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Olympian senior scoring while mending

01/23/2014, 3:31pm PST
By Justin Toscano • U-T

Returning All-San Diego Section pick says broken foot affected all parts of his game.

Olympian senior Branden Sanchez has 18 goals in 12 games for the Eagles this season.

— After a three-month recovery for a broken bone in his foot, Olympian High senior Branden Sanchez is back on the pitch.

The 5-foot-11, 155-pound striker has scored 18 goals for an Eagles soccer team that’s posted a 4-4-4 record.

The fracture was the result of a collision in an indoor soccer pickup game in June, much to the disappointment of Olympian coach Sergio Villalva.

“I always tell my players not to risk their bodies in a game that isn’t serious,” said Villalva, in his fourth year as Eagles coach. “I was worried because he means so much to our team.”

Sanchez was the only junior selected to last season’s All-San Diego Section first team. Though the fractured metatarsal has healed, Sanchez said he doesn’t feel like the player he was before the injury.

“It’s affected everything about my game,” he said. “I’m still a bit rusty so I’m trying to get my speed, ball control and shooting to where they were before my injury.”

For Sanchez, the road to recovery was filled with anxiety and boredom that seemed worse than the injury itself.

“Being sidelined from soccer wore on me,” he said. “Even though my doctor and coaches told me to stay off my foot, I dribbled and juggled the ball during my recovery period because I was so ready to get back onto the field.”

The young Eagles, with three freshmen in their starting lineup, are relieved to have their captain back.

“I had no doubt that he would come back strong,” said assistant coach Keith Hammond. “He’s the hardest working player you’ll ever meet and it’s shown in his performance this season.”

Despite being known as a prolific scorer, Sanchez said he’s focused on team goals for Olympian, which plays at 3 p.m. today at Otay Ranch.

“I’m just going to give it my all to help my team win as much as possible,” said Sanchez, who scored both goals in the Eagles’ 2-1 win over Bonita Vista on Wednesday. “Hopefully our hard work will result in a championship or at least a solid playoff run.”

In the classroom, Sanchez loves math almost as much as he loves soccer, but not quite. He said soccer and math go hand-in-hand, noting the creativity and hard work needed to succeed in both.

After his senior season at Olympian, Sanchez hopes to resume playing for the Nomads soccer club.

“I definitely want to continue working toward my dream of being a professional soccer player,” Sanchez said.

Though the injury didn’t help in solidifying Sanchez’s immediate plans, he has received an offer from Pachuca, a professional team in Mexico that wants him to play for its youth academy program. College soccer is also a possibility.

Sanchez’s mother has no trouble seeing her son playing someday at the professional level.

“Branden has always been a passionate player who sets goals for himself,” Carla Sanchez said. “His dedication will help him achieve his dream.”

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