North Texas Daily

Junior forward emerges after sophomore slump

Junior forward emerges after sophomore slump

Junior forward emerges after sophomore slump
October 14
00:03 2014

Scott Sidway / Staff Writer

In the 2013 soccer season, sophomore forward Rachel Holden, then a freshman, was the main focus of the Mean Green offense and earned the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year award.

Fast-forward 14 games into the 2014 season, and it is junior forward Karla Pineda who has led the offense for the Mean Green. Pineda is leading the team in goals, with six, and assists, with five.

The sudden outburst in offensive proficiency has come off the heels of a sophomore slump for Pineda. In 2013, she only managed three goals and seven assists, which were down from her numbers as a freshman, when she scored seven goals and seven assists. Pineda said part of her struggles last season was low confidence.

“I just had a really bad year last year, so I wanted to play better this year,” Pineda said. “So that has motivated me a lot.”

Pineda is one of two North Texas soccer players not from the DFW Metroplex, which is part of the reason she lacked chemistry with her teammates. Since head coach John Hedlund recruits primarily local talent, the majority of Mean Green soccer players have previous history either playing on club teams together or competing against one another with their respective high schools.

Now that she is in her third year with North Texas, Pineda said she has become acclimated to the program after playing with lesser talent in her hometown of Houston.

“I wasn’t used to this whole thing. Where I used to play, they weren’t as good,” Pineda said. “The level was really low, so it was just different. It was really hard for me at the beginning, but now I’ve gotten used to it.”

With her confidence restored, Pineda’s natural abilities to manipulate the ball have emerged and proven to be a huge weapon for the Mean Green. Hedlund said that Pineda’s skills have made his team dangerous, especially on corner kicks.


Junior forward Karla Pineda drives toward the net on Aug. 22 during the season opener against Texas Southern University.

“She has incredible touch on the ball.  She can hit it with both feet. She can strike the ball in really different ways. She can get nice curve on a ball, and she can hit a power shot that knuckles,” Hedlund said. “In any direct kick or set piece situation, she can do so many different things with the ball, which gives us a high percentage of scoring.”

While Pineda has scored twice directly from the corner kick, she can also create opportunities for her teammates from the corner.

“Now we just need to find someone who can consistently receive that ball and put it in the back of the net,” Hedlund said. “That’s where defender [Kelsey] Hodges came up a lot and scored a lot on headers.”

Kelsey Hodges was the team’s second leading scorer last year, despite playing defender, because of her ability to connect on the header. Since Hodges graduated last year, a number of players have stepped up to fill the void, including junior midfielder Jackie Moreau.

Moreau connected on a header from a Pineda corner kick against the University of Texas – San Antonio last weekend and said that Pineda’s ball skills give the Mean Green a high chance of success from the corner.

“She can literally slice a ball through two defenders that are maybe two feet away,” Moreau said. “She can put a ball right through there. Also, the way she can hit a ball and put the curve on it and spin on it helps her get it in.”

Moreau and Pineda are roommates, which has improved their chemistry on the field. In the UTSA match, both North Texas goals came from the Moreau-Pineda connection, with each recording a goal and assist. Moreau said that discussing soccer with Pineda goes beyond the practice field.

“At home, we’ll talk about soccer and talk about, ‘Oh yeah, I wish I would have done this.’ So I am kind of learning her more on the field that way,” Moreau said. “Then when we come out here, we’re always together. We’re together at home and we’re together here, so we’re always learning how each other plays.”

Holden’s numbers have fallen this year due to teams consistently double-teaming her because of her success as a freshman. She said the defensive attention given to her has opened the door for others, including Pineda, to score.

“If I don’t score or do well, there are so many other people that can score. It’s not just me,” Holden said. “There’s Karla, [Marchelle Davis], Amber [Haggerty], the other forwards that can all score.”

Whether it is from set pieces in the corner, free kicks or playing aggressively in the field, Pineda’s unique offensive talent has contributed to the Mean Green’s success so far this season. Holden said Pineda’s talents are difficult to put into words.

“I don’t know. She’s just Karla,” Holden said. “Magical Karla.”

Featured Image: Junior forward Karla Pineda kicks the ball downfield during the home opener against Texas Southern University on  Aug. 22. Photo by Edward Balusek – Visuals Edtior

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