackson varsity boys soccer head coaching job wearing a blindfold.
A former General himself who helped coach the program under former coach Nate Hissong the previous two seasons, Golladay knew he was stepping into a solid situation this year. For instance, Golladay knew he had a talented scorer coming back in junior forward Roberto Cardoso Jr.
Golladay knew it, but Cardoso's opening week still proved eye-opening for the first-year coach. Behind four goals from Cardoso, Stonewall Jackson got off to a strong 2-0 start to its season. After scoring the first goal of the season -- just a minute in, no less -- against Strasburg in an eventual 5-0 win, Cardoso delivered a first-half hat trick to rally Stonewall from an early deficit for a 4-1 victory over Central. For that, Cardoso is The Northern Virginia Daily's Boys Prep Athlete of the Week for March 18-24.
Cardoso, who notched an area-best 28 goals last year, seems intent on bettering that mark this season.
"He had a great year last year," Golladay said. "One of my hopes was that he would come into this season looking for a lot more."
So far, Cardoso is exceeding that previous production level. In the Generals' season opener last week against Strasburg, Cardoso received a pass in the penalty area from fellow forward David Dodson, then threaded his way through Strasburg's defense for a one-on-one opportunity that he converted for a goal.
"Our team has been playing great," Cardoso said. "The just give me the ball and I do what I can with it."
In the matchup against the Falcons, Cardoso struck three times to bring the momentum firmly back to his team's side after that early deficit.
"The three goals he had against Central was definitely something that lifted everybody's spirits after going down a goal to them," Golladay said.
All three of those goals featured precise, powerful shots on goal. That's something Golladay has been having Cardoso focus more on this year -- accuracy combined with pace.
"His first and third goal against Central the other night, he struck both those shots outside the [18-yard line]," Golladay said. "I don't think any goalkeeper in the district would've been able to stop them."
Such flashy production could lead to a correspondingly boisterous on-field persona -- cocky, even -- but that just isn't Cardoso's style.
"He's not a very loud player," Golladay said. "He's really quiet on the field. He's one of those players that always seems to be in the right spot at the right time."
Cardoso admits that he has his sights set on Stonewall's career scoring record of 66 goals, currently held by Charles Metz (2002-05) and Roberto's cousin, Guillermo Cardoso (2003-06). More than that, though, Cardoso simply wants to help the Generals win every time out.
"It's not just for me," Cardoso said. "I'm just trying to help out my team."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>