Ale Alvares-Funes streaked down the left seam, received a perfect pass and utilized his speed to get past his defender. The San Benito High left wing player deftly avoided a hard-charging Valley Christian goalkeeper inside the penalty area.
With no one between him and the goal, Alvares-Funes tracked the ball before tapping it in to give the San Benito High boys soccer team a stunning 1-0 lead moments before the referee blew the whistle signaling the end of the first half. Stunning because in the first 40 minutes, the Haybalers were getting flat-out dominated in time of possession.
But they went into the break with a lead and played better in the second half before settling for a 1-1 draw. The goal showcased their quick-strike playmaking ability.
“When we scored, those are the moments of brilliance of what I’m talking about,” Balers coach Marco Orozco said. “If these guys keep on touching the ball, that’s what happens. The same thing happened vs. Christopher (a 4-0 win). We touch, touch, touch, pass, boom, we score. If they pass like that, they’ll score.”
Considering Valley Christian had no less than a half-dozen high-percentage shots that didn’t find the back of the net, San Benito was fortunate to escape with a draw. But that’s soccer, and the Balers will take the result and look to improve by honing in on their strengths.
“These guys have a lot of skill and can compete against any team as long as they play their game,” Orozco said. “And their game is to pass the ball, look for those runs and create opportunities to score. I’m very confident in this team.”
This is Orozco’s first season back after taking two seasons off. Under his helm, the boys soccer team experienced its greatest success in program history, advancing to the Central Coast Section Division I playoff semifinals in 2018 and the quarterfinals in 2017. Orozco said he wanted to step away a bit to have more time with his son who has now taken up the sport. Part of Orozco’s motive for returning is simple.
“I want to finish what we started,” he said. “It’s unfinished business. I’m looking at this team and hoping we can take the next step.”
Translation: Orozco feels the team is capable of winning a CCS title, if not this year then certainly the next when the squad will be loaded with seniors. This year’s team has only two senior starters—Adrian Maldonado and Brandon Arreola—along with a heavy sophomore and junior class and a couple of freshmen.
“The future is bright,” Orozco said.
Alvares-Funes, Maldonado and Alex Servin created the majority of the scoring chances for the Balers, who improved to 1-0-1 on the season. Alvares-Funes, who scored two goals in the season-opener, can flat-out fly as he used his speed to outrun defenders to balls while keeping possession.
Jamrok made a couple of fantastic saves in the first half to preserve a 1-0 lead. He was especially key in the opening 10 minutes as San Benito made some glaring miscues deep in its own end that led to a flurry of Valley Christian shots.
Servin and Maldonado lead a strong midfield contingent that includes Eusebio Rivera, Victor Sanches-Banuelos and David Corena. Servin displayed some nifty footwork and dribbling skills when he beat and juked three Valley Christian players down the right seam before delivering a pass to Luis Silva, whose one-timer was stopped by the Valley Christian goalkeeper in the 77th minute.
Sanches-Banuelos had one of the defining plays of the game when he used his head—literally—to deflect a shot away with the San Benito goal unoccupied in the 70th minute. Goalkeeper Chris Jamrok had come way off his line and was out of the goal when the Warriors sent the ball to the penalty area. However, Sanches-Banuelos made a strong run to get to the goal area, where he headed the ball away.
Orozco said Jamrok leads from the goalkeeper position as he gives directions to position the defense. Bryan Basurto, who usually plays right back, was at center fullback against Valley Christian as the Balers were without the services of four players, including two starters.
Orozco said playing against a bigger Valley Christian squad will help the team going forward because it will remind the players they’ll have to rely on their skill and emphasize effort and passing to achieve their potential.