Interacting in person, High Point High School’s Edwin Claros is a shy, soft-spoken 16-year-old with a sheepish grin.
Interacting on the soccer pitch, he’s a technically sound force who causes headaches for the opposing team.
Just ask Walter Johnson coach Mike Williams.
The Wildcats’ leader is one of the more well-respected boys’ soccer coaches in Montgomery County and has crafted the program into a perennial powerhouse. Last year, Walter Johnson was undefeated before losing to Bowie in the 4A state championship game.
Following WJ’s 3-0 season-opening victory against High Point on Friday, one Eagles player stuck out to the veteran coach.
“That No. 10 [Claros] for them is unbelievable. That kid can play. He himself caused so much danger,” Williams said. “There were times we covered for each other in there, but we’re going to need to do that a lot better for us to do well this season.”
Claros, a senior who’s wearing the captain’s armband for the first time this season, doesn’t stand out as a vocal leader, but it’s something he’s working to improve.
“It’s a big responsibility. Since I’m a senior, I have to lead the other players,” Claros said. “I’m not really the type of person that talks a lot, but you have to change that a little and have to speak up more. And I can’t be lazy. If I’m lazy, that would give the team the green light to have them be lazy, too. I have to do everything right.”
Claros does, however, stand out as a tactical leader. Given his success in the Prince George’s County 4A League last season (21 goals, four assists), he has become a marked man. Literally. Even against Walter Johnson, the Wildcats’ shape collapsed around Claros to ensure his playmaking wouldn’t result in easy strikes for the Eagles.
“Some players from last year told me that this year they’re going to have two players on me, man-marking,” said Claros, who has been playing soccer since he was 6. “I hope they don’t, but if they do, we’ll have other players open.
“I’m going to try my best and do what I can for the team. I don’t care about the awards, I want to at least make a run for states because it’s my last year.”
At the end of the high school season last year, Claros tried out for the Club América U-17 side in Mexico City. Although Claros ultimately didn’t end up with the Liga MX club despite being one of 16 players to make the cut from roughly 150 participants, that didn’t deter him from making a return trip to Mexico.
During the summer, he traveled to Guadalajara and tried out with youth programs for Estudiantes Tecos and Atlas. Tecos currently plays in Liga de Ascenso while Atlas is a member of Liga MX. Unfortunately, Claros didn’t make his trip to Mexico until a majority of the clubs’ rosters were completed and he, essentially, arrived too late to make either team.
International tryouts aside, based on his skill set and soccer mind alone, Claros is arguably the top player in the Prince George’s County public school ranks this season. The 5-foot-8, 135-pound midfielder, who grew up in New York and whose parents are from El Salvador, will play with his younger brother, Jonathan, for the second consecutive season. Jonathan, a sophomore backup goalkeeper, said Edwin has the skills to take the Eagles deep into the playoffs.
“It’s pretty obvious that he’s a great player,” Jonathan said. “If you give him some space, he can really do something with the ball. It’s an advantage for the whole team.”
As far as his continuing work at the captain’s role?
“He’s a pretty shy person around people, but I see him more as he’s stepping up,” Jonathan said. “He’s putting the shyness apart from his own role as captain. He’s doing great at the start.”
Claros, who currently plays with the club team Calverton Revolution, is unsure whether he’ll attempt to play college soccer or seek out more opportunities in Mexico after high school.
“He could do it, he’s just got to work hard,” Jonathan said. “He already has had a lot of opportunities. Coaches know who he is. I think he can play at the next level.”