By Ken Jackson
Celebration’s run to the boys soccer state semifinals this past season coincided with junior Matheus Machado’s move to the offensive center midfield position in the Storm’s attack.
It may have been coincidence, but Coach Chad Boudreaux isn’t questioning it, or wondering “how”, because when the playoffs begin — what the rest of the “football” world calls the knockout stage — there’s no ties and the only consideration is “how many”.
Machado, who goes by the nickname Matuck, made it possible for Celebration to score enough to win six playoff games.
The junior, who tallied 18 goals and 15 assists this year, tied for the club lead, thanks to his work quarterbacking the Storm offense, is this season’s Osceola News-Gazette Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
Boudreaux moved Machado, a Brazilian native, from defensive midfielder to offensive center mid, where he’d get to dictate the pace and direction of the attack.
“We scored many goals because everyone in our attack was dangerous, ” said Machado, who wrapped up his third varsity season this year.
Machado was on the giving end of a lot of passes in an offense that excelled in distribution and ball movement — the Storm had assists on 74 of its 87 goals this year (an average of over 3.75 per game), opening scoring opportunities for players like Inti Antunez, Luis Mora, Gabe Pinheiro, Mel Rodriguez, Eduardo Albuqurque, Humberto Faris and others.
“Sometimes an assist is better than a goal sometimes,” Machado said. “We worked very hard this year and developed a lot of chemistry. I know I had a lot of teammates and coaches helping me.”
Boudreaux said he gave Machado more free reign to use natural ability learned from playing the game “since very little” back in Brazil.
“He reads the field so well, that’s something you can’t teach,” the coach said. “You can coach a player, but you let a great center mid play. He has that ‘It’ factor, he knows what to do to make the team successful. Next year I’m looking for him to be a little more of a vocal leader.”
Machado, Boudreaux and the rest of the Storm were motivated by how the 2016-17 season ended, when the No. 1-seeded Storm fell in the district tournament quarterfinal to Gateway, 1-0. This year two teams met in the District 5A-9 semifinal, and although Gateway again led early, Celebration avenged with a 4-2 victory. By the time they were done, the Storm pieced together a 16-3-4 record, Orange Belt Conference, District 5A-9 and Region 3 championship.
“Yes, there was a motto of ‘Unfinished business’ this year,” Machado said. “We were more prepared and we all wanted to win so badly. Even though we lost (in the 5A semifinal game) our last game, it was a great season.”
Machado said he’s working with his club team, the Florida Rush, to get bigger and stronger for next year as he also gets closer to signing a college scholarship.
So what’s the mantra going to be next year, when he, Mora and fullback Daniel Perez go into their senior seasons and joined by other top underclass talent like Oscar Newman and Gabe Pinheiro, climb the path again to the Class 5A state title game?
“Last season was fun,” he said. “But, we’re saying, ‘The Story Is Not Over Yet.’”