By John Philip Wyllie
Off to an impressive 9-3-2 start, the Otay Ranch Mustangs have demonstrated in the early going this season that they can compete with just about anyone when it comes to men’s soccer. Two of their three loses came very early before the team was even intact. And they knocked off several of the county’s perennial powers along the way as they prepared for their league season. Now that the players are settling into their positions the Mustangs are looking like strong league and CIF contenders.
A lot of their success stems from the play of returning playmaker and ’06 South Bay League Player of the Year, Brian Lewis Jr. and goal scoring sensation, Anthony Rod-riguez. Both had major roles last season in leading the Mustangs to their first ever South Bay League Championship. This year they hope to do even more.
“Brian has had to take on the leadership role of this team. Being my son, he is constantly under the microscope and has a lot of additional pressure on him. We are an attacking team and he leads our attack. The speed of our attack is what is important and he and several of our other midfielders are very good at controlling the ball and then quickly passing it up to our strikers,” said Mustangs coach, Brian Lewis. Tall and physical, Lewis is an aggressive ball winner and exhibits great touch as he threads the ball through the defense often to the waiting feet of Rod-riguez.
Rodriguez has been nothing short of phenomenal this season. He scored five goals in a single game in the Oceanside Tournament and at another point notched nine goals in 11 games. His 14 goals this season place him high among the county’s elite goal scorers.
“He has a knack for turning nothing into something,” Lewis said. Balls that most players would give up on Rodriquez will hustle after and control. “He doesn’t give his opponents any room. If they make a mistake, he will be right on top of them. In front of the goal Rodriguez plays like a tiger poised and always ready to pounce.
Both players are eventually headed for collegiate careers, Lewis, a senior, hopes to attend Cuyamaca College next fall. Rodriguez has talked about reuniting with him after he graduates from Otay Ranch in 2008.
Lewis may even try to pursue a career in football as a place kicker simultaneously with his soccer career. He would be foolish not to. This past season he nailed an eye-popping 54-yarder with his powerful leg.
Lewis and Rodriguez share a friendship that extends beyond the soccer field. On the field, they appreciate each other’s unique abilities. Together they have been almost unstoppable.