Nitros, Falcons Could Battle For League Title

First published in the Dec. 11 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

It has been a relatively short break since the spring boys’ soccer season, but the players at Crescenta Valley, Glendale and Hoover high schools are ready, nonetheless.

CRESCENTA VALLEY FALCONS

There was heavy interest in participating for the Crescenta Valley High School boys’ soccer squad this season. The Falcons had almost 120 players try out.
“Obviously, with that large number, there were quite a lot of players we were unable to take,” head coach Kurtis Milan said. “We’re really pleased with what we have across three teams.”
Milan has 68 players in the program, with 24 varsity, 22 on the junior varsity and 22 on the freshman team.
“I think our goal is really to set the standards for the next few years. We’ve got a pretty young squad. Of those 24 [varsity] players, we have 11 seniors in there, but really, we are looking at a pretty young team,” Milan said.
The soccer community around CV is a strong one and, for the Falcons, a resource.
“It goes without saying, where our school is located in La Crescenta, it really is a community,” Milan said. “A lot of the players play for the club that trains [here] as well. So really, it’s just trying to build on what base we have and using one of our strengths … the tight-knit community that we have.”
For Milan, who is in his second season, the underlying message is simple: “Team comes first.” The coach is also instituting a new style of play.
“We’re trying to play soccer in what I envision is the right way in regard to playing out of the back, positive and expansive.”
This season a key player has returned to the fold.
“Last [season] we were missing our No. 1 goalie [Miles Vallejo], who was away in Spain playing at an academy, who’s back this year,” Milan said. “So, we feel we are even stronger than we were last [season].”
Some new blood has been elevated to the varsity level this season in junior Ryo Maeda and sophomore Andrew Lee.
“I’m not there for me,” Milan said. “The coaching staff [and I] are there for the players, so whatever experience they get out of it is really determined by how much they put into it.”

GLENDALE NITROS

The Nitros, who have a wealth of returning talent, finished third in the Pacific League last season, but felt it could have been higher. Glendale has not won the league since 1983, but this might be the season to change that.
“Last [season], in our opinion, we let league slip away,” coach Brandon Weisman said. “The two teams [that finished] ahead of us, we were ahead of them in both games two different times. So last year, we gained some harsh experience and this year we are trying to use that experience as a springboard going forward.”
The coach says his squad will be playing a style of soccer unique to them.
“We are an extremely technical team. I think that most of the teams in our league would agree that nobody is going to try the brand of soccer we are going to play,” Weisman, who is in his fourth season, said.
“We are a very proactive offensive team. We keep the ball at a very high rate. … Our strength is our shape and organization. Part of having 16 seniors is when you have experience, it means they really know our system.”
Glendale has a 21-player roster and Weisman feels everyone is quality, but some stand out. Senior striker Monte Almasi “will always be on the field.” The coach puts forward Bryant Santos Mejia as “the best player in the league.” The coach had high praise for his players: Ivan Castro is an “unsung hero.” Mohamad Zen Trad “is absolutely special.” Sophomore Victor Santos Mejia “may be the best of them all.” Harutyun Mnatasakanyan will be a defensive anchor. Andrey Simonyan will be the main striker. Sophomore Vedi Hadade has “better ball skills than any other defender I have coached.” Emil Sarkisians and Fernando Hipolito will split time at goalie. Now, all the coach needs is for his team to believe they can get it done.
“Our thing is to overcome history and be the first team since 1983 to win league for our school,” Weisman said.

HOOVER TORNADOS

New Hoover coach Behshad Yavarzadeh comes to his position with a wealth of international playing experience. Born in Iran and now a permanent resident of the United States, Yavarzadeh played a stint for the Iranian national under-23 side. He has also played in professional leagues in Iran, Dubai and Thailand.
“Obviously, the goal is to win as many games as possible, but what is also important is to have team building,” Yavarzadeh said. “Also, to make sure the kids have good relationships on the soccer field and understand each other, because that is best way you can succeed in soccer is to have that chemistry on the field.”
Yavarzadeh, who is in his first high school position, noted his team is “very united and they don’t give up.” He is looking for improvement with finishing in the final third. The Tornados are also working on improving their fitness.
In goal will be David Ekimyan, who is “very brave and not afraid,” the coach said. Anchoring the midfield are Homer Arakelyan, Diego Rivera and Arvin Mosesian, all “amazing players with very good passing skills.” Key on defense are Ruddy Alvarado and Anthony Hernandez, who are “strong with the ball in the air” and “have great ball control skills.” Up front will be Alex Concepcion and Sevak Stepanyan, who are “very smart, fast players who work well together,” the coach added.
“The kids want to be there and they are very excited,” Yavarzadeh said.