When sophomore Seth C’deBaca walks off the North Kehoe pitch in his bright green Nike cleats with diamond stud earrings glinting in the sunlight, followed by junior Scott Larrabee, who juggles a ball with tantalizing ease while making his way towards the sidelines, the two college athletes give off the aura of seasoned professionals. One could easily be in the presence of Spanish midfield sensation Cesc Fabregas or Dutch wing maestro Arjen Robben – coincidentally the two Hoyas’ favorite professional players, respectively.

C’deBaca and Larrabee are masters of the midfield for the Hoyas when they are on the pitch, and Head Coach Brian Wiese says that it is no secret that the pair is a crucial component of the team’s attack. The wingers have a combined total of four goals and five assists in the season thus far, with 23 shots on goal coming off their cleats.

“If these guys are both playing well, I’d like to see a team handle us in the country,” Wiese said. “I think we’re awfully dynamic, awfully dangerous when these guys are popping. .. When they’re not going, we tend to become a little one-dimensional, we run out of ideas a little bit.”

The two wingers have different strengths on the pitch, but complement each other well enough to make them sure shots for the Hoya starting 11.

C’deBaca played as a central midfielder before his college career, which explains his tendency to float inside the pitch during a game. The sophomore is also very confident in one-on-one situations with defenders, and can read and predict what defenders will throw at him, adjusting his play accordingly.

If a defender is waiting off the ball for C’deBaca to approach, he will open up and put in a cross or thread a quick through-ball into a narrow gap before the defender can react. Or, if an opponent is marking up aggressively, C’deBaca will nimbly turn against the marker’s momentum and sprint forward with the ball safely at his feet, while the defender trails behind, biting his dust.

C’deBaca’s quick thinking and equally fast feet have also earned him a pair of goals and assists this season.

Larrabee, unlike his sophomore counterpart, has always played on the wing. Although his right foot is naturally dominant, Larrabee is comfortable enough on both feet to prefer playing on the left side. Larrabee’s instinct when off the ball is to get into wider areas away from the preying eyes of defenders, surprising the opposition by getting at the end of long field switches.

When in possession of the ball, however, the junior uses space expertly to float in dangerously accurate long crosses, or take advantage of his pace and ball control to take on wide defenders one-on-one, usually leaving them tugging desperately at his shirt while he safely passes the ball off.

The coach also touts Larrabee as a strong finisher on the other end of crosses.

Even though C’deBaca and Larrabee have different specialties, their cunning creativity and superior skill on the ball are highly comparable. The stands of North Kehoe have gone wild at C’deBaca’s stepovers and Larrabee’s roulettes, dazzling the crowds and frustrating opponents time and again. The pair has also, on occasion, linked up in front of goal to produce quality goals.

“We’re definitely connecting even though we’re on opposite sides,” Larrabee says. He referred to his goal against American, when he saw C’deBaca with the ball at half field and made a run down the left wing, meeting with C’deBaca’s long cross at the edge of the box and blasting it in the back of the net. “So Seth got the assist and I got the goal,” Larrabee says. “Even though we’re on different sides, we still find a way to connect passes.”

“The way Larrabee and I play,” C’deBaca adds, “a lot of times, I’ll have the ball and he’ll scream for the ball, I won’t even look up – I’ll play a long ball, because I know he’ll be on.”

The men are just as complementary a pair on the pitch as they are off it. The two showered praise on each other – albeit jokingly – when asked to evaluate each other’s style of play.

“Two words: Joga Bonito,” C’deBaca jokes about his teammate. The Portuguese phrase for “beautiful play” is also the name of a popular Nike ad campaign mainly featuring the skillful Brazilian national team. The words, synonymous in the realm of professional soccer with creativity, athleticism, trickery and skill on the ball, are of the highest praise.

Larrabee is just as gracious, professing that, “Seth is real silky on the ball – silky smooth,” drawing catcalls from some of the other team members.

“It’s a joke we have,” C’deBaca explains. “We’re both from the West Coast and it’s the style we like to play.”

“We just like to posses the ball and hold it,” Larrabee adds, “and when we get chances at hitting crosses, we try to put in the best quality balls that we can, and get as many assists as we can.”

The coach said that both his wingers will be crucial near the end of the season, when each game has playoff implications.

“Things come a lot easier for us as a team when they play well,” Wiese says. “The number of good chances that we can create and the number of problems we can give a good team and our ability to pin a team into their own end is a pretty simple formula – when Seth and Scott are playing, it happens.”

Even though the turf at North Kehoe is no match for the lush grounds of Highbury, and the metal bleachers are hardly comparable to the stands of Stamford Bridge, when C’deBaca and Larrabee step onto the pitch against West Virginia on Saturday, the crowd at North Kehoe will be sure to get their money’s worth as much as any soccer fan sitting in the gigantic stadiums of Europe. Kickoff will be at noon against the Mountaineers, and the wingers will be looking to continue their terrific season.

“Joga Bonito,” C’deBaca says. “Definitely.”

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