By Bob Narang

@PrepSportsRep –

Four years ago, William Arana was starting a new journey in a foreign country.

These days, the Urbana midfielder is an established name in the central part of Illinois and one of the top players in the entire state.

But Arana had a rough transition after arriving in the U.S. via Guatemala in Sept. 2018. 

Soccer, for Arana, became the ideal way to bridge any language and culture differences.

“I didn’t know any English when I first got here, but going to school and making and having friends really helped me a lot,” Arana said. “Soccer has helped me a lot, not only because it makes me happy playing this sport but also because thanks to soccer I have made a lot of friends.

“Some friends who have become family. I have built bonds with people. Soccer has made me feel comfortable around people.”

Arana, a four-year varsity player with 26 career goals and 20 assists in 63 games, credits soccer for changing his life — and opening up an endless number of opportunities.

“Through soccer, I’ve been known as a hard worker and soccer has opened doors for me,” Arana said.

The senior hopes soccer continues to lead to new experiences for him, including a strong showing at the BODYARMOR Series and a possible long run in the state tournament.

“I’m really excited for the BODYARMOR Series and excited to show all the people, coaches and players how good of a player that I’ve become and can be,” Arana said. “I’m also really excited for the chance to show college coaches my talent since playing at the next level is my main goal right now. I want to impress them and I will.”

Urbana first-year coach Mikolaj Kowalski said Arana and senior Jackson Gilbert, a Class 2A state champion in the 400-meters, are part of his reasoning why he wanted to expose his players to the BODYARMOR Series.

Urbana lost nine starters from last season’s Class 2A supersectional team.

Kowalski said he has played soccer at Olympic Park “at least two or three times a year for 12 years.”

“I love playing at Olympic Park,” Kowalski said. “It’s a great opportunity for my players to get exposure up there.

“Williams is a perfect example. Soccer basically was his language when he first moved here. Now he’s won so many awards and can play anywhere on the field. He’s a special player.

“Jackson is the fastest kid I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m excited to see what he will do this year.”

Bio on reporter: Bob Narang has been covering prep recruiting and sports for the past 28 years. His work also appears in the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and the DeKalb Daily Chronicle.