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Carlos Portilla lent a helping hand to the East Haven boys’ soccer team this fall when the senior stepped into the net after the Yellowjackets’ goalie got injured. (Photo courtesy of Carlos Portilla )
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Carlos Portilla didn’t grow up playing organized soccer. He enjoyed kicking the ball around with his cousins and friends, although he was never a part of a team. However, that all changed for Carlos in high school when he joined the Yellowjackets’ boys’ soccer squad. Carlos, who earned a starting spot right off the bat as a freshman, recently completed his career with the Easties.
“My cousins came up from Ecuador and were surprised I didn’t play. Soccer down there is highly respected, so they got me into it,” says Carlos. “I was encouraged to play my freshman year, and I started, even though I barely knew how to kick the ball. I played more and more and got so much better.”
Carlos remembers an important game against West Haven during his freshman season. Carlos went toe to toe against the Blue Devils’ upperclassmen, and it gave him confidence that he could succeed at the high school level.
“I remember walking in, and every other player was about 6-feet tall. I remember being so nervous and scared. I didn’t know what to do,” Carlos says. “That really boosted my confidence, being exposed to that early on. I was glad I played early and got that experience.”
Carlos primarily played defense and outside midfielder throughout his career with East Haven, but he also served as the team’s regular goalie this fall. Yellowjackets’ Head Coach Ryan Harrold was happy that Carlos stood between the pipes this year after starting keeper Doug Comesanas was sidelined with a season-ending injury.
“I talked to Carlos before the season, asking him his plans since it was his senior year. He said he liked goalie, but that he’d rather play the field. Since it was his senior year, I didn’t want to take that opportunity away. After a few games, he saw we needed some help back there at that position, so he stepped up and said he was willing to take over,” says Harrold. “He sacrificed his senior year for the team and made some phenomenal saves...He was taking 35 or 40 shots per game and always had a great attitude.”
Carlos says that Comesanas gave him plenty of helpful tips on how to become a more effective player in the net.
“Doug gave me a lot of pointers. I wasn’t confident in goal, but I wanted to help the team,” says Carlos. “I began to focus on it at practice, and I got better. By the end of the year, I felt very confident, and I was a good fit.”
Coach Harrold says he appreciates the fact that Carlos was so vocal in goal. Carlos liked helping put his teammates in the right position on the pitch, while manning the goalkeeper’s position.
“I’m not demanding, because I don’t feel like I’m higher than anyone else, but playing goalie gave me more leadership, and I learned a lot from it,” Carlos says. “I was very respected on the field, because I’d tell them where to go, and they’d listen. It was good, and I’d respect them. When you’re back there, you have to yell, and I’m glad my teammates took it well and knew how to respond to it...As soon as I had the opportunity, I really liked it. I had a lot of fun my senior year.”
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