Men’s Soccer: Time to Shine in South Coast Conference

The Rio Hondo men’s soccer team go into its regular season opener Friday, Oct. 11 at LA Harbor’s Seahawks Stadium at a modest no. 34 out of 76 schools in the California Community College Athletic Association state power points poll. Following an identity search during a discovery phase preseason, the Roadrunners enter South Coast Conference play with every bit of confidence knowing they’ve come to spoil some parties.

“Be the team that is underestimated and be the spoiler,” head coach Orlando Brenes mentioned the night before the match with confidence only a 21-year head coach could have.

Finding An Identity

Sitting comfortably in the middle-portion of state rankings during a turbulent preseason bodes well for Rio. The season began with just three returners on the roster and 28 new faces vying for playing time which made for hardship against some teams.

That intra-competition for minutes on the field turned the squad into a young and energetic bunch that won’t stop pressing the opposition when it’s not in possession. For Brenes, it’ll be the same mentality the players had in the 4-1 victory over San Bernardino Valley Oct. 4 that will be required to float atop the SCC.

“If we approach our games with mental and tactical strength,” Brenes said. “We can play anyone.”

During their first six matches, the Roadrunners earned their first win in just its second game of the year Aug. 30 against a subpar San Diego City (no. 70 in state) and collected another victory against no. 53 LA Mission two weeks later. It wasn’t until game no. 7 against Santa Monica though where Brenes felt the squad was finding its identity.

Following a phase of soul searching during a preseason that played out as a learning curve, Rio’s personality on the field finally showed as the intensity throughout the team and passion to win the ball back after losing it looked to save a squad that looked unable to execute its original plan of sitting back and attacking on the counter.

In practice Tuesday, assistant coach Francisco Chaidez said the squad looked aggressive and that since starting back in mid-August the guys have managed to hold on to the ball a lot longer. “We just need to be more relaxed when we have the ball,” he said.

The New-Look South Coast Conference

With a new format and schools moving in and out of the league, the new-look South Coast Conference kicks off Friday for Rio. LA Harbor welcomes the Roadrunners in Wilmington, Calif. where, in order to stay on-par with state-best Mt. San Antonio, Cerritos and El Camino, the Roadrunners look to earn a road win.

Ranked fourth highest in power points in the conference, Rio trails the aforementioned trio which dominate the state as no. 1, 2 and 4, respectively. At no. 42, the Seahawks feel like a barometer for whether the Roadrunners will be able to defeat the rest and stay nearby the top three in the conference.

Home Opener

Rio will open its home league tenure Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 6 p.m. and, according to goalkeeper coach and Rio alumnus Luis Sanchez, by then the entire squad will be fully healthy following a week of some players being under the weather.

“We’ve been working hard every day working on our small flaws and strengths,” Sanchez said. “The team has been focused and hungry during practice to prepare for [Friday’s] conference opener. They are excited and ready to represent Rio Hondo College men’s soccer.”