Brentwood midfielder Jefferson Portillo has garnered a reputation as one of the most talented high school soccer players in Suffolk. Just ask anyone who has seen him in action.
"He's unbelievably explosive and dynamic," Whitman coach John DiGiacomo said.
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"When you add the phenomenal work rate he has to his skill set," Commack coach Dave Moran said, "you get the complete package."StoryLong Island boys soccer rankings
Just don't ask Portillo himself.
"He's the most humble kid. Never speaks about his game," Brentwood coach Ron Eden said. "Confident, but humble."
The senior, who Eden calls a "once-in-a-lifetime player," simply lets his play do the talking.
"It's an honor, but you just have to take all the good comments and keep on working and stay focused," Portillo said. "You can't let it affect things. Don't think, 'Well now I can stop working.' If anything, it should push you more."
For Jefferson, all the intangibles are there, from impeccable footwork to precision passing. But his favorite part of his own game, the part he believes is most responsible for his success, is his ability to read the game.
"I'm always just trying to understand what's going on," said Portillo, who had 10 goals and 10 assists last year. "Trying to break down the defense, set my teammates up with passes.
"I've always loved soccer, even since a young age. So I think that being kind of a student of the game helps me."
He showed it in Brentwood's third game of the season, a 5-1 win over Patchogue-Medford. Portillo had a hand in four of his team's goals, with three assists and one goal.
"I love giving passes," Portillo said. "Setting up my teammates with through balls and creating space for other players, even when I don't have the ball. That's what I love doing."
This year, Portillo knows that's where Brentwood will count on him most. With a sparkling reputation comes added pressure, and he's already seen it in the form of double and triple teams as soon as he touches the ball.
No matter. Portillo welcomes the challenge.
"That gives me motivation even more," he said. "It pushes me more to keep working and to try to keep reaching the next level.
"That's what it's all about, as you get older, as you get better and improve, you know? You just have to keep challenging yourself and stay focused. Just continue to work hard, no matter what comes at you."