February 16, 2007

Spartans Shooting for Playoff Bid Behind Canizales

By John Philip Wyllie

Following Tuesday’s decisive 4-2 victory over Bonita Vista High, the Chula Vista Spartans have a shot at a league title and a coveted CIF Tournament playoff bid. The win raised the Spartans record to 9-9-2 (overall) and 6-2-1 (in league). Part of their improvement this season can be attributed to the sterling play of their center midfielder and field general Andres Canizales.

“Andres is a hard worker and he’s real strong,” said Spartans coach, Kris Larsen. “He grew up playing soccer, so he has a lot of soccer knowledge and experience. He has a great sense of field awareness and spatial awareness. He can see things developing. He is fast, smart and he has great skills. Andres is the kind of player that can change a game. As he goes, we go.”

The Spartans have struggled in recent years. They have been overshadowed by stronger teams from Bonita Vista, Eastlake and most recently Otay Ranch. Canizales believes that this might be the year for the Spartans.

“Last year I think we finished in last place. I don’t know what happened, but this year we have practiced hard and now with this win we are in first place. We are very excited. We haven’t qualified for the playoffs since I’ve been here,” Canizales said.

While Canizales directs the offense, goalkeeper Abel Aispuro has been shutting down the opposition with some great goaltending.

“Our keeper has been paramount in helping us,” Larsen said. “He has three shutouts in the last four matches, so he has a good streak going. He works hard and gets everyone around him going.”

Larsen also credited the team’s sweeper, Luis Munoz for his stalwart play and ability to organize his defense.

“Luis is a leader and you need that from your sweeper. He is very vocal on the field and he’s a hard tackler. He keeps things organized in front of him and he has done a great job for us.”

If the team however, were to select an MVP, it would undoubtedly be Canizales. He is dominant in the midfield yet versatile enough to play up front when the Spartans need a goal. And while he is willing to do whatever it takes to win he clearly prefers playing in the central midfield.

“I can play both upfront and in the middle, but I prefer the middle. I like to distribute the ball when I play in the middle. If I don’t get enough touches on the ball I get frustrated and then I don’t play as well as I can.”

Canizales has come a long way since the days when he played on the sandlots of Tijuana, but that is where he learned the fundamentals.

“I started playing in Tijuana when I was around four. We lived there until I was about ten or 11. I’ve played here since my freshman year and I also play for a club team in Poway called the Vaqueros.”

Still only a junior, Canizales should continue to improve. Then he will have a decision to make. While he clearly has collegiate potential for soccer, he might be even better on the gridiron as a place kicker. His 52-yarder in a game last season gave him the school record.

“I am hoping that I will get a scholarship for either soccer or football. I just want to get into college and get an education. So, wherever I get a scholarship, that is where I will go.”

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