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The Times' 2010 Boys Soccer Player of the Year: Irving Salgado
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Girls Player of the Year: Gainesville High's Hong Tran

Coach of the Year: Gainesville High's Rick Howard

2010 All-Area teams

There’s meeting your goals, and there’s exceeding your goals. Irving Salgado certainly falls into the latter category.

Prior to his senior season as the captain of Gainesville High’s boys soccer team, Salgado set his sights on two accomplishments: to score 10 goals and to win a state championship.

Done and done.

Salgado more than doubled his preseason wish by scoring 21 goals and converted a penalty kick in the Class AAA state championship that helped Gainesville win its first boys soccer title since 1998.

For his efforts, Salgado is The Times 2010 Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

“The things we did this year made it a perfect season,” Salgado said. “It was the best season I’ve had with any team I’ve ever played on and I’m happy we accomplished all our goals.”

Aside from four games in the playoffs, specifically the state title game against Woodward, the Red Elephants reached those goals with relative ease.

Gainesville outscored its first three opponents 24-1 and when it beat Lambert in the fourth game of the year, Salgado knew his team was for real.

“We started off on the right foot, but when we got to that game and beat Lambert, I got in the mindset that we had a chance,” Salgado said. “Once we beat Johnson for the region championship, I knew we could go all the way.”

Salgado certainly made sure that was possible.

After scoring a goal in Gainesville’s 4-0 first-round win over Cedartown, Salgado scored game-winning goals against Riverwood in Round 2 and Southeast Whitfield in the Class AAA semifinals that gave the Red Elephants a berth in the championship game.

“He refused to lose that Southeast Whitfield game,” Gainesville coach Rick Howard said. “When we needed a goal, he’s the one that came up big.”

He’s also the one that filled a leadership void when defender Monish Lahiry left the team midseason to play overseas. Salgado, who played three years at Gainesville, was timid when asked to be more vocal with his teammates.

“It was tough,” said Salgado, who led the team in assists this year. “I was more comfortable with Monish here.”

He was just as comfortable knowing that behind Lahiry stood one of the state’s best goalkeepers, Marco Monreal.

“I had total confidence in Marco,” he said. “When it came down to that penalty kick against Riverwood, I was really hoping he would get it.”

That save saved Gainesville’s season in Round 2, so when the championship was on the line against Woodward Academy, Salgado was confident his goalie would come up big again.

“I was calm,” he said of his mood during PKs. “I had so much confidence in Marco, I knew he’d block two or three shots and we’d come back to win.”

According to Howard, that victory was four years in the making.

“Irving, Russ (Puckett) and Monish are all a big part of why we went from where we were four years ago to where we are now,” Howard said. “I’ve watched Irving go from being very good individually to be a very good team player. He not only did his job well, but he made the other players around him better.”

Now, Salgado hopes to get the opportunity to do that in college, most likely at North Georgia College & State University, and eventually in the pros, which he called a “dream.”

But regardless of what he does from here on out, he knows that nothing can replace walking off the high school field for the final time as a state champion.

“That’s something that no one can take away from you,” Salgado said. “I have a lot of friends who are jealous because they played for a long time and didn’t win anything.

“I’m so relaxed and happy because we worked hard for it.”

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