Abdiel Chaquito is a rarity for the high school soccer.
It doesn’t matter much that the Manteca senior is undersized for a goalkeeper. He makes up for that with his leaping ability, athleticism and raw talent playing the net.
And to describe this 5-foot, 5-inch, Mexican-born goalie a “hard worker” would be a snub, like Manteca head coach Justin Coenenberg felt about last year’s all-Valley Oak League selections.
“I don’t know how this kid wasn’t an all-league goalie last year,” coach Coenenberg said. “He’s like a human highlight reel. People who may have not seen us play a lot are like ‘Man, your goalie is unbelievable. Look at those saves he made.’ He’s ESPN top-10 (material) every night, but for us, that’s just Chaquito. That’s what he does.”
Chaquito has responded with a solid senior campaign thus far and is the primary reason Manteca (6-2 VOL, 14-2-1 overall) is on yet another quest toward another VOL championship and Sac-Joaquin Section Division III postseason appearance.
Chaquito has given up just 16 goals through 18 games this season.
The Buffaloes’ only tie was against Modesto, 2-2. VOL-leading Oakdale is responsible for their only losses, both by 3-2 scores.
They return to action tonight with a pivotal contest across town at Sierra. The 2012 VOL co-champions kick off at 5:30 at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium.
Chaquito starred in Manteca’s 3-2 victory over Sierra on Sept. 19, finishing with 17 saves against the Timberwolves’ talented attackers. Midfielder Juan Acosta scored one of those goals for Sierra, which is coming off a disappointing 1-1 tie against Lathrop. Acosta was out (yellow cards) for the Lathrop game but is back for tonight’s match.
Chaquito is preparing for the rematch like he does any other game.
“Every single game I feel a lot of pressure,” Chaquito said. “I don’t feel loose. Usually when the team steps it up it gives me confidence. If my team is working hard it gives me the energy to work hard for them (in return).
“Sometimes I think my team leaves me alone when the ball passes the defense. They just think Chaquito gets it. A lot of the times I do, but sometimes it slips through.”
Chaquito has seven shutouts this year and is making a case to be a frontrunner for MVP considerations.
“I’m just a goalie, I’m going to do whatever I can to keep the ball out of the net,” he said. “That’s all I’m focusing on – all-league, VOL (championship) and to get my team further into sections.”
Aside from being a Manteca High student-athlete and helping the Buffaloes be a sectional contender, Chaquito also holds a part-time job at a local Mexican restaurant.
And when he’s not playing soccer, going to school or working at La Pina Loca, Chaquito also cuts his friend’s hair for additional side money.
This hard-working, do-whatever-it takes attitude off the field is a big reason he performs the way he does on the field. Chaquito plays with a fearless attitude and isn’t scared to charge a save or use his extreme hops to make a save.
Despite not being too tall, Chaquito could still get half his forearm past the top crossbar when jumping after saves.
“This kid’s reflexes are so quick and his hands are so good, I think he definitely plays next level,” Coenenberg said.”The only thing going against him is his size. “He’s kind of like a little superhero back there with the stuff that he does and pulls off. One of the best things about this kid is he’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever had. He doesn’t take plays off in practice and that transitions to the games.
“It’s hard for us to score goals on him in practice. It’s a challenge, and he loves it and feeds off it and it’s fun to watch.”