There are fewer than five must-watch boys soccer players in Section 1.
And Hamilton's Melvin Huaman is at the top of that list.
"He's one of the best players I've coached in a very, very long time," Hamilton coach Robert Segaloff said.
The 5-4, 120-pound central midfielder plays with an unmistakable flair, possessing supernatural powers when it comes to dribbling and holding onto the ball. Watching Huaman weave in and out of defenders, it almost looks like there's Krazy Glue smeared on his cleats.
According to Segaloff, Huaman's skills were honed on a slab of asphalt outside of Hamilton High School. Players square off on the blacktop in fast-paced pickup games.
"It is very close quarters," the coach said. "There will be a bunch of them playing and it is really tight and really close. There's constant pressure on you, so you have to develop the ability to handle it."
While the impromptu pickup games certainly helped sharpen Huaman's touch, he was also born with innate talent.
"(Huaman) always had the ability to dribble since he was young," Raiders senior goalie Mark Larios said. "That was one of his best skills. You can never take the ball away from him."
The untouchable foot skills are impossible to miss, but Huaman's uncanny instincts on the pitch are what set him apart from the competition.
"I see a lot of foot skills on the field at the high school level, but they don't always translate into success," Segaloff said. "You need a little more. Knowing how to possess the ball, shield it and how to handle it in traffic and then having the field awareness and understanding of where the play is going. He's basically able to predict where the play is going."
Despite being the smallest player on the pitch, Huaman always comes away with the ball.
"He goes hard — that's about it," Larios said. "He tries harder than anyone else. He's hungry for the ball and very strong for his size."
In 2011-12, Huaman fortified Hamilton's midfield, acting as the lead playmaker on Section 1 Class C's most dominant squad. The Raiders captured their sectional crown in 29 years and advanced to the NYS regional finals before suffering a double-overtime loss to Long Island's Port Jefferson. Huaman registered six goals and six assists to earn all-section honors and was named to MSG Varsity's All-Westchester/Hudson Valley second team.
Looking ahead to this season, it will be a little different for Huaman and Hamilton. No longer under the radar, there will be some added expectations and pressure.
Teammate Jesus Gonzalez, who has known Huaman since he moved to America from Peru at age 8, wasn't the least bit concerned.
"Melvin's been my friend since elementary school," Gonzalez said. "He's a pretty amazing player. We play on the same club and he's definitely gotten better. There are a lot of expectations for him, but I know he's going to make it far. He loves what he does and is making a name for himself."
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Follow Isaac Cass on Twitter @MSGV_Icass