Arcady's Goal by Eugene Yelchin takes place on the eve of WWII in Soviet Russia. Arcady, now twelve, has been raised in orphanages. His parents were taken away when he was a baby as they were accused of being "enemies of the state". Orphanages are the only home he has ever known. The other thing he knows well, though, is soccer. Where he has picked up his mad soccer skills, we will never know, but he dreams of being the next striker for the Red Army soccer team.
For now though, he plays one on one soccer with the other boys in the orphanage. He is so good, that they often parade him out when the inspectors come around - to entertain the inspectors and keep them from actually seeing how poorly the boys are treated. It is during one of these inspections that Ivan Ivanych sees Arcady play. Ivan is not really an inspector, but he is interested in adopting - and feels Arcady is the one. Arcady doesn't know anyone who was adopted and thinks Ivan is a soccer recruiter and starts calling him coach.
Both of these characters have been wounded and they strive to please each other - Arcady by always trying to impress "Coach" with his soccer skills, and Ivan, by actually creating a soccer team - even though he knows nothing about soccer. Things don't go as planned, though, and Arcady's dream of trying out for the Red Army soccer team seems further away than ever. Somehow these two start to become a family, and maybe that was Arcady's goal all along.
There is a lot of other nuances going on with this story as well - the charged atmosphere and the anticipation of war. The prejudice towards the families of the enemy of the people as well as the unjust way that people were accused of being enemies. For grades 4 - 7.