Connections come natural for Cat duo

Photos by Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper’s Cristopher Menjivar, center, maintained possession while surrounded by Heritage Hills’ Blake Radigan, left, and August Gardarsson on Thursday at the Jasper High School Soccer Complex. Menjivar provided a goal in Jasper’s 4-0 victory, the Cats’ eighth consecutive win. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

JASPER — Whether he’s tormenting defenses himself or watching the world’s best on television, Cristopher Menjivar is constantly consuming soccer.

So when he first met Gustav Brodin at the season’s outset, the natural reaction was to connect the Swedish exchange student with another Swede, who fittingly is one of the world’s most prolific goal scorers.

“I started calling him Zlatan Ibrahimovic,” Menjivar said, referencing the Paris Saint-Germain forward who’s scored 45 goals in his career for Sweden’s national team.

However, as time went on, the nickname didn’t seem relevant beyond national affiliation. Ibrahimovic has long black hair. Brodin’s hair is blond. Ibrahimovic’s primal instinct is goal scoring. Brodin seems to find the most joy in distribution.

So Menjivar modified the nickname.

Brodin

“I’ve changed it to start calling him Brad Pitt. He kind of does look like him,” Menjivar joked. “And he’s telling me he’s a surfer, too. And he’s got the perfect look to be a surfer.”

The two juniors kidded around momentarily after Jasper’s 4-0 disposal of Heritage Hills on Thursday at the Jasper High School Soccer Complex. Evidenced by the way the two combine on the field, it appears more like a relationship between lifelong friends.

“We’ve got good chemistry,” Brodin said with a goofy nod and wink toward Menjivar. “It’s all good.”

Not only have the two developed some clownish camaraderie off the field, but their connection on it has translated into some impressive collaboration.

In the match’s 15th minute, Brodin tore past a defender on the left wing to advance into the Patriots’ 18-yard box. Without any hesitation, he crossed a grounded ball to Menjivar’s feet some 10 yards from goal. The explosive striker abruptly cut past a defender and slotted the ball inside the left post.

“Our chemistry is really good. We’ve been getting along with the team and the midfield is playing perfect right now. So they just look for the forwards up top and I’m right there waiting for it, just finishing it off,” Menjivar said.

“That’s what makes the team great. Everybody works together to accomplish that goal.”

The development of both Brodin and Menjivar has also been instrumental for the Wildcats (8-1-1), who have won eight straight contests — including six consecutive shutouts — by a 43-1 goal differential.

Heritage Hills’ Colin Curtis, left, tried to intervene as Jasper’s Christian Leinenbach launched a pass.

While Brodin’s club team in Sweden typically has just one match and three or four practices per week, the Stockholm native appears more and more at ease with each game he plays this season, Jasper coach Kyle Kendall said.

“Goose is getting more and more comfortable every single game,” Kendall said. “First couple games, I think the game was moving pretty fast for him. It took him a little bit. But he sees things and gets more comfortable with every minute he’s on the field.”

Not only did Brodin impact the game with delicate distribution both on the playing surface and through the air, but he also banged bodies with Patriot center midfielder Donovan Aders, perhaps the most athletic player on the field.

“It’s just to be physical against him, and not get frustrated when you get put down and stuff,” Brodin said of his contentious battle with Aders. “You just have to battle on and just figure out which side he’s going (to) and then take the other side. Be quick and open-minded in the play.”

Aders set the tone physically for the Patriots and also teamed with sophomore Seth Bolin to create Heritage Hills’ best scoring chances, which came in the match’s later moments.

Bolin laced a drive off a counterattack that Wildcat reserve goalkeeper Peyton Gentry tipped just over the crossbar with about 22 minutes remaining. And with three minutes to play, Aders drilled a shot from 25 yards away that sailed a foot over the bar.

While they spent a significant portion of the match defending a possession-heavy Jasper squad, there’s plenty for the Patriots to take away from the match, Heritage Hills coach Joe Asbury assured.

“They play with great speed,” Asbury said of the Wildcats. “That’s good for us to have to play fast and physical. And it’s good for our defense to have to deal with fast, talented players and for our guys that play offense to mark better in the middle of the field because their defenders are such a big part of their offensive scheme.”

And though the Pats (4-4) had dropped three of their last four matches entering Thursday’s clash — all one-goal defeats — the Patriot coach stressed how crucial it was for his side to not lose the confidence built from winning its first three games.

“We’ve been playing people tight, with the exception of this game … and I want our kids to feel like we’ve been beaten by good teams. And they have,” Asbury said. “I want them to gain some confidence in that and take this second half of the season and feel like they can play with and, at times, beat good teams.”

Nathan Helsley added a tally for the Wildcats and Caleb Williams chipped in two more goals, swelling his season total to a team-high 14. Menjivar’s first-half finish was his eighth of the season — the Cats’ third-highest output.

After coaches asked him to continue boosting his quickness after last season in anticipation of varsity time this year, Menjivar frequented the Jerry Brewer Alumni Stadium track all offseason to conduct personal sprint workouts.

The results are showing.

“He’s always looking to get better. He’s a kid that’s always wanted more playing time than he’s gotten,” Kendall said of the shifty junior. “And he’s listened to the advice we’ve given him and doing all the things it takes to get more minutes.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




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