Captain and goalie, Cesar Valverde, #1, launches the ball downfield after a save against San Diego Mesa on Sept. 1, 2014. The Owls would draw 1-1 after a late equalizing goal from forward Austin Amato. (Dillon Cooper/Clarion)
The Citrus Owls haven’t had the best of starts to the fall 2014 season, only winning two out of their first seven games.
It’s hard to point to one area, especially in soccer, but the Owls (2-4-1) entered this season with an extremely inexperienced back four. Michael Montoya is the lone sophomore defender in a backline littered with freshman.
“It’s a tough one,” said head coach Fred Bruce-Oliver. “It’s tough to replace your defense and expect results.”
“We have people who are going to try and hold the back together for us,” said Bruce-Oliver. “But I’m concerned, they aren’t experienced.”
Something that plagued last season’s Owls was the pressure being applied to their midfield and defenders that were on the ball. Bruce-Oliver went to the drawing board and came in to this season with a new formation.
In attack, the Owls will line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
The two midfielders will complement each other by interchanging roles. If one player moves up, the other midfielder will sit in the middle. If the two midfielders are able to ping the ball back and up the field, this will relieve the pressure in the midfield.
The three attacking players in front of the two midfielders will all serve as a link to the lone forward.
There will be two players who will occupy the wings and one player directly behind the striker.
Ideally, this will cause the link up play between defense, midfield and attack all to be relatively smooth, this is all in theory. Rarely do things pan out the way you draw it up.
Last season’s leading goal-scorer, Grayson Iwasaki (12), is no longer with the team, so the Owls will need to look elsewhere to put the ball in the back of the net.
This year’s Owls will be relying on Austin Amato to supply the creative balls to the forwards and wingers.
“I prefer the attacking midfielder role,” Amato said. “You can get a lot of touches on the ball, which I love. It’s a lot of fun to play when you’re involved with most of the plays.”
Amato has scored two goals so far this season, compared to last season’s tally of three.
When the Owls don’t have the ball, they will fall into a 4-4-2 formation.
The two wingers up front will drop deeper into the midfield role to help with the opposing team’s attacking players on the wings.
“When we lose the ball, we have to pressure immediately to win it back,” said sophomore winger Daniel Ortiz.
Sophomore goalkeeper Cesar Valverde said communication is the key, especially with an all-new backline.
“It’s hard for us. Everyone has to get used to everyone else’s style of play,” Valverde said.
“It comes down to communication. We all need to make sure we are on the same page.”
Valverde has also been voted the team’s captain for this season.
“I never thought I’d be a captain at a college level,” Valverde said. “It takes a lot to help the team succeed. I need to take the initiative to motivate the team.”
Last season, the Owls ended the season at a disappointing 7-11-2. The defense allowed 2.3 goals a game with the offense scoring 2.3 goals per game as well. This year’s Owls will need to find their identity in the back quick if they are hoping to not repeat the poor record of last season.
You can catch Bruce-Oliver and his men in their next home game against Moorpark on Sept. 30 at 4 p.m. at the football field. Admission is free.