FAIRFIELD — A lot of new faces mean new opportunities and possibly some rough seasons for the four city boys soccer teams.
After playoff runs last year, Armijo and Rodriguez are back with a host of new players, while Fairfield and Vanden continue to improve, the latter even holding league championship aspirations.
A league swap for Fairfield and Rodriguez also mean’s new challenges for both.
Here’s a look at this year’s teams:
The defending Monticello Empire League champions return just two starters this season, making for a challenging season. Overall, just six players — five seniors — are back from 2011.
Goalkeeper Brandon Brimer, forwards Jorge Zepeda and Patrick Richards, midfielders Trevor Flynn and Brian Galvan (the lone junior), and defender Ryan Riddle all return. Only Brimer and Galvan bring starting experience.
A host of new juniors fill out the roster for the Indians. Center defender Jacob Less, outside midfielder Michael Tong are key among the juniors joining the squad.
Talented freshman Christian Diaz is starting at center midfielder this year.
“We are very young, but there is a lot of talent,” said Armijo coach Brad Burzynski. “I think we will compete in every game we have on our schedule and we can make a run at the playoffs.”
Limiting mental mistakes and showing up strong in big games will be key for the remainder of the season for the Indians, Burzynski added.
It’s another season aimed at improvement for the Falcons, who are led by returning player Victor Ledesma.
The big change for Fairfield this season is returning to the SCAC for the first time since the fall of 2005.
Newcomers to the program include Miguel Avila, Ivan Sanchez and Marcos Martinez. Joining the varsity team from last year’s JV squad are Carlos Vargas, Eduardo Padilla, Hector Avila, Alberto Martinez and Jerry Munguia.
The Falcons do get a rare taste of consistency with the return of varsity coach Jose Alvarado.
“This season is going to be interesting not because we are in another (conference) but because the challenge we have ahead is not going to be easy,” Alvarado said. “But with the group of players we have and their desire to play the game, we will try our best to be as competitive as the other teams.”
Even with the change in leagues, the Falcons hope to remain strong and keep improving.
“It’s different schools we play, but it’s the same game and day by day we are going to try and get better,” Alvarado said.
Much like the Falcons, the Mustangs find themselves in new surroundings, joining the MEL this year.
Coach Dale Daniel calls 2012 a rebuilding year, and why not, the Mustangs saw nine players graduate and another transfer since last season’s trip to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs.
Seniors Kelechi Emenalom, Santos Sanchez and Nathan McKeever, who missed his junior season because of cancer treatments all return to the pitch for Rodriguez. Also back is sophomore Misael Caballero.
New this year are juniors Eduardo Nuno and Alexis Lopez. Sophomore Conner Rees and freshmen Anthony Mondragon, Nick Urena, Tyler Whited and Chris Wilkins also join the varsity team this year.
“This will be a rebuilding year for RHS,” Daniel said. “We have the most talented freshmen class to ever come in and unfortunately they will be thrown into the deep end. I expect this to be a learning year and the key will be to not let the players get discouraged.”
Daniel’s big concern is the switch to the MEL with its deeper talent field.
“The MEL is a much tougher (league) and my hope is to use this year as a building block for the program and fully expect to be competing for a playoff spot the the years to come,” he said.
In his seond season at the helm, Vikings coach Oren Rosenmann said he has the most talented bunch Vanden has had in years.
“Our goal is simple, we want to win the league,” Rosenmann said. “Something that Vanden High School soccer has never done in the past. We know this is a lofty goal, but we intend to aim high and give it our best shot.”
Back this year to help with that goal is team captain and junior center defender Enrique Vega.
Junior Patrick Dazo is back at center midfielder, while senior Alvaro Rubalcaba returns at left winger as does junior attacking center midfielder Yousef Rezagui.
“These are the four returning players that I consider the leaders on this team,” Rosenmann said. “These are the players I can rely on for anything. Their attitude and determination has really set the tone for the other players so far this season.” These guys never miss a practice and always play on the edge, and that is what we’ll need if we intend to reach our goal this season.
Rosenmann said a number of talented players have moved up from junior varsity, adding some depth.
Junior Steward Pimienta, last year’s JV captain returns to lead the newcomers. Junior right defender Riley Pedro also joins the varsity squad this year, along with sophomore goalkeeper Antonio Ramirez.
Also playing at the varsity level is freshman center defender Alejandro Lara.
“We call him ‘the machine’ because he’s bigger and stronger than most of our seniors,” Rosenmann said. “I think these four players will have a tremendous impact in transforming our team into league champion contender.”
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.