Brazilian connection … again
Brazil is known for its soccer. Baldwin High School will soon be known for its Brazilian soccer players.
For the second straight year, BHS will have an exchange student from South America on its team ... and once again there are high expectations surrounding the Brazilian.
Last fall, Fernando Chuery helped BHS to a 12-5-1 record and a regional runner-up finish. This year Alex Silva, a foreign exchange student from Brazil, has caught the attention of the Bulldogs' star player, senior Dustin Schiller.
"Alex is a very strong player," Schiller said. "He is very smart with the ball and knows what to do with it. His ball skills are equal if not better than Fernando's. We all are very happy to have him because of his attributes on and off the field to the team."
Chuery led the Bulldogs in scoring a year ago. His ball control and speed helped the Bulldogs, but his ability to score a goal impressed coach Gus Wegner.
He is hoping Silva will be a similar player to Chuery and help the Bulldogs this fall.
"It's nice, because he has the ball control and the skills," Wegner said of Silva. "He makes it look very effortless. He is able to make a pass at the right speed and right to the foot of the right person. Those are the kinds of people that make those around them look good. It is nice to have another Brazilian this year.
"Fernando had a lot of skills, but his strength was being able to finish really well," Wegner said. "He could put the ball into the net. We didn't know what he could do until the second game or so. We are hoping Alex will be similar to Fernando, because we think he can be as good or better."
Silva will also have Schiller to help lead Baldwin this fall. Schiller finished second in scoring a year ago, but led in assists. He was named the Lawrence Journal-World's All-Area player of the year for the 2006 season.
Schiller returns for his senior campaign this fall. He has high expectations for his final year as a Bulldog, especially after last year's success in the program's second season.
"I think we will be a strong opponent," Schiller said. "I don't think teams will take us lightly this year. I think we made a name for ourselves last year, and I think this year we have the ability to live up to that name."
Although Schiller will be a leader on the team, Wegner knows the players around him must perform well also if the team is to be successful.
"We have Dustin -- the area player of the year -- back this year," Wegner said. "Let's hope we can put enough talent around him to help us win. The nice thing about soccer is that it takes everybody, not just one player."
Wegner will get his first chance to see how well the team plays on Monday, when the Bulldogs open the season at 4 p.m. in De Soto.
He isn't sure what to expect for the opening contest, but that's why Wegner said he enjoys sports.
"That's the nice thing about sports -- there is the suspense and the unknown," Wegner said. "I think they sense that, but they want to do well and play hard."
The Bulldogs will have two full weeks of practice under their belt when they take the field Monday. Schiller is confident that was enough time for the players to prepare for the real game.
"I think over these past weeks of practice we have prepared ourselves mentally and physically for our first game," Schiller said. "Everyone has learned their position and has built up the stamina to play it effectively."
One area where the Bulldogs should benefit this year is depth. A total of 35 players are out this fall, which pleased Wegner. Depth and providing substitutions were two areas he wanted to improve on this year.
"After the end of the regional championship game when I was driving home, I was thinking about what we needed to do better," Wegner said. "We needed to sub more and we are going to do that. We need to control the ball, pass more and finish. It's exciting to finally play the game."
The Bulldogs' first home game will be Aug. 30 against Turner.