Exchange students Lopez, Fuchs provide spark for Arlington
ARLINGTON — Sometimes a slice of something different can invigorate a group.
The Arlington boys and girls soccer teams know that for a fact, as a pair of exchange students have made quite the impression on the Division IV soccer power.
Barcelona native Alberto Lopez and German exchange student Lilith Fuchs have fit in well for the Eagles and figure to be critical pieces as the playoff season approaches.
Lopez joined the Arlington boys early in the preseason and quickly fit in with the group.
"This group of kids is very accepting of our exchange students. We've had several over the years," said Eagles coach Todd Wilkins. "He fit right in and the team immediately became friends with him. He showed his ability on the soccer field and that helped them accept him onto the team even quicker."
Lopez has made a huge difference throughout Arlington's 9-3-1 campaign, with 12 goals, good for second on the team. The Spanish midfielder has four multi-goal games, with his best effort coming against Windsor, where he had three goals in an 8-0 win. Lopez's ability to move the ball to the right spots is a huge strength as well.
"[Alberto] has tremendous speed and great ball-handling ability," Wilkins said. "He has a great ability to see the whole field. As a coach, you can be yelling to your players to see the angle through ball and you don't need to yell that to Alberto. He just sees it."
For Lopez, he's had to adjust to the style of Vermont soccer, which is much different than what he's used to in Spain. His European style has rubbed off on some of his teammates and it's made everyone better.
"He's worked well with Matt Ritchie in the middle," Wilkins said. "It's helped Matt be a little more free in the middle and do some good things. We've had to adapt to Alberto, but he's had to adapt to Vermont high school soccer. He can't carry the ball as much as he'd like to. It has to be more of a passing game."
Arlington's exchange student player last fall, goalie Linus Bialojan, was critical in the Eagles winning their first state championship since 1995.
His effort to keep a dominant West Rutland offense off the scoreboard in the D-IV title game cannot be understated.
Arlington has always had exchange student players, but across the last few years, the players have been real difference-makers.
"They're always really great kids, but never did I get phenomenal soccer players [in the past]," Wilkins said. "We get Linus last year and Alberto this year, these last few years have been huge, not only soccer-wise, but team-wise. They bring a different atmosphere to the kids and a different perspective that really helps our players come together."
Lilith Fuchs started off her play with the Arlington girls a bit slow, not scoring through the Eagles' first five games.
She scored her first goal in a tight 5-4 loss to rival Proctor midway through the year, and since that day, has been an absolute standout for Arlington, who is 7-5 on the year.
"In Germany, they weren't allowed to have more than three touches ever and they emphasized the pass no matter where the girls are on the field," said Arlington girls coach Aaron Wood. "That's a very effective way of soccer, but at our level, when you have a playmaker, you want her on the front third to score. That's a little bit more of the United States soccer mindset."
Fuchs has a pair of hat tricks to her name and is one of three Eagles players with a double digit goal output.
"As she's gotten more and more aggressive, our offense has just thrived," Wood said. "She knows where the ball should be played. We knows soccer very well and her soccer IQ is very high. It's been a really welcome addition to our team because we lost a high soccer IQ player in Tess Belnap."
Fuchs has improved her English throughout her time with the Eagles and fit in well to the tight-knit group.
"Within a couple of days, there was a team dinner and it was very obvious that her and the team would assimilate really well," Wood said. "Her relationship with a lot of girls on the team is really strong."
Wood can't remember the last time the Arlington girls program has had an exchange player on its team. During his three-year tenure, and his father Dan's tenure as coach, the Eagles haven't had that luxury.
"Every year, the boys get at least one player that can play, whether it was the goalie last year or Alberto this year," Wood said. "For the girls, we've never had that. It was nice to get an extra piece that you weren't counting on."
Adam Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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