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Three former Morton stars join forces on UIC men's soccer team

Morton boys soccer wasn’t able to recreate the 2011 state title last fall, but three former Mustangs are reuniting in college to try to recreate that success on the national level.

Joel Salmeron, one of the stars of the 2011 run, is heading into his sophomore year for the University of Illinois-Chicago’s soccer team. As a freshman he played in 15 matches, made three starts and scored three goals. This fall, he will be joined by former Mustang teammates Joel Leon and Abel Guzman.

Leon, a defender, was one of the captains alongside Salmeron in 2011. Guzman, a forward, returned to the field last fall for Morton after missing two years because of a torn meniscus. The Morton trio will bring local flavor to the Flames.

“We’ve been playing [together] since we were 7 and you could notice that in high school when we won state in 2011,” Leon said. “I think it’s going to help us because we built a team chemistry on and off the field. We’ve become more than friends. We’re family.”

Leon’s schedule has been filled with various club tours since the high school season ended. As a member of the Chicago Fire Academy, he played out that season throughout the spring and even made four appearances with the Chicago Fire Reserves, where he played with professional players. He then headed into summer club ball with elite club team Raiders FC, where he plays under one of UIC’s assistant coaches.

Guzman still was readjusting to his return from injury in the fall, but he signed with UIC in the spring. It was close to him, and knowing Salmeron on the team helped sway his decision.

“He was just a good teammate of mine,” Guzman said of Salmeron. “When I was a freshman I looked up to him.”

Both Leon and Guzman spoke about how talent-rich Berwyn and Cicero are. That breeding ground has led to Morton’s success and the individual success of Leon, Guzman and Salmeron.

“Everywhere you go you see a ball and kids developing their skills,” Leon said. “They may not always have the height, but they have great talent.”

The Morton trio has won together before and they want to do so again.

“I’ve got four chances to win a national championship and that’s all I really want,” Guzman said.

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