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Friedland Put Sweeping on Higher Plane

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The most athletic player on the field isn’t always the best player. But with Woodbridge’s Kevin Friedland, that is usually the case.

Friedland, barely 5 feet 7, can’t quite dunk a basketball. But his 36-inch, two-footed vertical jump and his fearless style of play enabled him to dominate a lot of soccer games this season. One of the county’s top marking backs last season as a junior, Friedland was moved to sweeper this season by Woodbridge Coach Jon Szczuka.

Friedland not only thrived in his new position, he redefined it. He scored 11 goals--mainly on headers from set plays--had eight assists--mostly on headers back across the goal to wide-open teammates--and contributed greatly to goalkeeper Doug Allan’s 20 shutouts by consistently sweeping away opponents’ scoring opportunities.

“This was Kevin’s time to be the man,” said Irvine Coach Rich Breza, who coached Friedland at Woodbridge for three seasons and at the club level for a year. “Last year, he did all the grunt work. This year, he kind of took over.”

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Friedland is The Times Orange County boys’ soccer player of the year.

“He’s probably the best athlete I’ve ever seen play high school soccer,” said Breza, a defender for the A-League Zodiac. “He can recover from almost any mistake because of his athleticism.”

Friedland owes much of his success to Szczuka, who allowed him to freelance throughout games.

"[Coach] let me go pretty much,” Friedland said. “I got to go up on the corner kicks. I did all the throw-ins and I took penalty shots. I was kind of like a utility player.”

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He was also kind of like an acrobat.

Allan said he still marvels at a play Friedland made in the first round of this season’s playoffs against Loara.

“Ashkan Moayedi hit a corner kick to the other side of the net that the goalkeeper was set to catch,” Allan said. “Then, Kevin comes out of nowhere to head the ball out of the keeper’s hands and into the net. His head was above a 6-foot-tall keeper’s hands. I just said, ‘How did he get that?’ ”

Friedland often had opponents’ question his jumping ability.

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“A lot of times, people that I jump over, think I foul them,” he said. “They look at me and wonder how someone like me can get to the ball without fouling them.”

Friedland’s biggest goal of the season, and his career, was also his most controversial. It came with four minutes left in the Southern Section Division II semifinals at Santa Barbara and gave the Warriors a 1-0 victory.

“I headed it off another player and there was a hole in the net, so a lot of people didn’t see it,” Friedland said. “The papers up there were calling it the phantom goal. If you want to call me ‘The Phantom,’ that’s fine.”

A game later, Friedland was calling himself a ‘section champion’ when Woodbridge defeated Riverside Poly, 1-0.

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