As one of the old men in the group, all-league senior goalkeeper Bryan Sanchez has been through it all and seen it all.
When peering across the field at his teammates, he gave an accepting nod to the level of skill spread across the roster of 18 varsity soccer players.
With eight seniors in tow and veteran coach Luis Gamez at the helm, brighter things could be coming for a program looking to get past the play-in rounds for the first time since 2010.
“We are hungry. My teammates and me, we have come so close in the past couple of years. We were one goal away and then everything is gone,” Sanchez said. “So we are hungry and we want to take it to the next level. We are going to play hard, practice hard every day and give it all on the field.”
TDW BOYS SOCCER
Luis Gamez .............. Head Coach
Jonathan Garrett .Assistant Coach
Emmanuel Elias ..Assistant Coach
at Century High Soccer Jamboree ...............................1 p.m., Aug. 29
at Clackamas, 7 p.m. ...........Sep. 3
Host Barlow .........4 p.m., Sept. 5
Host Mac-Hi .......4 p.m., Sept. 10
at St. Helens .........4 p.m., Sept. 12
Host Reynolds ..4 p.m., Sept. 17
at Century ..............5 p.m., Sept. 19
Host Benson .....4 p.m., Sept. 26
at Hermiston...............4 p.m., Oct. 1
Host Pendleton .....4 p.m., Oct. 8
Host HRV ............4 p.m., Oct. 15
Host Hermiston ...4 p.m., Oct. 17
at Pendleton ..........4 p.m., Oct. 24
at HRV ...................4 p.m., Oct. 29
State Play-In ........................Nov. 2
State 1st Round ..................Nov. 5
State Quarterfinals ...........Nov. 8-9
State Semifinals ................Nov. 12
Title Game in Hillsboro .....Nov. 16
In order to gain success on the field, one word passed around by several team members and their coach was scoring.
In the 2012, TDW scored 19 goals in 14 matches, and allowed 32 over that same period. Those numbers were flip-flopped from 2011, when the Tribe scored 41 goals and allowed 24.
Not for a lack of trying, the Eagle Indians had several opportunities to score goals, but shots sailed wide, high or were stopped.
When the Eagles Indians scored two or more goals, they went 2-2-2, but went 1-0-2 the last three times it happened.
Returning senior forward Armando Minguela said in camp the forwards have been working on shooting drills a lot more and that work will continue throughout the season.
Along with Minguela, Leo Hernandez, Sant Strassheim and Tony Morales will shoulder much of the offensive load.
That quartet is blessed with speed and athleticism, along with hard shots, good through-ball passing and overlapping skills.
“This year, we are working more on keeping the ball low, to the corners and how to follow through and fire the ball. We just need to know how to place them better,” Minguela said. “I am hoping that we get better at everything, so we can actually make goals this year and do better.”
In providing those offensive chances and odd-man counter attacks, the midfield play of all-league winners, Alexis Elias and Aldo Rivas, and also Anthony Pascual, Manny Ruiz, Ernesto Rodriguez and Rocco Cozza will need to be at an optimum level, so passing and communication are critical elements.
“It is really important for us defenders to get the ball up quickly to the midfielders,” Garcia said. “If we have no defense then the midfield is going to be completely lost. If we have no midfield, the defense is going to be struggling because the ball will just be coming through us. So, it is really important for us to get the ball and target passes really accurate and get the ball up.”
Although TDW finished the season with a 3-8-3 overall mark, three of those losses were by one goal.
Goalkeepers Sanchez and the graduated Jesse Esiquio stood tall in net, allowing one goal or less five times during the season.
One year removed from earning all-league recognition, Sanchez is looking to raise his output between the pipes, building on a confidence-heightening performance in TDW’s 1-0 state play-in loss when he made a career-high 20 saves.
Always the perfectionist, Sanchez said he could always do better.
“I hope that I have improved more,” Sanchez said. “I think that I had a good season last year. Hopefully this year will be better. I am really looking forward to being the Goalie of the Year in our league, so I can take the team to the next level. For me to do that, I need to play better than I ever have.”
Protecting the front of the net and slot areas is probably the strongest aspect of the Tribe’s team – defense.
Garcia said this unit is tough, physical and smart in the zone, an area they pride themselves on.
First-team all-league junior Angel Esiquio, another all-league recipient, and Sergio Rios, Julio Manzo, Javier Marinez, Jesus Gamez and Andres Manzo, join the senior Garcia.
“We have a great returning defensive group. We look solid in the back,” Garcia said. “Our goal is we want to try to play the ball around so it doesn’t get through. We want to hold the player instead of just standing. We want to be on the man and try not to let him get past us and play as good of defense as we can. I hope that we can produce that on the field all the time.”
Just as Garcia said, coach Gamez feels there is good skill on the team. Of course, scoring is a point of emphasis, but so is continued dedication to the team and progression.
Game days are one thing, but practice time is where the champions are bred.
With the added depth, the players have created a healthy competition and tough decisions as to who will start games.
It is a good problem to face.
“In the past years, I have had the luxury of coaching good teams with a good starting 11 with a drop-off after that,” coach Gamez said. “This is kind of a unique year because there is no drop-off. Every player is consistent in what they do. I think we are going to have a hard time putting together a starting 11. Not because we don’t have it, but because a lot of the guys will fight for playing time.”
The preseason goal is to shoot for No. 1 in the always-tough Columbia River Conference.
Pendleton is a team not to overlook as Garcia warned and Hermiston, he said, took a leap in these past few years, producing some pretty good players.
Defending league champion, Hood River is going to have a great core team. They have key returners back in the fold and have new players that are going to be solid.
“We’ve just got to compete. I think we can, because this is one of the best groups that we have had so far,” Garcia said. “I hope that we can go as far into the state playoffs as we can. We will do what we can and see how it all turns out.”
TDW kicks off the season with a jamboree at Century High School at 1 p.m. on Thursday.