Boys Soccer: Juan Elizalde Bloom’s late-bloomer
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media November 6, 2013 8:46PM
Bloom's Juan Elizalde (13) and Lincoln-Way Central's Cole Senesac battle to control the ball. | Allen Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 9, 2013 10:30AM
Bloom coach Kelly Gutierrez doesn’t mince words when talking about senior forward Juan Elizalde.
“Juan is amazing,” she said. “He’s very dangerous every time he touches the ball. He’s worked so hard over the years. From his freshman year to now, he’s made a remarkable improvement.”
Elizalde also takes pride in his work ethic.
“The biggest thing for me is not giving up,” he said. “I just keep practicing and just keep trying to get better.”
Elizalde finished with 28 goals and seven assists for a Bloom squad that went 15-5-2 and captured the Southland Conference title.
He said he plays nothing like he did when he came up to varsity late in his freshman season.
“I go to the ball more now,” he said. “I’m more physical and I play faster.”
According to Gutierrez, Elizalde has gotten more and more dangerous every season.
“He’s very quick, and he has amazing ball skills,” she said.
Those are all great attributes, but for Gutierrez, it’s Elizalde’s leadership that matters most.
“He’s a great senior leader,” she said. “He works hard at every practice. He’s a role model for all the other players. He leads by example. He’s not the most vocal kid, but when he says something, they all listen.”
Elizalde embraced the role as team captain and team leader all season.
“I like helping my teammates,” he said. “I try to help them with any problems they have. I try to help them get better and better as players. I tell them that they just have to always work hard.”
Elizalde, who was named an Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association All-Sectional player and an All-Southland Athletic Conference selection, hopes to continue his soccer career after high school.
“I just want to keep getting better and see how far I can go,” he said. “I want to keep playing. I don’t give up.”
Compared with many of his teammates and opponents, Elizalde is a relative newcomer to organized soccer. He said he started playing on teams when he was 9 years old.
He instantly found a love of the game, though, and for the feeling you get when good things happen on the soccer field.
“Everyone loves winning,” he said. “I just love the feeling when you step up and score a goal or make a pass and help your team win. It’s a great feeling.
“I just love playing soccer.”