Victor Zendejas, long-time soccer coach who has been the assistant for the La Jolla High boys team the last five years, told the players before the season, “I want to have fun this year.” Zendejas, who has coached pros — including his son Adrian, now a goalie for Sporting Kansas City in MLS — broke that down later.
“I want the players to come with a good attitude,” explained the amiable, personable mentor. “To have fun means to be competitive. You have to come to the training field with a good attitude.”
Marcos Gonzales, the Vikings’ head coach, and his colleague have plenty of talented players. This is where the mental part separates the sheep from the goats.
A core of key players have returned from last year’s third-place team in the Eastern League, behind University City and Hoover, 7-8-5 overall. They seek to get back to the level that the 2015-16 team reached, a CIF title (in Division 4).
Zendejas says he is looking for leadership from Noah Brown, a senior midfielder; Jose Marmolejo, a senior left midfielder; Calvin Hyytinen, a junior center forward/striker; Devin Bale, a junior defender; Kenny Fierros, a senior defender; Spence Carswell, a striker; Brayan Rivas, a sophomore striker; Ilias Benbatoul, a senior; and Edgar Bermudez, a junior center back, among others.
Newbies include Gabe Cisneros, a sophomore candidate to start in goal; and Leo Friedman, a sophomore midfielder.
Zendejas’ comments on each player follow.
Noah Brown: “His strength is his awareness of the ball. He has a quick, quick brain, a quick mind. When he loses the ball, he quickly gets it back. He has a great shot and can head the ball.”
Jose Marmolejo: “A very skilled player, very quick with the ball.”
Calvin Hyytinen: “I’ve known Calvin since [he was] 6 years old. He’ll be the other captain [with Brown]. He’s a goal-scoring machine.”
Devin Bale: “He’s a field goal kicker for the football team. He has matured over the years. He’s a great kid.”
Kenny Fierros: “We’re looking to him to be another leader in the back of our defense. I’m looking for Kenny not to come out during the game, which is hard for a defender.”
Spence Carswell: “He’s coming off a very, very bad injury. We’re probably going to start him off on the JV to rehab. He’s a very exciting player to watch.”
Brayan Rivas: “A short player, a very exciting player to watch. His skills: He has a good shot, good technical skills. He will fight for the ball.”
Ilias Benbatoul: “He’ll play in the back of the defense, the sweeper. We’re looking for leadership in this, his final year in high school. He loves soccer, so we’re looking for a good season.”
Edgar Bermudez: “He has a lot of skill. He gives you 110%. We’re looking for a lot of impact from him. We’re even looking for him to be a starter for the team.”
Leo Friedman: “He has trained very hard. He played club for us. He’ll probably be a starting midfielder.”