Maycol Nunez, the Washington-Lee striker who can’t be stopped, trotted casually toward the sideline, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.
The T.C. Williams goalkeeper remained lying on the turf, his hesitant laughter acting as a coping mechanism for the shock that wouldn’t let him up. Splayed alongside him was a veteran defender, his head still buried in his hands. He fought back tears for Senior Day hopes that lay in tatters, scattered behind the kid who made his way to the bench with a full 25 minutes left to play.
Nunez’s third goal of the day — his sixth hat trick of the season — gave the Generals a 4-0 lead they wouldn’t relinquish in Tuesday’s non-conference affair. The goal cemented Washington-Lee’s first undefeated regular season, a feat riding behind the most outrageous scoring clip the area’s high school soccer scene has witnessed in recent memory.
Heading into Friday’s Conference 6 tournament opener against Hayfield, Nunez has 28 goals and 10 assists to his name. The next-highest goal total among the area’s Division 6 teams? West Springfield senior Kyle Petitt with 11. Yorktown, the No. 2 seed in Conference 6, has scored 25 goals this season as a team.
“My mindset is just to win, and the goals just come from working hard,” said Nunez, who arrived to the U.S. four years ago from his native Honduras. “I just play the game.”
Whatever his mindset, you couldn’t blame Nunez for starting to think about breaking records after he racked up four goals in the season opener against Marshall and three in the next game against Lee. His 16th goal came in a 3-0 win against Westfield on April 11, just the team’s eighth game of the season. That two-goal-per-game pace never relented, as his 28 goals have come in a 14-game span.
The state’s all-time single-season scoring record belongs to Patrick Burns of Alleghany High, but the 52 goals he scored last year came against smaller schools that now belong in Division 3A in Southwest Virginia. To find a comparable figure, you have to go back to Michael Lahoud, the Philadelphia Union midfielder who tallied 23 regular-season goals for W.T. Woodson in 2005. Lahoud went on to score 12 more in the playoffs that year, yet another benchmark for Nunez to target.
Nunez, a sophomore who turned 17 last month, scored seven goals as a freshman on the varsity squad last season. Already a two-time State Cup champion with his Arlington Strikers U17 club team, he says he’s more comfortable with his teammates and with high school soccer in general this spring.
It also helps to have all the physical parts of a goal-scoring machine. Standing only at about 5-foot-5 — the same height as Argentine legend Diego Maradona, by the way — his low center of gravity and sturdy frame make it difficult to knock him off the ball. It’s also hard to keep him away from the ball, as his deceptive quickness and high motor form a lethal combination with his keen nose for the goal. His grandfather always used to compare him to Brazil’s Ronaldo, while his coaches currently liken him to Liverpool sensation Luis Suarez.
“He’s not a typical forward,” said Mo Tayari, his Arlington Strikers coach. “Not only can he score goals, he can create opportunities in any situation. I can put him anywhere on the field because he’s comfortable with the ball and taking players on. He’s got a confidence that you don’t see in a lot of players.”
Washington-Lee coach Jimmy Carrasquillo, now in his 15th year with the Generals, admits he’s mentored few talents with Nunez’s potential. Other than fine-tuning his ball skills, he says coaching Nunez mostly involves maintaining his awareness at the top of the Generals’ attack.
“It’s all about if he’s having frustration with the ball, how to stay within the game and just being aware of his positional play,” said Carrasquillo, a former All-Met who played at Wakefield before a two-year stint with the University of Maryland. “We talk about always having his back to the goal, about getting wide and where we want him to get the ball. He’s open to that because he understands he hasn’t reached the level where he wants to be.”
Of course, Nunez’s blistering production this season comes with a caveat: Washington-Lee (11-0-3) has played a relatively soft schedule. Only two of the teams it’s beaten this year currently carry winning records, and even T.C. Williams (11-2) might have been relaxing a bit knowing it had already secured the No. 1 seed in Conference 7.
If Nunez wants to keep up his torrid pace against the stiffer competition ahead, he better not rest on his laurels. Neither should the rest of his teammates.
“We cannot depend just on him. We can’t be a one-trick pony,” Carrasquillo said. “They know that [other teams] are going to try to man-mark him and shut him down, so if he doesn’t score then what are we going to do? Other players have to step up.”