Toni Orozco has St. Joe soccer teammates’ backs

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WESTCHESTER — St. Joseph senior Toni Orozco has always been one of the fastest players on his team.

His speed is a trait that has served him well as a defender during his soccer career, which began at age 7.

“I’ve always been fast,” Orozco said. “That’s one of my key attributes. I use that to help me defend and protect. I try to anticipate where everybody will be moving and use my speed to get in the right position.”

While Orozco has always been a defender, his move to sweeper this season has been a relatively new experience.

“It really wasn’t a tough transition,” Orozco said. “I played sweeper before with my old club, the Berwyn Blazers. It was just getting used to it with my teammates. Playing in the middle is not uncomfortable, but it is different. Everybody has made it easier for me and we’re all coming together as a team.”

The Chargers (12-0-1) beat Illinois Math & Science Academy 6-1 Saturday in a nonconference matchup in Westchester. Junior Jovany Aceves scored three goals in the win, while sophomore Jacob Hansen added two goals and Manny Lopez another. IMSA (0-10-1) scored with 30 seconds left to spoil the shutout.

“Toni has really organized the back, especially keeping together a younger group,” St. Joseph coach Stan Niemiec said. “He’s got to be the man back there and he’s playing really well.

“He’s got a lot of speed and has learned to read the game. You can’t teach speed and it really makes him a better player. He knows how to be in the right places at the right time. He’s able to anticipate what’s going to happen on the field.”

Orozco is a three-sport athlete at St. Joseph, also playing basketball and volleyball, but soccer is his passion.

He has benefited from the fact that Niemiec and assistant coach Kyle Boekeloo were both sweepers during their playing careers.

“They’ve shown me the ropes, given me tips and taught me the proper techniques in how to defend,” Orozco said. “They’ve been a great help. I feel a lot of pressure back there, but I’m used to it. My other defenders have done a great job of helping me out. I just try to direct and be a leader. We all have to be on the same page.”

His teammates have faith in Orozco as well.

“He’s the defender I trust the most,” Aceves said. “I like having him back there because he talks and moves the whole team around and helps organize us. I’ve known him for years and he’s one of my good friends. He’s a really good guy and good teammate.”

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