By BOB WOOD
Fast. Aggressive. Dedicated. These words seem to come up often when talking about the recent European addition to the Hood River Valley High School boys soccer team.
Lukas Berg is a 16-year-old exchange student from Wissen, Germany, and he is spending this year as a senior at HRVHS. So, to make his stay all the more enjoyable, he has been playing defense and midfield for the playoff-bound Eagles this fall.
“It’s been fun,” he said, “and it helps me stay in shape.”
Although Berg uses other sports such as snowboarding and windsurfing to keep up his conditioning, soccer is his true love.
After coming to another country and having his daily routine completely shaken up, Berg found that playing soccer helped him adapt to his new lifestyle, and his new community.
“It helps to get involved,” said Berg, who is staying with the Sassara family in Hood River. “You get to know more people that way.”
And with that attitude, Berg has had no problem finding his comfort zone in Hood River.
“He’s broken himself in gently and is fitting in very well,” said HRV boys head coach Doug Beveridge. “At first he was kind of shy, but he’s gotten to the point now where he’s making jokes.”
On top of having to learn a new culture and improve his English, Berg has also had to adapt to a different way of playing soccer.
“When he first started, he didn’t play like us,” said junior sweeper Sean Rawson. “He used a lot of short passes like they do in Germany. But now he’s got the long balls down, and he has learned how to play with us.”
After his shake-down period was over, Berg became a valuable asset to the HRV team, both as a defender and as a midfielder. And with the playoffs only one week away, the team is happy to have another weapon on the field.
“He’s quite fast, and that is good,” said Rawson. “He’s aggressive and goes for the ball. Sometimes the rest of us will relax. But he just goes for it.”
However, despite an advanced skill set, Berg has only been playing soccer for a relatively short time.
“My parents didn’t want me to play when I was younger,” he said. “Then, about three or four years ago, my friends invited me to come play with them, so I did.”
After only a few years, Berg has learned not only how to play the game, but also how to be a part of a team.
“If I’m not paying attention, he’s there,” said Rawson. “He knows the game, and he’s not afraid to tell people what’s not working. It’s great.”
All in all, Berg has made a positive impression in Hood River, and those he has interacted with have only the nicest things to say.
“If he has nothing to do, he’ll help pick up balls or chip in doing something,” said Beveridge. “He’s a good solid person, a positive influence, and a fine young man.”