CHEYENNE – Vince Gibson knew that if his Laramie County Community College men’s soccer team could get scoring from players other than its strikers, it was going to make a run at its third consecutive National Junior College Athletic Association tournament berth.
“We have plenty of people behind those guys, we just need them to get up and shoot and attack,” Gibson said. “We needed more shooters. Teams know who our shooters are, so we needed more guys to become scorers.”
Enter Carlos Vargas.
The Heber City, Utah, product dished out 10 assists as a freshman, which was second-most on an LCCC team that reached its first NJCAA tournament in program history. Vargas also netted five goals that season.
However, Vargas scored just three goals and assisted on two others during the Golden Eagles’ 2020-21 campaign that was pushed into the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I wasn’t very confident last season,” Vargas said. “I wasn’t there mentally when it came to shooting. I wasn’t pulling the trigger like I needed to.”
“I told myself it was something I needed to work on, and it was something (Gibson) told me I needed to work on.”
Gibson told Vargas he had the green light to shoot whenever the opportunity presented itself.
Vargas has rewarded his coach’s faith by scoring 12 goals and assisting on two others to help LCCC finish the regular season 12-1-1 overall (6-0-1 Region IX) and climb to No. 6 in the NJCAA rankings. Vargas’ goals total is five more than the Eagles second-leading scorer.
The style of play Vargas adopted during his career year was possible, but he had to overcome his natural inclinations, Gibson said.
“He wants to do the dirty work, pass to someone and let them get the glory,” the coach said. “I gave him the green light, and he has gone out and done his thing.”
Vargas’ newfound aggressive approach was apparent from LCCC’s opening match this season. He took six shots and scored two goals – including the game-winner – during a 3-2 overtime victory against Iowa Lakes on Aug. 19.
Vargas’ breakout year has come as no surprise to his teammates. They have seen his investment to becoming a better scorer firsthand.
“He has been really focused and worked even harder this year,” sophomore midfielder Roger Ibarra said. “He has been working in extra sessions with (goalkeepers coach Kay Olivas) all the time. They are doing things that have helped him get into position to score.”
Vargas and Olivas have worked on one-on-one matchups and shooting away from the goalkeeper, Vargas said.
“I’m a winger, so we’ve done a lot of things wingers do,” he said. “It’s all about getting those repetitions, and it’s a lot about finishing.
“She has introduced me to drills I’ve never seen. I try to figure out what we’re doing based on what I see on the field, but I’m usually nowhere close. There’s always some drill that you’ve never seen, but it’s helpful and you don’t get bored of it.”
Vargas’s older brother, Cesar, played for Gibson and LCCC during the 2013 and ’14 campaigns. Carlos wasn’t on Gibson’s radar until Cesar pointed Gibson in his direction during a showcase event in Las Vegas.
“I have to thank my brother for asking coach Gibson to come watch me play and helping me get in touch with coach Gibson,” Vargas said. “(Cesar) told me I would like playing for coach Gibson, and I really have.”
The Vargas brothers have similar playing styles, Gibson said.
“They can play from keeper to forward, defender, midfielder, you name it, and they can play it because they just know the game,” Gibson said. “They have a strong left foot and a strong right foot, and they can attack.
“I know Carlos thinks of himself as a defensive guy, but we needed him to blossom on the attacking side, and he has.”