Former Panther goalie Jiminez a good fit with Eagles
MANCHESTER – It’s a natural fit.
When you think about it, the marriage of former Nashua High School South and current Salem State goaltender Chris Jiminez and the Eagles of the International Soccer Club of Nashua was bound to happen.
After all, Jiminez played for Eagles co-owner/general manager Jared Barbosa when Barbosa was the South head coach.
“I’ve been with Jared through the entire (Eagles) transition,” Jiminez said. “I’m just glad I was able to have this opportunity. I wish I had this opportunity when I was in high school or middle school. But I’m just glad to be able to give back to the community, that sort of aspect.”
Jiminez is the No. 2 goalie on the Eagles, backing up starter Kyle Connolly. But Connolly had been away in Europe for three weeks, so Jiminez got some starts.
“You’ve got to think the thing about Chris is he’s a superstar at the collegiate level,” Barbosa said. “He’s led his team to championships. And what he provides when he’s serving as backup to Kyle, you can see him amping his team up and supporting his team.
“That’s one of the best things about him. Him showing that is immense growth, for how long I’ve known him. Immense. Absolutely immense. He’s been big-time.”
Jiminez, who had a goals against of 0.77 in 18 games at Salem State last fall, loves an early look at the next level of his sports.
“I think it just kind of motivates me to see that there’s actually programs out there that are helping (soccer players) move forward and play at the highest level,” Jiminez said. “There’s men’s leagues all around New Hampshire, but this allows me as a college student and college graduates to still play at a very high competitive level – and represent New Hampshire while doing it.”
“I think I’ve played well,” Jiminez said. “It just comes down to the communication of players coming in. It’s just kind of difficult, new players, we have different lineups.”
What does Jiminez think of the quality of play?
“I think the quality is very competitve for the most part,” he said. “Obviously there’s some outliers, but for the most part, everyone plays at a high level, everyone gives their all. It’s not like you see teams getting blown out. Every game is close.”
Jiminez said the intensity mirrors what he’s seen at Salem State.
“It brings me back to my college playing time,” Jiminez said. “Over at Salem State we were always competing for titles. I like that. We still keep that same competitive edge here at International.”
Jiminez graduated from Nashua South in 2016, and spurned then Daniel Webster College coach Matt Correia’s recruiting efforts as he wanted to go away to school, and instead chose Southern Vermont University.
He played well in a game vs. the Eagles, and when he made it known he wanted to leave Southern Vermont, DWC had since closed and Correia was the head man at Salem State.
“I was one of the first guys on (Correia’s) list,” Jiminez said.
Success has always followed him. The Vikings won their conference title his first season there in 2017, and after a penalty kick loss in this past year’s tourney, he has one more season to go.
He loves playing for Correia at Salem State.
“I love that guy,” Jiminez said. “He certainly knows how to fire us up. He knows exactly – as long as we listen to him and follow the game plan, then we’re set to make sure we win the game. It just comes down to execution.”
He certainly feels he’s a better goalie now than he was back a few years ago.
“Definitely, definitely,” he said. “Obviously playing at a high competitive level definitely helps out. It’s always good to play with guys who also know what they’re doing. Here at International I love what I have, defenders that are just as gritty as the ones at Salem State. I love just keeping that competitive edge.”
Jiminez knows he can be better, however.
“I personally think I need to make improvements in my communication and my decision making when it comes to coming out for crosses,” he said. “I’m obviously on the shorter end (he’s 5-9) of goalkeeping. So it just comes down to making sure my agility is there.”
And being a backup isn’t something he’s used to, but he’s done it well.
“Chris is growing,” Eagles assistant coach Lucas Hill said. “He’s growing, his game is there. He’s got really good hands, as he works on his communication and knowing that back line – it’s a tale of two keepers, everyone’s different and you have to adjust.
“But in that (backup) role, he’s always ready for us when we need it. Being a starter vs. backup goalkeeper is a tough job. If you’re a left back (and get hurt or tired), there’s another one to get on the field. Keeper, it’s in our head, you have to wait. And he’s done a good job filling in when we need it and we have confidence in both keepers.”
Jiminez, as a Nashua guy, can’t wait until next season when Nashua gets a chance to see the Eagles again. They’re playing at Manchester Memorial High School now due to construction at Rivier University.
“I really believe, this is just our second year, kind of the transition year,” he said. “We’re still getting the word out to everyone else around New Hampshire. But I think defintely by year three we should actually have followers and the top players in New Hampshire actually representing our team.”
That will draw more crowds, he thinks.
“That’s what it comes down to,” Jiminez said. “Just getting the best players from New Hampshire on one team, and really showcasing what New Hampshire’s all about.”
And Chris Jiminez is hoping to be one of those players.