In a short time, Jeyson Roque has found a way to be an impact player for the Red Wing boys' soccer team.
Just a freshman, Roque is the Wingers' top goal-scorer with six goals and three assists in 11 games. While Red Wing sits with a 2-9 record, the team's offense has a stronger pulse this season with 19 goals in 11 games, compared to 22 goals in 18 games last fall.
In just 11 games, Roque's natural ability as a feared playmaker and scorer are apparent.
"He's a talented player we like to move around and put other teams on their toes," said Wingers head coach Tony Casci. "We'll put him at the midfield until they have his number and then we'll push him up to striker. It's kind of a chess match and he plays well no matter what."
Playing soccer since he was 4 years old, Roque's soccer skills speak volumes as the freshman becomes more comfortable with the English language.
Coming to Red Wing a year ago from Guatemala, Roque's English is limited. In this interview, bilingual teammates Erick Fuentes and Edgar Ortega interpreted for Roque, who takes great pride in what he has done so far this season.
"It's a pleasure to wear the Red Wing uniform," Roque said. "I'm doing everything on the field to keep going with the team."
Growing up, Casci learned some Spanish thanks to being around foreign-exchange students.
"I know enough to communicate the direction of the field and where we need him standing, how many touches he needs, making faster runs or better angles. So the basics are there," Casci said. "But the other guys who are more bilingual help me with the details in practice. In a game, I know enough to know he's there."
Coming to Red Wing a year ago took some adjustment.
"It was kind of difficult," Roque said. "And then (I) came to practice with (the team) and got it."
On the team, Roque has forged a bond with teammate Bryan Lopez, who also comes from Guatemala. The two have a strong connection on the field as Lopez has collected four goals and a team-best five assists this season. During last Thursday's game against Faribault, Roque found Lopez in front of the net with a perfect corner kick, allowing Lopez to score a game-tying goal on a header before halftime.
"With Bryan in the middle and Jeyson outside, they really read each other and run off each others' passes really well," Casci said. "They're both dangerous because they feed off each other.
"There's a lot of natural ability for Jeyson, too. You get him the ball and he knows what to do with it."
And Roque's impact isn't just as a midfielder or striker. When the team has struggled on the defensive end, Roque has stepped up.
"I started to play defense at first and. when (I) moved here, started to play striker," Roque said. "I wanted to change positions and see how it goes."
Casci added, "He's had time at defense when we've been struggling back there and comes up to midfield to make sure we get the ball forward. And when the other team gets tired, we move him up to striker later in the second half. He get the last 20-to-25 minutes to see what he can do to put the ball on frame."
Through help from his coaches and teammates, Roque is finding his way in his new town. And with the help he's gotten, Roque is more than happy to reward those efforts with a goal or two.
"I just want to do everything that (I) can with (the team)," Roque said. "In practice, (I'll) do what I have to do and feel proud of the team helping (me)."