CM7: A Captain, A Finisher

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What makes a good striker? While you want your number nine to score goals, the position breaks down into much more. You have your target forwards who like to receive the ball on their feet, backs to goal, and with opportunities to create or score. There is also your line-breaking center-forwards always looking to make that final run past the opposition defense. While the combination of those two styles of forwards can be deadly, the modern game often calls for one striker that can do it all, and Cesar Mexia of FC Arizona fits that mold.

“Well I'm not a typical number nine, but I'm not a number ten either. I'm kind of in between. I like to move around in the box, check for the ball, and dribble if I can; a finisher definitely.”

Cesar has always been a finisher. In 2007 he set the Paradise Valley Community College single season goal record, scoring 27 goals; a record still held by Cesar to this day. In that same season he would also be named to the National Junior College Athletic Association All-American Second Team.

In 2008 he would take a big step in his career by turning pro and signing with Dorados de Sinaloa, a Mexican club playing in the Segunda Division, currently the third tier of Mexican soccer. That stint with Dorados would only last one season. After nine appearances and only one goal, it was time for a change of scenery. In 2009, Cesar signed with Buhos de Hermosillo of the Tercera Division, where he played for three seasons, scoring 12 goals in 33 matches.

The Arizona Native signed with FC Arizona in December of 2016 and quickly became a leader within his locker room. “I've always been a team player.  I always play hard for any team I'm on, especially playing for my home team in Arizona, it always feels good to play at home. These two years with FC Arizona have been really fun.”

In 2017 FC Arizona was crowned champion of the NPSL Southwestern Conference, with Cesar at the tip of the spear. FC Arizona would go undefeated that year with a record of 12-0-4. “We had a really good team with experienced players [in 2017]. In the [2018 season] we weren't so young, I felt like I had to step up my game to stay at the same level we were at in the previous season. I like to win: no matter who we play, or who my teammates are. I've always had that [mentality] since I was young. I try to help my team any way I can, it's not just scoring, it's about pressuring without the ball. I always tell my team, the defense starts with me up top. I'm not there to just score goals.”

On the pitch Cesar is a fierce competitor; his ability to exploit open space, find the ball and finish, led him to become the joint NPSL Southwestern Conference goal-scoring leader, scoring 10 goals in 12 games (a goals per game average of .833). Off the field, Cesar was humble and spoke about his role within the team, showing his true captain spirit.

“Everywhere you look there are guys that can score, but sometimes they don't have that mentality to help the team in other ways, besides scoring.”

Cesar also has a knack for scoring important goals, helping earn vital points.

3/24 FC Arizona vs. ASC San Diego (3-3)

Cesar scored a hat-trick, earning a draw against the eventual Southwestern champions. His performance would get national recognition as he was named the NPSL Player of the Week.

4/14 FC Arizona vs. Riverside Coras FC (1-0)

His fourth goal of the season defeated the traveling Coras, earning his club a vital three points.

5/19 Oxnard Guerreros FC vs. FC Arizona (0-1)

Another lone goal for Cesar, this time after a 300+ mile road trip. This matchup was revenge for the previous encounter with OGFC, where FC Arizona lost at home 1-0.

6/2 FC Arizona vs. Temecula FC (6-0)

Cesar only scored one goal in this destruction of the Quails, but like an old-fashioned war hero, Cesar led the charge by scoring in the first minute of play.

6/10 Riverside Coras FC vs. FC Arizona (1-4)

The hat-trick hero reappeared once more to help clinch a spot in the NPSL Southwestern Conference Playoff play-in round.

Only one of Cesar's ten goals did not contribute to a positive result. He is a clutch striker, scoring when it matters. And that's always a skill that stands out.

“I don't think [finishing] is something you can teach, but I always find a way to get in the right place. Obviously, working during the week influences how we play.”

If you read my NPSL SW season review you know that Cesar, along with his Golden Boot compatriot Amani Walker, were left off the Conference XI; an award given to the top eleven players in the conference that season. Even Cesar will tell you that goals aren't everything, but his ability to influence the game deserves some recognition.

“It's always nice to be recognized with the best players in the conference, but for me it's not the most important thing. I get opinions from different coaches and different people about the type of player I am. Their opinions matter more than any statistic. Whether I score ten goals or five, I take more from what coaches tell me.”

The 2018 season fell short of expectations, but winning was always Cesar's goal. His desire to win drove him to play in every match. He traveled approximately 2,300 miles and logged 1,054 minutes, only 26 minutes shy of a complete season. He wore the captain's armband proudly, always leaving everything on the pitch.

“Cesar has been our top goalscorer the past two years. He has been a constant, and steady presence both on and off the field. He has shown some of the younger guys the right way to conduct themselves. I really think highly of him,” says Scott Taylor, the Owner and General Manager of FC Arizona.

So what's next for FC Arizona star striker? Cesar continues to challenge himself and his game, maybe even one day propelling him back to the professional level, but this Arizona native is enjoying playing in front of his hometown.

“My number one priority is to come back to FC Arizona. I'm keeping my options open, but Arizona is number one on my list.”

In the lower tiers of American soccer we often discuss the clubs, communities and cultures that are making a difference in our country’s sport. While those stories always have an impact, they are often built off players like Cesar. While his play may not have been rewarded by the league, it's been noticed by his coaches, teammates, and even rivals.

“I want to be a winner, I always push to win.”

He is a winner.

- Steven Ramirez

Lola Vaughn