As Preseason Continues, Men’s Soccer Search for Identity

A frustrating end to the 2018 season for the Rio Hondo men’s soccer team can be retaliated Friday as College of the Desert, 3-2 winners during last November’s regional playoff match in Whittier, return for a 6 p.m. preseason showdown.

New Faces, Same Drive

The Roadrunners from Palm Desert will serve as a great barometer for Rio’s off-season improvement as well as how the team will respond following a poor performance in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Santa Monica.

Assistant coach Francisco Chaidez mentioned his concern for the squad’s lack of finishing to start the season, but was more than happy with the team’s effort so far.

“All the games we’ve played in,” Chaidez said post-game Tuesday. “We’ve been more on top than the opposition. We’re trying to execute our style but it’s the finishing that needs to connect it all together.”

Head coach Orlando Brenes included Chaidez, a young, up-and-coming United States Soccer Federation National C Licensed coach, to his coaching board this summer to add a fresh set of ideas to a staff that’s been together for 21 years. Those raw ideas will have to fully-cook come kickoff against Desert who sit at 3-4 on the season. The Roadrunners will roll into Whittier Friday coming off a 5-1 win over Cuyacama Tuesday that snapped a three-game losing streak to start September.

Rio’s Style

Rio have adopted an expansive, counter-attacking style of play this season as sophomore striker Federico Hurtado spearheads Rio’s attack and wingers Havier Zaragoza, second-year sophomore, and Abraham Figueroa, freshman, provide the width and speed necessary to facilitate.

The sophomore striker broke out for his first three goals of the season against LA Mission Friday, Sept. 13 and has four games left to add more before South Coast Conference play begins against LA Harbor Friday, Oct. 11 in Wilmington, Calif.

Without finding the back of the net, Hurtado admitted he found things difficult to start the year.

“At first, the pressure was high for me due to our team not having our style of play down so it was difficult for me to find the goals,” Hurtado said. “But with practice we developed a system where I’m able to get chances to score.”

Coming Back to Coach

Helping to keep the goals out at the other end is goalkeeping coach Luis Sanchez. Now a part of the staff, Sanchez returned to Rio this off-season after serving two years as the Roadrunners shot-stopper from 2011-2013. His goal this time around? Making sure each player, not just the goalkeepers, get the same treatment he did as a player which helped him earn an athletic scholarship from a four-year college.

“Coach Brenes, he gave me the opportunity to get that scholarship,” Sanchez said. “I love the environment here and I want to provide what was provided to me to my goalkeepers and the team in general.”