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Liberty beats Fauquier with pair of goals from foreign exchange soccer player

Tuesday, Apr. 1 | By Jeff Malmgren
The foreign exchange rate between Brazil and Bealeton has been a windfall for the Liberty Eagles.

Over the past four boys soccer seasons, the Eagles often couldn't even buy a goal. Then, seven months ago, Matheus Malvezsi arrived as a Brazilian foreign exchange student.

Now the Eagles average nearly two goals per match.

The latest outburst came Tuesday when Liberty defeated the Fauquier Falcons, 3-1, at home in Bealeton. Malvezsi scored the Eagles' first two goals, increasing his total to five in Liberty's four games.

"He's phenomenal," Liberty coach Greg McLeod said. "We just got lucky."

"We had a really good kid from Scotland three of four years back," he said. "We just didn't have a team to go with him. … I think we actually have a pretty solid team to complement" Malvezsi.

Senior forward Carlos Martinez, for example, served as a sort of welcoming party for Malvezsi on Tuesday. With 29 minutes, 30 seconds remaining in the first half, Martinez ran down a through ball and crossed it from the left sideline to Malvezsi, who headed it in to give Liberty a 1-0 lead.

About 20 minutes later, with the score tied, 1-1, Martinez drew a foul 31 yards from the goal, setting up a free kick for Malvezsi. The senior foreign exchange student hooked a shot between Fauquier's goalkeeper and the near post to give Liberty the lead for good.

"It was an amazing [game] for this guy," Malvezsi said of Martinez.

In the second half, with 10:44 remaining, Martinez got another assist by setting up a Stephen Estes goal. Martinez separated from his defender off the dribble on the right wing and then poked the ball toward the goal for Estes, who took a strong shot that settled into the back-left corner of the net.

The eventual victory, however, was only Liberty's first this season. The Eagles (1-2-1) opened with a 3-2 loss to King George before tying Courtland, 2-2, and losing to Kettle Run, 1-0.

"We were determined to win this game since we had a little rough start to the season," Martinez said of beating Fauquier (0-1). "We were successfully passing it to find our wings and our forwards."

The Eagles' defense struggled a bit during their first three games, but McLeod believes he now has a good lineup with junior Tanner Holland, senior Luca Sansone, senior Jonah Smyth and senior Kevin Garcia, who rotates between center defense and center midfield with senior Gerardo Cruz.

"That seems to be working for us – keeping our best players in the center of the field," McLeod said.

The Eagles haven't had many issues offensively. Malvezsi scored twice against King George and had a goal and assist against Cortland. He played against Fauquier despite nursing a groin injury suffered in practice Thursday.

That injury hampered Malvezsi's production against Kettle Run on Friday, and he played only 37 minutes against Fauquier. He still scored twice, though.

"We are so thankful for him," Martinez said. "He's like a new family member to us. … We've gotten really close. We love him."

With the addition of Malvezsi, the Eagles have high hopes this season despite a lackluster history as a program. Liberty won only seven matches over the previous four seasons, breaking a streak of 37 matches without a win last season by beating Fauquier in early April.

"Knowing the history and how it's been difficult to win the games, I guess the chemistry has built up through the years," Martinez said. "Now we're showing it on the field."

The Eagles finished 2013 with a 4-7-2 record. They expect a lot more wins this season.

"I don't think we've ever been out of districts. We're looking to break some records," McLeod said. "Get out of the conference and get into the region playoffs. … We think we have that ability."

Fauquier coach Bruce Kane expects the same for his Falcons, who had three matches postponed prior to opening the season Tuesday. They've also had only a handful of outdoor practices.

"For our first time out, I thought they played a tremendous game," said Kane, a first-year varsity head coach who served as Fauquier's junior varsity coach the past two seasons. "They're excited about the way they played tonight. … They're not looking at the score, they're looking at what do we do to get better.

"I think we had Liberty on their heels a bit," he said. "Possession-oriented."

The Falcons finished with 16 shots (six on goal), while Liberty had 17 shots (11).

After Fauquier fell behind, 1-0, Kane had four players enter the match off the bench, players whom will likely start the rest of the season. The Falcons showed a better attack over the rest of the game and senior midfielder Zac Faith scored Fauquier's lone goal with 18:08 remaining in the first half.

Liberty goalkeeper Chris Higgins tried to clear a ball in the 18-yard box, but his kicked-ball deflected off Fauquier forward Chuck Okeke and Faith gathered the loose ball. Faith chipped the ball over Higgins for the goal. Higgins (five saves) pleaded with an official to call a hand-ball foul, but to no avail.

"That's the spirit of this team," Kane said of rallying to tie the score, 1-1. "Even when we were down 3-1 … these guys were still trying to take it to them. Nobody's putting their head down. … I expect that to carry us far this season."

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