For the second year in a row, the Soccer America Men's Player of the Year is a Louisianan.
Last year it was Maryland's Jason Garey
Gonzales, located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The 2006 recipient is Notre Dame junior Joseph Lapira
, from Lake Charles in Acadiana.
Nicknamed the "Ragin' Cajun" by Irish coach Bobby Clark
when he attended the Notre Dame soccer camp while in high school, Lapira played the 2006 season with
a meniscus tear in his knee -- an injury suffered in Notre Dame's opening game against UAB -- but that didn't stop him from having a breakout season. He led the country in scoring with 22 goals and
He put on one of the greatest performances by a visiting player in the long history of Indiana's Armstrong Stadium, scoring four goals in a 5-4 overtime win over the Hoosiers
over Labor Day weekend.
In October, he went on a scoring tear that included two goals in five straight games and goals in seven games in a row.
Lapira's knee injury limited his
practice time late in the season, but he had the two biggest goals of the season in the NCAA Tournament. He scored in the 1-0 victory over UIC in the second round and struck the golden goal that
knocked off defending champion Maryland, 1-0, in the third round. The Irish's quarterfinal finish was the best in their history.
Although Lapira had decent freshman and sophomore seasons
-- with three goals and seven goals, respectively -- no one would have predicted he would break out like he did as a junior. Clark credits Lapira's hustle around the goal for his ability to create
multiple chances for himself. Lapira, who finished with 11 game-winning goals, says a positive attitude kept him from getting down like he did in previous seasons when he missed chances.