Godwin Heights — At last year’s soccer banquet, Athletic Director Brandon Kimble let it slip that there was one student from the school’s fall sports program who made an All-State team. That student was then-junior Henry Lopez-Pinedo.
“He said my name and I was surprised,” said Henry, who scored 26 goals and made 17 assists that season, which helped him earn All-District, All-Conference, All-Region and All-State titles. “I was like there’s no way I got (All) State. I was so happy. I showed my dad.”
Henry one-upped himself his senior year by not only again earning All-District, All-Conference and All-Region honors but also being named to the first team for All-State. For the fall season he had 38 goals and 15 assists.
Henry admitted that’s not bad for someone who, at age 5, would cry at the soccer field because he “just did not want to be there.”
“Because of my performance and the things I could do on the field, people realized the player I could become and they were determined to see me get there,” Henry said. “They had confidence in me and they knew that I could become way better. I just didn’t know it. My dad knew it. My mom knew it. My whole family knew it and even the parents (of his teammates), they knew that I could become better.”
Coach Federico Villafuerte-Garcia said the Godwin Heights soccer program is about sportsmanship which Henry has demonstrated by being “a leader by example” for his teammates.
“He is one of those everything players,” Villafuerte-Garcia said. “If you need someone to cover defense, he can play defense.”
“You don’t know the things that are coming your way. Many big things, many surprises are coming your way. So don’t cry. Do not feel overwhelmed. Do not feel sad. Do not regret it.”— Henry Lopez-Pinedo
Turning Reluctance into Commitment
Henry’s father, Leo Lopez, introduced him to soccer.
“He always told me that he always wanted a baby boy so that he can raise him to be just like him, but even better,” Henry said.
Leo Lopez played soccer in Mexico and at age 17 came to the states, where he played for the Hispanic League. He introduced Henry to soccer through two teams, Olé FC and Grand Rapids ABK. Henry is quick to admit that at the time, he much rather play with his toys than go to soccer practice.
“Whenever I got the ball, I just didn’t know what to do with it,” Henry said, adding that most of the time he would just watch his teammates play. “I would pass the ball and shoot, but I didn’t dribble. I didn’t know how to move. I couldn’t kick right. It was so bad.”
Henry’s father sometimes tricked him into practicing, saying they were going to the grocery store and instead would come to a field. It was through practice with his father that Henry eventually learned to dribble and control the ball.
At about age 9, Henry’s reluctance started to change into passion for the sport.
“I was getting a little bit better and I was watching a lot of highlights of players,” Henry said. “That’s what made me more interested in playing because the way those players played was genuinely really fun to watch and it was interesting to watch them play. I told my dad I wanted to be like them.”
From then on, Henry was all in. He played in clubs such as MFA Revolution, Team Lobos and Michigan Fire for outdoor soccer and ABK for indoor soccer. He also played eighth-grade soccer at Godwin Heights Middle School.
Henry remembers being passed up for a tournament game his first year at Revolution because his “skills were not there.” He even began to think he should hang up the cleats, but his dad continued to encourage and work with him.
The next year, Henry was selected for the tournament, although he noted he did not get much playing time. He continued to build his skills until one day, everyone noticed the amount of playing time Henry was receiving.
Everything “just started to click,” he said.
Plans for the Future
Henry started playing high school soccer his sophomore year because he knew it was a way to get in front of potential colleges, but other doors also opened that could lead to professional play.
Last year, he tried out and spent a week at the end of 2022 in Spain playing with members of the country’s national team at a camp. Spain is a powerhouse in soccer having won three major titles, FIFA World Cup, UEFA Euro and UEFA Nations League.
“It was a whole new world as it was my first time flying out of the country without my parents and without my dad’s support,” Henry said. “I didn’t know how I felt about that and how I would perform because at every game my dad tends to be there.
It made me realize that I need to work harder and to know that my dad is not gonna be there every time.”
Henry said he enjoyed the opportunity to experience a different type of play, faster and more physical than he was used to.
He came home with his eye on graduation and his future, when the opportunity to try out for a Major Soccer League academy in Salt Lake City, Utah, came about. MSL is a men’s professional soccer team sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation. Henry visited with the Real Salt Lake team, where he showcased his skills. While he didn’t hear back from the team, he said it was a great experience.
He also may have the opportunity to try out for an Ohio MSL academy with the Columbus Crew, which recently won the MLS Cup for a third time in December, along with looking at other places to play such as in Mexico.
Colleges have also courted Henry, especially during the fall district finals for high school boys soccer. This past fall, Godwin Heights High School soccer team brought home another OK Silver Conference title and played in the district finals, falling to Unity Christian, 1-7.
Henry said he is considering Davenport University, where he has gotten to know the team and Coach Chris Hughes, who has been supportive in Henry’s goal of going professional.
He also had a few words for that little boy crying at the soccer field and perhaps anyone who has been frustrated or overwhelmed.
“Don’t cry,” he said. “You don’t know the things that are coming your way. Many big things, many surprises are coming your way. So don’t cry. Do not feel overwhelmed. Do not feel sad. Do not regret it.”
“I’m gonna make that boy proud.”