First published in the Dec. 11 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The boys’ soccer season has begun in earnest at Burbank and Burroughs high schools. Both programs have second-season coaches whose squads are ready to go.
Burbank is happy to be moving forward from last season’s pandemic-shortened schedule of games, and it’s looking good so far.
“I think we’re in a good place. We’ve had a lot more preseason [action]. We had a lot more time to work with the group,” coach Raz Adoti said. “We’ve got some new faces as well on the coaching side of things and we’ve had some nice surprises in terms of new faces showing up in freshmen that have shown real promise. We’re feeling good about what is ahead.”
The Bulldogs reached the playoffs last season, which was Adoti’s first season at the helm after a long absence. Even so, Burbank has not had a winning record in the last 12 seasons.
“I know for the last few seasons Burbank hasn’t had the greatest team and that needs to change in the mind first,” Adoti said. “That is all history that is dead, done and buried as far as we’re concerned. We just have to look to the future, be positive and be strong.”
The Bulldogs may be moving forward, but they are trying not to get ahead of themselves.
“I know it’s cliche, but we are just going to take it one game at a time,” Adoti said. “We’re simply going to try to beat everyone that is in front of us one game at a time. I’m not saying we are going to do that, but this is the intention and this is the mindset: To win each game.”
There are 25 players on a senior-heavy varsity team, and the coach sees depth across the board, including “able deputies ready to step in” at most positions behind the starters. The Bulldogs will be led by captain Abraham Rivera.
Also promising is the influx of fresh talent. This encompasses several of the freshmen, some of whom will play varsity. Examples are Rigoberto Garcia and Alfost Khalatyan, who are both “tremendous players.” The team is also fortified by transfers, such as defenders Andrew and Allan Rodriguez, brothers who arrived from Mexico.
The Bulldogs will be ready for all comers in Pacific League play.
“I’m not the kind of coach who completely puts his game plan to what the other teams’ strengths are,” Adoti said. “We’re going to play to our strengths so, with all due respect to the other teams, I always feel the best form of defense is attack and we’re definitely going to be an attacking team. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Point blank, the Bears want to make a run in the postseason after missing out last season.
“A goal we have is to make it to the playoffs and get past that first game. If we can get to that second game in playoffs, that is another goal we have,” head coach Michael Solano said.
Last season was Solano’s first as head coach at Burroughs and, with all the chaos of COVID and the health measures involved, he is “calling this my first full season at Burroughs.” He has inherited a solid program with roots.
“The program has a deep, rich history of soccer,” Solano said. “I thank Mike Kodama for the years he’s [coached] and everything he has done for the program because he laid a foundation we can build upon.”
The Bears have words to live by this campaign.
“The day we stepped through the doors at Burroughs, we told the boys that we abide by this one saying: it’s ‘total football,’” Solano said. “Total football is very simple. It’s just, everybody attacks and everybody defends. That’s our mantra.”
According to the coach, the squad’s strength lies “in our ability to retain the ball” and their team unity. An obstacle will be the Bears’ youth. There are only five seniors on a roster of 16 players.
“A lot of our important players are young: juniors, underclassmen,” Solano said. “A challenge that we have, that’s going to be difficult for us, is those young players finding themselves within the team, but [also] finding themselves off the field. It’s difficult for them to accept responsibilities that maybe older guys have. A lot of players are young and they have to step up.”
There are four seniors who will form the core of the team. They are defenders: captain Jaden Vasquez, vice captain Zach Levy and Alexander Leanos. Landon Espinoza will lead the attack.
“Everything goes through him. He is a very good player,” Solano said.
A key newcomer will be freshman Danny Pasqual, who is “one of the 10 best players in the program.” Also up-and-coming is sophomore Dominic Quijada: “there is something special about him.”
New this season, the teams in the Pacific League will be separated into two tiers at the midway point, and the Bears are aiming to be with the heavy hitters.
“Naturally we want to be competitive, so the goal we set for the program, the boys know this, the staff knows this, [is] we want to compete for league,” Solano said. “Not necessarily win it, but it does mean we want to be in that upper mix and fight it out with those top teams in the league and try to be competitive.”