BROOKLINE — He has been labeled a prodigy. His talents have taken him across the globe. Clips on YouTube showcasing his abilities have been watched by thousands online. One overseas publication has ranked him among the top young players in the world.
Zachary Herivaux recently sat in a chair and looked at the soccer ball on the floor of his family's living room as he was reminded of the accolades he's received. Just a few feet away were dozens of the medals and trophies the 16-year-old has accumulated, crammed together to fit on a table.
He looked up and spoke softly.
“It makes me want to work harder and live up to my expectations,” he said of all the attention. “I want have good seasons and get better every season, improve in every way.”
Herivaux has been considered one of the state's best players since last year. Before his freshman season at Beaver Country Day School in Chestnut Hill, he was the only underclassman nominated for the state's Gatorade Player of the Year award. He went on to win the Eastern Independent League MVP, and was named a Globe All-Scholastic after scoring eight goals and recording seven assists as an attacking midfielder last fall.
Drawing on a range of soccer influences, Herivaux hopes to lead Beaver Country Day to a league title in his sophomore season.
“His skill set,” said Beaver Country Day coach Steve Schechter, “would allow him to literally dominate at any position on the field.”
Born in Japan, Herivaux is of Japanese and Haitian descent. His father, Pedro, grew up in Haiti playing soccer with oranges or whatever other round objects he could find. He signed a contract to play professionally in Japan, where he started his family.
When Zachary was 3, the family moved to the United States, where Pedro taught his son the aggressive Haitian style of play.
“I like to dribble, going at people, setting my teammates up,” Zachary Herivaux said. “I just like attacking, attacking.”
Herivaux was coached by his father at the Shalrie Joseph Soccer Club in Brookline, where he further developed his already beyond-his-years skill set. Then, in the summer of 2010, the Herivaux family traveled back to Japan, where Zachary trained with a highly regarded high school team in Osaka.
It was there that he learned a completely different, more disciplined style of soccer.
He quickly understood he had to fall in line with his Osaka Toin teammates when their coach arrived on the practice field. Training sessions didn't begin until every player shook the coach's hand. Then, in warmups, even in the intense summer heat, players were perfectly synchronized in the footwork of their drills.
“It was very hot there,” Herivaux said. “You're going to get tired if you keep dribbling. You've got to make the ball do the work and pass it and just stay positive, and you have to be more fit. That's what I thought after going over there. They play in all types of weather — 100 degrees, snow — so they have to be in shape to play in any type of conditions.
“When I came back, my mentality was different. I wanted to work more so I could play in any level.”
Armed with an aggressive mentality as well as with the quick passing techniques he learned in Japan, Herivaux took his game to another level.
After a tryout at Gillette Stadium, he made the U-15 national team, and was later invited to play for the New England Revolution Academy U-16 team. He started 26 of 29 games for the Revs, including four in March at the Future Champions Gauteng tournament in South Africa.
“He's become more mature,” Pedro Herivaux said of how the travel has helped his son. “I don't have to say ‘Wake up. Do this. Do that.’ He's doing it on his own.”
In June 2011, FourFourTwo, a popular soccer magazine based in the United Kingdom, named Herivaux as one of the world's top five U-17 players to watch. Still, the teen knows there is work to do before he can reach his potential. He’s started receiving invitations to camps run by Division 1 colleges, but he hopes to play professionally.
“I think about it,” he said. “I think about it sometimes when I play and what I need to do for it.’’ This summer, he has been working on controlling the ball with his left foot, he said. “That's what I've been practicing. Everything with my left. I just repeat it with my friend, go out to the park and just keep smacking balls with my left.”
Herivaux is long and lean, standing 6 feet tall and weighing about 140 pounds. With shoulder-length brown hair, he resembles his idol, Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldinho.
While Herivaux possesses elite ball-handling skills — showcased in one YouTube video that's received 145,000 views — it is his stamina that allows him to continue playing on an elite level long after he can hear his defenders gasping for air.
Herivaux runs most mornings about 2 miles from his family's home to Larz Anderson Park, where he runs sprints up hills and then runs back home.
With a rare skill set and what Schechter calls an unrelenting “engine,” Herivaux is given great freedom on the pitch with his high school team.
“I let him be creative and I don't put a lot of restrictions on him,” Schechter said. “And he is very creative and he comes up with ideas and thoughts of things to try that most people wouldn't really do because they would think, ‘Well there's no way that's possible,’ so they wouldn't try things like that. But he will. And he'll be successful.”
There will be hype surrounding Herivaux once again as he enters his second high school season, but he doesn't put pressure on himself. Right now he focuses on his workouts and gathering his teammates for preseason practices.
The only thing that may have been missing from his game last season was vocal leadership. Quiet by nature, he says it's a role he's ready to take on.
“I think I'm 10 times more vocal this year than I was last year,” he said. “I came in as a freshman and there were senior captains. But they graduated, so someone else needs to step up and do their job.”