By Bob Narang

The Eisenhower boys soccer team watched along in the spring when the girls team stunned program after program – including Crystal Lake South – and advanced to a PepsiCo Showdown title game.

The boys picked up right where the girls left off, overcoming a 2-0 deficit to notch a 4-3 win over Juarez on Opening Day of the 2018 PepsiCo Showdown Boys at the Inwood Soccer Complex in Joliet.

“We’re very young and only have one senior starter back,” Eisenhower coach Iran Rodriguez said. “We’ve been trying to figure out our formations and where to put kids, so they can succeed and we can win.”

The Cardinals fell to Stagg in Elite Eight action on Tuesday, but rebounded with a consolation home win over Back of the Yards on Thursday. They’ll battle Chicago Public League power Kelly on Saturday, hoping to finish with a successful 3-1 record in the largest high school soccer tournament in the U.S.

And considering the Eisenhower program has a rich history of success, including a stunning run of 16 double-digit winning seasons in an 18-year span from 1981-1998, success is something that is consistently expected from the soccer rich south suburban school.

Defender Jose Carbajal is one of six returning starters hoping to help the program full of talented younger players grow this season.

“It’s been a learning experience for a lot of players,” Carbajal said. “We have a lot of first-year players on varsity, so they have to learn from all the experiences and will get better with more games and practices.”

One of those players to keep an eye on is Jaime Flores. The junior forward is navigating his way through his second year on the varsity. He’s receiving more playing time and quickly becoming a reliable player.

“It’s a learning experience for all of us,” Flores said. “We have to keep our heads up and keep going. I’m trying to achieve my goals and get on the wall of fame at school. I know I have to improve, just like the team and keep getting better.”

Rodriguez said tough opponents, such as competing in the PepsiCo Showdown, will help his team mature. He’s counting on Carbajal and Flores to become consistent performers.

“Jose is a captain and been with our program all four years and has done a great job so far,” Rodriguez said. “Jaime is a great worker, and we’re excited to have him and see him develop and become one of our key players.”

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