A tall order for defenders

Whether he's scoring a goal or setting up his teammates for one, Arundel senior Justin Kondos gives opposing soccer teams fits due to his versatility and drive.

September 28, 2005|By GLENN P. GRAHAM | GLENN P. GRAHAM,SUN REPORTER

At 6 feet 4, Arundel senior forward Justin Kondos is hard to miss on a soccer field.

It's more than just his slender build, though, that warrants notice. He's fast and smooth and displays a poised confidence when he's on the ball, whether it's at his feet or in the air. And he always has company - one defender by his side with others often close by.

As one of the county's most dynamic offensive players, Kondos can score, assist or simply draw attention to free up teammates for chances - always doing something that gives defenses fits and helps the Wildcats win.

"He's someone you just worry about because he's so versatile," said Broadneck coach Sean Tettemer. "What I've seen about him is he's unselfish. He's just as willing to give up the ball as he is to score goals and get the glory. He does a tremendous job of setting the tempo for his team and he creates nightmares for people to match up against him."

After mostly playing center midfield for his first three years of high school, Kondos, a four-year starter, is now playing forward, his natural position since he started playing soccer as a youth.

During his first three years at Arundel, Kondos was asked to control the middle of the field. With experienced talent around him this season in midfielders Dave Cross and Brendan McCarron, and the addition of forward Jason McCarron, Kondos is now making an impact closer to the goal.

In the No. 14 Wildcats' 5-1 start entering the week, he has five goals and four assists, while the other three have combined for 14 goals and five assists.

"We all complement each other so well," said Kondos, a first-team All-County selection last season. "Brendan and Dave have stepped up at midfield and they've really made it easier for me. They take care of the midfield and I can do what I do ... . which is score goals."

Kondos uses all his tools to put away goals, whether it's his height advantage on headers or ball skills and speed when taking on defenders. And he never lets up.

"You've got to try extra hard at all times," Kondos said. "Even situations where a defender is just working the ball out of the back, you may come up with a steal and make an unexpected play that results with you one-on-one with the keeper. Making opportunities out of no opportunities is another key factor."

Kondos caught the soccer bug at an early age. He first picked up the sport at 5, when his family was living in England.

"That's where my passion for the sport came from," he said. "Over there, it's life. Every kid plays soccer."

During his middle school years, Kondos - whose father, Glen, works for the U.S. Department of Defense - lived in Australia, where he had a Scottish coach who helped him develop his fine touch with the ball.

"Being overseas, where these people live soccer, was a big influence on Justin," Glen Kondos said. "He was always big for his age and always pretty fast, so he picked it up pretty well. And when you're better than others your age, you naturally enjoy it and he's stuck with it."

Along with scoring 17 goals and dishing out 15 assists in three-plus seasons at Arundel, Kondos is an Olympic Development Program pool player who will join one of the country's finest club teams, the Baltimore-based Casa Mia Bays, later this fall.

Kondos previously played for the Freestate Dragons club team out of Bowie, leaving a positive impression with his coach, Dewan Bader. A former Baltimore Blast standout who is now a coaching director for a club team in North Carolina, Bader spent extra time with Kondos in personal training sessions that helped refine his offensive skills.

"He came to me wanting to do extra work, so that in itself says a lot as far as his work ethic. He truly wants to be a very good soccer player and he's doing whatever it takes to get there," Bader said.

Kondos worked on playing with his back to the goal as a target forward, and improved his dribbling skills to get by defenders and his shooting skills.

"The amazing thing was once it all started working, you could see his confidence grow and grow," Bader said. "He's so big and athletic and has the tools, anybody with that type of drive is going to be successful."

Arundel coach Nick Jauschnegg also has seen the growth of Kondos' game.

"The biggest change I've seen is the knowledge that he's acquired over the years. From a learning standpoint, a soccer-savvy standpoint - that's where he's made his biggest improvements," Jauschnegg said.

Kondos, who has a 3.8 grade point average, said he would like to follow his father's career path as a computer scientist. He's made official visits to Villanova and Princeton, and also is considering Georgetown and Penn.

For now, however, his main concern is getting Arundel deep into the playoffs this fall. Last year's 10-6-1 season had a roller-coaster ending, with the Wildcats getting past South River in the Class 4A East regional semifinal before falling to eventual state runner-up Old Mill, 3-2, in the regional final.

"Along with the best memory of beating South River in the semifinal goes the worse memory of losing to Old Mill in the final. I cried after that game," said Kondos, who also plays on Arundel's basketball team. "I think we have a great chance of winning the region this year. We're a complete team - we just have to go out and not take anyone lightly. Any team can come up and take it away from you at any time."

glenn.graham@baltsun.com

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