Arbelaez through adversity: Junior transfer battles through injury and Georgetown

Junior transfer Juan Arbelaez (Photo courtesy of Skip Rowland/VCU Athletics)

Adam Stern
Executive Editor
Commonwealth Times Sports’ Twitter

Junior transfer Juan Arbelaez (Photo courtesy of Skip Rowland/VCU Athletics)

This January, after having recently graduated from an obscure, two-year junior college in Georgia, soccer player Juan Arbelaez was getting ready to commit the rest of his playing days away to a Division II school before he got a ring from Richmond.

VCU men’s soccer assistant coach Brett Teach was on the line. Arbelaez explained to Teach that he was getting ready to commit to the Division II school before Teach interrupted him.  “No,” Teach said. “We want to see you.”

With his interest piqued, Arbelaez boarded a flight to Richmond shortly thereafter and came to check out the school and it’s soccer team. He liked what he saw so much that “the next day I called them and told them I wanted to commit.”

Fast forward to Monday afternoon, and Arbelaez was on the bench as VCU started their second game of the season against last season’s Big East champions, Georgetown. He couldn’t even make it to the bench for their first game of the season against Navy. Beset by hamstring injuries all pre-season long, the 5-foot-8-inch midfielder had missed so much training he had lost his chance to start.

But as the game against the Hoyas wore on, and the score remained tied, second-year head coach Dave Giffard knew he needed a spark. With ten minutes left in the second half, he threw Arbelaez onto the field. In the first minute of overtime, Arbelaez was running downfield when he started begging for the ball because he noticed the goalkeeper was slightly out of place.

“I said yo,yo, yo and (junior striker Yoram Mwila) put it in front of me and I just hit it one time,” Arbelaez said.

That’s all it took. As the ball sailed into the corner of the net, and VCU moved their record to 2-0 on the season, Arbelaez ran off before he was mobbed by his teammates in celebration.

“It was crazy because I’ve been wanting to play and I was kind of disappointed to come in (off the bench),” Arbelaez said. “But it was a great chance for me to show I wanted to be in there.”

It was also a great chance for VCU to secure an important – and RPI boosting – victory under their belt early on the season. And that they did.

“No question, no question,” Giffard said when asked if this win will be important come the season’s end. “Winning this particular game isn’t going to make your season but a collection of a lot of wins, with this being one of the good wins, it certainly helps.”

Indeed, it helped so much that the team received 20 points in the latest NSCAA  Coaches Poll, which is only 25 points outside of the No. 25 team, Monmouth.

The men’s soccer team, however, cannot rest on their laurels.

Up next is two games this weekend, including Friday night’s cross-town showdown with the University of Richmond. VCU beat Richmond 3-1 last year at their park. But Giffard – who’s scouted Richmond twice so far this season – thinks they’ve improved a good deal from last season, particularly in attack.

The other game is against Elon on Friday. An unrenowned North Carolina school that is a member of the Southern conference, some VCU students may not be familiar with Elon— even down to the soccer players themselves.

Their squad is strong, though. And if you ask Giffard what VCU will need to continue their unbeaten streak through this weekend’s two games, he’ll give you an answer that gets right to the heart of the question.

“We’re going to need guys to step up,” Giffard said. “Like Juan did on Monday afternoon.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply