Today is the last day of league action before the holiday break after two weeks of Moore League boys’ soccer action that has already proved that this is a season of change. Millikan has won 10 of the last 11 league titles, but the fifth-place Rams would miss the CIF Southern Section playoffs if they started today.
“It’s wide open and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Cabrillo coach Pay Noyes said.
Wilson kicked off this shifting season with a 1-0 upset last week at Millikan on opening day thanks to a phenomenal goal from Javi Cervantes. The senior made a long run through the heart of the Rams defense to finish his first touch off a flicked header in the 18-yard penalty box.
Cervantes said it’s one of the best goals he’s scored, but there isn’t much competition because the center midfielder doesn’t fill the stat sheet like some elite players.
“When we’re moving the ball around he’s telling them where the ball should go and dictating the pace of the game,” Wilson coach C.J. Brewer said. “He’s the engine to our machine on offense. He starts everything up with our without the ball.”
Cervantes learned to play the important center midfield position from his dad, Javier Cervantes Sr., who played the same position growing up in Mexico.
“I stared playing in the Cesar Chavez league here in Long Beach when I was 5, and I fell in love with it immediately,’ Cervantes said. “Every time I play it takes away the stress. Usually I’m stressed out with school, but when I’m on the field I’m always happy.”
As one of the smaller players on the field, Cervantes has worked hard on his technical skill by watching a lot of professional soccer, playing the popular FIFA video game and then trying to emulate the professionals on the field.
“I watch what players like Andres Iniesta do and I try to do it in the games, it’s as simple as that,” Cervantes said. “FIFA made the video game play more realistic in recent years, and that has helped me because of the movement from every player that I see when I pass the ball.”
The game came naturally to Cervantes, and he played for his Hill Middle School team before joining Hawaiian Gardens Eagles four years ago. Despite being one of the smallest underclassman in the Wilson program, Cervantes won as spot on the varsity squad as a sophomore.
“I wasn’t confident and I wasn’t playing my best,” Cervantes said. “There was a lot of big guys who could body me, and that brought me down. I was just scared.”
Brewer was the assistant coach that year, and Cervantes said he was instrumental in building his confidence. When Brewer took over the program last year, he told Cervantes that he would be his leader in the middle of the field.
“Javi has always been the lightest and smallest guy on the field,” Brewer said. “He can’t be aggressive and make an effect on the game based on his size, but he has the technical ability to get past guys so they don’t make contact with him. He’s the Steph Curry of soccer with his technical abilities.”
Cervantes had big plans earlier this year while with his club team. He wanted to showcase his abilities for prospective college coaches before his senior season at Wilson. However, Cervantes suffered a major leg injury during a club match in March.
“The doctors told me I broke my leg, but I knew I’d be back,” Cervantes said. “Actually the experience inspired me. I want to study kinesiology and physical therapy now.”
After months of sitting at home in a cast and rehabilitating with trainers, Cervantes was back at full strength by the summer. A few months later, Brewer named him a team captain.
“He’s a very vocal heart and soul of the team,” Brewer said. “If the team wants it, it’s because he wants it.”
Wilson 6-2-2, 2-0-1 (7 points)
Cabrillo 12-0-2, 2-0-0 (6 points)
Poly 5-1-3, 1-0-1 (4 points)
Jordan 1-2-4, 0-0-3 (3 Points)
Millikan 7-2-3, 0-1-2 (2 points)
Lakewood 3-4-2, 0-2-1 (1 Points)
Compton 2-3-1, 0-2-0 (0 Points)
Lakewood at Wilson
Poly at Compton
Jordan at Cabrillo