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Team of the Year: Layton Christian jumped to 3A and won every trophy it played for

By Patrick Carr - Standard-Examiner | Jun 25, 2022

Patrick Carr, Standard-Examiner

Layton Christian Academy boys soccer players celebrate after beating the Real Salt Lake Academy charter high school 4-0 in the 3A state championship on May 11, 2022 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

LAYTON — Layton Christian Academy’s boys soccer team was new to 3A this season after years of success in 2A.

The Eagles also had a new head coach and, per usual, plenty of new players. They did just fine with the move.

LCA went 17-3 overall with a 76-11 goalscoring margin, first capturing the Region 13 championship and then the 3A state title in its first year as a 3A school. Layton Christian is the 2022 Standard-Examiner All-Area Boys Soccer Team of the Year.

Lucas Almeida, the head coach, said he had good impressions of the mostly Brazilian team after the first practice.

“After the first practice together, I told them, I was like, ‘We’re going to make history, OK? And you guys just gotta make sure that you keep your heads in,'” Almeida recalled.

Patrick Carr, Standard-Examiner

Layton Christian Academy boys soccer players celebrate after beating the Real Salt Lake Academy charter high school 4-0 in the 3A state championship on May 11, 2022 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“I told them when we met the first time, a family, you don’t choose your family. You’re basically given one, that’s just reality everywhere, right? That’s the family they got coming here. We grew so much as a group and that was, for me, beats any results on the field.”

The Eagles started well in 2022, going 4-2 against 6A-4A opposition, beating Region 5 co-champion Northridge and losing to Region 5 co-champ Bonneville.

Almeida said there was more to LCA’s success than having a bunch of Brazilian kids on the team who’ve grown up playing soccer.

Those kids are from different cities in Brazil, a large country with more than 200 million people. There’s different slang and different styles of play between the players, Almeida said, kind of like if New Yorkers, Californians, Texans and Minnesotans got on a team together.

“It’s so hard to put them together. We have a philosophy here, it’s not about formation, it’s nothing about that. I have my way of coaching and what I want implemented on the field, but I needed to get like 30 guys on the same page,” Almeida said.

Patrick Carr, Standard-Examiner

Layton Christian boys soccer players Roberto Neto, left, and Enzo Jaques, left, celebrate a goal scored by Jaques in LCA's 4-0 victory in the 3A state championship game Wednesday, May 11, 2022 at Rio Tinto Stadium.

LCA’s main playmaker was forward Enzo Jaques, who bagged 25 goals with 13 assists this season, culminating with a hat trick in a 4-0 rout over Real Salt Lake Academy in the state championship game.

Two of Jaques’ 25 goals this year were outright game-winners over Ogden and Morgan, the two teams that gave closest chase to LCA in Region 13. The game-winner against Morgan was a well-executed counterattack that ended with Jaques firing a low shot into the corner.

Against Ogden, Jaques’ long-range free-kick hit the Ogden wall, bounced back to him and he lasered in a half volley that Almeida called the goal of the season.

One of Jaques’ goals sent the Eagles’ state semifinal against Judge Memorial into extra time, where they eventually beat the Bulldogs in a penalty shootout.

Though Jaques was all over the scoresheet, Almeida said one of the team’s unsung heroes was midfielder Thiago Dalpian, who assisted six goals and didn’t score any goals.

“Without him, we would not be here. He was absolutely amazing, he controlled the game,” Almeida said.

Before winning the state title, LCA earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs following a gauntlet in Region 13. The top three teams in the region (LCA, Ogden and Morgan) landed in the top six in the final RPI rankings and ended the season with a combined record of 41-13.

All four games LCA played against Ogden and Morgan were decided by one goal and the Eagles won three of said four games.

Including a non-region tournament at Northridge called the Davis Cup (not to be confused with the pro tennis competition), LCA’s boys soccer team won all three trophies it played for this year.

“I’m just very proud of them. I honestly think all of them deserved it,” Almeida said.

LCA has advantages in boys soccer. It brings in dozens of students from soccer-rich Brazil who happen to be very good at soccer relative to LCA’s 3A (and historically, 2A) peers.

But the schools the Eagles beat in the later rounds of the state tournament this year also had plenty of advantages.

In the semifinals, they beat private school Judge Memorial (3A champs from 2018-21) in penalties before beating Real Salt Lake Academy, a charter high school, 4-0 in the title game at Rio Tinto Stadium, where RSL Academy was announced as the “designated visiting team.”

The Judge semifinal was the most difficult game of the bunch, not just because it came against the three-time defending champion.

“Psychologically speaking, yes, because the ball would not go in against Judge. It hit the post, the goalie was absolutely amazing, so I think mentally that was the biggest challenge that they had,” Almeida said.

The 4-0 win over RSL in the championship game seemed procedural once LCA started scoring.

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