After leading the Kean Men's Soccer team to victory in the Cialella Classic Tournament, sophomore Mateo Castro Arias was named New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, September 12, 2016.
A midfielder, Castro Arias was the tournament's defensive Most Valuable Player. He also helped out on the offensive side and scored the tournament-winning goal against Farmingdale State College off of a free kick.
Originally from Bogota, Colombia, Castro Arias moved to Elizabeth, N.J. last year to attend college. He commutes to Kean University and is currently majoring in business management.
With his dad being his greatest influence and supporter in soccer, Castro Arias strives to become a professional soccer player. He has been playing the game his since he was a little kid. The soccer player he looks up to most is Lionel Messi.
Castro Arias has played other sports like basketball in high school and volleyball, but he claims that they were only for fun, unlike soccer. His personal goals coincide with the teams goals for the season, and that is to make an appearance in the postseason.
"I just want to give everything I have to support the team so we can make it to the NCAA Tournament and win the NJAC first," Castro Arias said.
In his second year playing at Kean University, Castro Arias has experienced two different head coaches. Rob Irvine was the Head Coach last year, and now, previous Assistant Coach John Velasco is the interim Head Coach. Castro Arias spoke positively of his team's dynamic this season.
"Last year with Rob he wanted us to always play forward, and [Velasco] wants us to play more like to maintain the goal, to attack the weak sides," Castro Arias said. "I think that we have a better team this year because we got new players that are good, and I feel like we're going to do well this year."
His other interests include playing video games, but it is very clear that continuing his soccer career is his main focus and comes before everything else.
Having played soccer for most of his life in his home country, he can account for some differences in the way the game is played here.
"It's very different," Castro Arias said. "Colombian soccer [is] different from here, because in Colombia we play more and here it's more athletic."
With the success of the team so far and hard work from players like Mateo Castro Arias, the men's soccer program looks to be heading in a positive direction for the 2016 season.