He’s always two steps ahead of everyone else. He makes it look simple and maintains the fluidity of the game, which makes the game beautiful. A big part of our state championship was having him in the middle. – Maple Mountain coach Mike Klauck
SPANISH FORK — It was easy to pick out Aidan Dayton on the soccer field this season, and not just because of his blond afro.
The Maple Mountain junior midfielder was usually the most confident, most composed and most talented whenever he stepped onto the field. That wasn’t always the case.
When Dayton didn’t make the premier team in his club as an 11-year-old, the initial disappointment was followed by the hunger to get better. So day after day after day, he worked on getting better with the ball.
When the weather was bad outside, he’d spend countless hours in the basement banging the ball off the wall and working on his touch after the rebound.
The following season he earned a spot on the premier team in his club and was one of the best players. He’s been one of the best ever since, and this season Dayton dominated the midfield for Maple Mountain in leading the school to its first 4A state championship, earning Deseret News Mr. Soccer honors in the process.
“He’s always two steps ahead of everyone else. He makes it look simple and maintains the fluidity of the game, which makes the game beautiful,” said Maple Mountain coach Mike Klauck. “A big part of our state championship was having him in the middle.”
At his holding midfield position, Dayton was at the core of everything the Golden Eagles did. Offensively his passing and distribution was superb, and he could spring a teammate forward with one pass. Defensively, he made a very good backline even better by sitting and making Maple Mountain virtually impossible to beat.
Maple Mountain finished the season with a 19-1 record, and in the state tournament it didn’t give up a goal in four games en route to the title. The team’s dominance in possession was a key all season.
“We weren’t really focusing on our defense, but we were focusing on how we could keep the ball,” said Dayton, who finished the season with nine goals and 16 assists.
Whenever Dayton would win a ball, or receive a ball in a tight spot, he was always trying to find a way to pass his way out of the situation instead of pumping the ball forward or out of bounds and conceding possession.
“It’s crucial to have that quality of a player with the mindset he has on the knowledge of the game in that position,” said Klauck.
That knowledge isn’t an accident. He’s been a student of the game since he was in junior high, and is always trying to watch his following holding midfielders to improve his craft. Locally with Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman, he’s one of the best in the country to watch up close.
Overseas, he rarely misses an opportunity to watch Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos or Bayern Munich's Xabi Alonso when their games are on TV.
“Their simplicity is something I try and replicate in my game,” said Dayton.
Before dominating during his junior season, Dayton spent his sophomore season at the Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy in Casa Grande, Arizona. He enjoyed the experience, but said he wanted to be closer to family and friends this season.
Dayton isn’t sure if he’ll play high school soccer his senior season. He’s hoping to graduate early, which would allow him to leave on an LDS mission early or play a season of college soccer at UVU before leaving on his mission.
If this season was his lone high school season, he went out on a very high note with a state championship. Klauck said he’s just as impressed with Dayton’s humility through it all.
“Even with all the individual awards and accolades he’s received, he’s the first to point out that it takes 11 players to succeed at this game. He’s very humble,” said Klauck.
James Edward is the Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: email@example.com