First published in the Dec. 16 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
Last season the La Cañada High School boys’ soccer team made a run in the CIF-Southern Section Division V playoffs, and the three-time defending Rio Hondo League champion Spartans want to do it again.
“We want to try and go at least as far as we did last season, which is the quarterfinals of CIF,” head coach Bruno Costa said. “Hopefully we can go to the finals or the semifinals, but I think if you go to the quarterfinals it is an accomplishment already. We want to try to do the best we can in playoffs.”
The formula for success will be a familiar one for Costa, who is in his sixth season at the helm.
“We are not going to go away from what we have been doing the past years. We want to always attack. We believe that the best defense is to have the ball at our feet, so we don’t give any opportunities to the opponents,” Costa said. “It’s pretty much a ball possession style where we try to really keep the ball always going a vertical way trying to get into the attack as fast as you can, but never jeopardizing the ball. We try to keep the ball away from the opponent. We believe that when we have the ball, we can have chances and they can’t.”
The coach thinks the Spartans have the mental makeup to make it happen.
“We are very strong, particularly with our mindset,” Costa said. “I think the team is going to be really concentrated when the season comes, so we are going to be able to execute really well the ideas we’ve been working on. That may be our biggest strength.”
It will be important to get the most out of the roster as a whole.
“[One challenge will be] to be consistent after so many games in a short period,” Costa said. “I don’t have 22 players on the same level, so I think the biggest challenge is for those that are not starting games, that come from the bench, that they can at least keep [up] the level of play or become someone that gives us a chance to make changes in the style or the strategies.”
Laying the bedrock will be seven seniors: Nick Boghossian, Lucus Farol, Ethan Godby, Jason Shibata, Tyler Na-Nakompanom, Ryan Xiao and Chris Boghossian.
“I have a very good group of seniors. They have shown that sense of commitment,” Costa said. “I believe our seniors will carry us forward.”
Nick Boghossian, Chris Boghossian, Shibata and Godby are serving as team captains.
Youth will also be served, with two freshmen on the varsity roster — Brendan Kuo and Harry Chant.
“I think these are standouts because they have been able to play at a very good level even though they are younger and just got into the high school soccer system,” Costa said. “I’d say both Brendan Kuo and Harry Chant are pleasant surprises so far.”
Minding the net will be senior captain Nick Boghossian.
“My goalkeeper is someone you can see that the years of hard training and dedication paid off,” Costa said. “He is a goalkeeper that has a very good sense of his role but, not only that, he plays really well with his feet… He gives a lot of confidence to the defense.”
At the start of the season, LCHS has been a work in progress as new talent is folded into the mix.
“We’ve been making a lot of experiments with the [players] in different positions and teams,” Costa said. “There is a constant rotation right now between varsity and junior varsity because we have a very promising freshman class.”
The road to the playoffs is determined during Rio Hondo League play, where La Cañada has had a wealth of success recently. The Spartans have won four of the last five titles, including the last three.
“I believe South Pasadena is our ‘every time’ rival. They are going to be very intense competition for league. I also believe that Temple City has proved in the last two or three years that their program has become another highly competitive opponent in league,” Costa said. “I know those opponents are very eager to take us out of our position.”
Regardless, the Spartans are just happy to be playing again after the brevity and uncertainty of last season’s COVID-abbreviated campaign.
“I think everyone is going to be playing a little bit harder and be a little bit more committed,” Costa said. “For a brief moment we were not sure we could play soccer for a while again, so everyone is kind of ‘We’re here. Let’s make it happen.’”