Magana of the Match: Junior striker off to blazing start in Roaring Fork soccer |

Magana of the Match: Junior striker off to blazing start in Roaring Fork soccer

Roaring Fork soccer's Emi Magana signals for a corner kick in the Rams' 8-0 win at Glenwood Springs, Aug. 31, 2021.
Rich Allen / Post Independent

It’s hard to have a better start to a soccer season than striker Emi Magana’s.

Just 70 seconds into Roaring Fork’s first game of the season at Glenwood Springs on Tuesday, Carlos Perez Rios pushed in toward the goal down the right wing, near the baseline. Demons keeper Jan Carlo Arreola came out to meet him, and Rios’ shot attempt squibbed out in front of the net. A wide open net in front of him, Magana gave the ball the final touch it needed to get across the line.

As he leaped in the air to chest-bump Rios in celebration, the top of his head reached to only Rios’ shoulder, and the much-taller senior knocked him to the ground.

Roughly 49 minutes later, he was left shrugging. On his right hand, he extended three fingers as he casually strolled toward his teammates, one for each of the goals he had scored in the game. Roaring Fork was well on its way to an eventual 8-0 win against their downvalley rival.

“I just threw up a three, not knowing what to do,” Magana said.

Roaring Fork soccer's Emi Magana charges the ball against Demon goalie Jan Carlo Arreola in the Rams' 8-0 win at Glenwood Springs, Aug. 31, 2021.
Rich Allen / Post Independent

Two days later, Magana did it again, scoring three goals in the Rams’ 10-1 win over Basalt on Thursday.

Shortly after the Glenwood game, head coach Nick Forbes walked over to the team as they cleaned up the bench area with a brief message.

“I don’t like postgame speeches, but Emi Magana is man of the match,” Forbes told his now 2-0 soccer club.

After taking a step backward in the spring season, missing the playoffs, Roaring Fork got their redemption tour started on a high note. The Rams beat a 4A rival in decisive fashion for an early win in the temporary 3A/4A Western Slope West League. Magana reached half his total from the entire previous season.

None of the three goals came from far out. Magana got to the dirty areas down low, won some one-on-one battles and cleaned up messes.

He used ball skill, vision and grittiness that made Magana a starter as a freshman on a team that went to the state finals in 2019.

“He’s always had … it’s not intangible, but it’s a pressure and a desire,” Forbes said. “The pressure is built out of this desire to get the ball back.”

Forbes compares Magana to the way he was as a player. Neither were ever destined to be the ones leaping above the masses for a contested header on a throw-in or corner kick.

But both have speed and use their size to their advantage. Forbes also drew a comparison to one of soccer’s biggest stars.

“(Lionel) Messi’s small,” Forbes said. “Soccer is one of those games where you can use your strengths. He’s got a low center of gravity, and he’s just got hunger.”

The Rams, especially early, were more than content to bomb the ball down the wings and let Rios and Magana chase it down. They were happy to send the strikers on foot-races, even if the defender got to the ball first.

A Demon getting the first touch didn’t guarantee they’d have the last. Conversely, one of the two Rams getting first touch often led to a scoring chance.

Magana was only one of six Rams to find the back of the net. Persistent offensive pressure gave Roaring Fork and Arreola a lot of looks.

“Ever since his freshman year, it’s been known that he’s a key player in our offense,” Roaring Fork senior captain Ross Barlow said. “He has either the role of scoring goals or giving other players the opportunity to score goals.”

Along with Barlow, there are nine other seniors on the team. With his age and his quiet demeanor, there wasn’t much room for Magana to squeeze his way into a captain’s role yet. But he finds other ways to lead.

The obvious avenue is on the pitch, where his effort takes the forefront, but it’s not the only stage. When some of his teammates dragged behind in the classroom, Magana stepped up, dragging players who were ineligible in math to the study hall.

“I just can’t say enough,” Forbes said. “The two things you can’t coach are the desire to do it and speed. He’s got them both already.”

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