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Freshman-powered Falcons’ boys soccer eliminates King George, 4-1`

Saturday, May. 23 | By Peter Brewington
Daniel Duca has megawatt energy and an irresistible love of soccer that has to be seen to be verified. Turn him on and watch the Fauquier offense light up.

Frankie Strano is like stumbling onto the Renoir painting you didn’t know you had in the attic. Thank god, the Falcons discovered him in time.

The two freshman forwards are a key part of Fauquier’s resurgence of late, and were the prime instruments of destruction in Friday’s 4-1 win over King George in the Conference 22 boys soccer quarterfinals.

Duca ignited the Falcons’ offense with a goal and two assists, while Strano scored twice, continuing his remarkable upward trajectory. Since being moved from goalie to forward for the May 8 Liberty game, Strano has five goals in five games and looks fast, sharp and comfortable playing one of the most difficult and stressful positions in soccer.

Friday’s win - played at Falcon Field on a sunny 70-degree day - propelled Fauquier into the Conference 22 semifinals against No. 1 seed Courtland. Despite their shaky-looking 5-9-2 record, Fauquier is playing cohesive, entertaining offensive soccer and figures to challenge Courtland in next Tuesday’s showdown match for a region berth.

Duca helped the Falcons take a 1-0 lead in the second minute thanks to an incredible display of passion and soccer skill. First, he hustled to win a ball near midfield and blocked it up the right sideline. He sprinted back to it, made a sliding tackle and forced the ball out of bounds off a King George player. He then quickly threw it to a cutting Strano, who controlled it in front of the goal and hammered home a low shot to the far side past Foxes goalie Johannes Gulick. The goal came one minute and six seconds into the game, giving the Falcons a monster momentum surge.

“Frankie was screaming at me (to throw it to him) and I gave it to him on one bounce,” said Duca of his precise and speedy throw-in.

After King George quickly tied it 1-1, Duca scored Fauquier’s second goal in the 16th minute on a brilliant one touch strike. Aaron Getman sent a perfectly-placed pass over two Foxes’ defenders to a breaking Duca who didn’t miss it, taking a accurate half-volley swing that soared into the back of the net from about 15 yards.

“It was a beautiful ball by Aaron Getman. Their goalie is big, so I had to lift it past him,” said Duca of his highlight goal.

Duca wasn’t done flashing his skill set. Fauquier made it 3-1 when Duca ran onto a long pass up the right flank, turned the corner and headed at the King George goal. Seeing the goalie release towards him, Duca kept charging before sending a crisp grounder across the goal mouth for Marcus Velasco to knock into an empty net on the far side for a 3-1 FHS lead in the 32nd minute.

It’s plays like that that have earned Duca a gold star in coach Juan Garcia’s book.

“He’s a sponge. He goes to the guys who have been here and asks how he can be better, I’m looking forward to working with him the next years,” said Garcia.
“He could have had a hat trick in the every game,” said Garcia.

It does seem like every touch Duca makes on the ball is productive. A smart player in a pint-sized package, the freshman stands just 5-foot-3, but he is agile, decisive and aggressive and has emerged as a team leader. He threatened several more times in the second half.

After the game, Duca’s older brother Michael, a FHS starting midfielder-defender, was approached for a comment. He started to answer, then said, “I think Daniel might be better for a quote,” said Michael, deferring the glory to his compelling little brother.

The younger Duca is being helped considerably by the emergence of Strano, whose second goal Friday was a work of art. Strano turned the right corner in the 47th minute and ran towards the goal with two defenders in hot pursuit and the goalie looming. Taking one last skillful touch as defenders pawed at his heels, Strano created the space he needed, found a slot and poked it home.

This coming from a freshman who also starred on the golf team and was a starting basketball point guard. Strano looks pretty darned remarkable in soccer, too.

“In his first five games he's got five goals. The stats don’t lie. He’s got speed, technique, everything you want,” said Duca.

Garcia, whose momentous decision to move Strano out of goal changed the season, also noted FHS is 4-1 with Strano starting at forward and said the move has energized the squad. But the Falcons are a lot more than Duca and Strano. They have skilled dribblers like Francisco Uribe, Matt Page and defender Christian Benitez, and a solid defense, anchored by central defender Malik Lowe, Benitez and Elijah Huston. Plus, veterans Matt O’Conner and Miguel Cortez provide experience and further stability.

The Falcons employ a offensive-minded three forward attack, which can sometimes sacrifice midfield containment. The Falcons have given up their fair share of goals this year and have yet to post a shutout.

Nevertheless, Ifft has frequently been brilliant. Friday he made a super save on a penalty kick. The one goal he allowed was on a defensive mistake by Lowe, who was caught out of position on a throw-in, allowing King George’s best player, Chas Parker, to tie the game on a straight-on blast from 15 yards.

Next up is a stiff challenge in No. 1 Courtland. The winner makes regionals. Garcia knows his team is far better than its record. “Honestly, we’ve blown five games in the last seven minutes. We’ve been there all year,” he said.

“It’s a game of revenge. It’s our time to take them out,” said Duca.

Both regular season losses to Courtland were close, a 4-2 loss in the season opener in a game FHS led 2-1. Then a 1-0 loss on April 24.

Both those games were a long time ago with Strano the goalie way back then.

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