By John Philip Wyllie
Patience is a virtue. That is especially true in the case of the Otay Ranch High School Boys Soccer Team. Competing in only its second year and completely devoid of seniors, a winning record is just a little bit too much to ask, at least for this season. Coach Brian Lewis sees his team as a work in progress. Unconcerned with the team’s current record, he is building for a better, not too distant future. Lewis sees his freshman striker Anthony Rodriguez as a big part of that future.
“At the beginning of the season we had Anthony on the J.V. team, but once we got started it became obvious that he was excelling and had no business being there. So we brought him up, started him in his first game with us and he has been starting ever since. Anthony has made a huge impact. He is one of our leading scorers,” Lewis said.
“I was about four when I first started playing. My dad was then coaching my older brother’s team and he got me involved,” Rodriguez said. “”I’ve been playing ever since.”
His latest challenge finds him playing against athletes that are in many cases three years older and substantially bigger, faster and stronger. Rodriguez however, has more than held his own despite the age, size and strength differential.
“Anthony works his tail off in every aspect of the game,” according to Lewis. “He chases down every ball. He constantly puts pressure on the goalkeeper. And he comes back to help on defense. He works day in and day out during the games and on the practice field as if his job is on the line.” Already an impact player as a freshman, Rodriguez has the potential to become a force before he graduates in the spring of 2008.
Although the Mustangs have not been winning, they have been playing well and keeping their games close. Lewis knows losing can be tough, so he constantly reminds his players that once the playing field becomes level with the addition of seniors next year, the victories will soon follow.
“The hardest part of having such a young team is in developing unity and leadership. We don’t have any seniors so, I am having to lead a little bit more than I really want to,” Lewis said. He thinks that Rodriguez may one day fill that leadership void. He already does that in a quiet way by setting the team standard for effort and hustle.
“I am looking forward to the future with this team,” Lewis said. “I think next year will be incredible. And the year after that, we’ll still have the same group to work with. We should be able to make a run for the title as soon as next year.”