Soccer is a sport of style, and Cabrillo senior Jonny Riquer cultivated his original playing style at Westside Long Beach parks near his house. The defensive midfielder plays with a natural smoothness that keeps him calm under pressure, and dangerous on set pieces. His quiet confidence has been contagious.
“Jonny and Alexis (Torres) are two big reasons our defense has been so good,” Cabrillo coach Pat Noyes said of his defensive midfielders. The Jaguars have limited their opponents to only 12 goals in 27 games this season. READ MORE about “The Wall”
“I think we do a really good job of staying together in the back and defending with more numbers than teams have against us,” Noyes said.
Riquer grew up playing Sunday league soccer under the tutelage of his dad, Aurelio, and alongside his future Jaguar teammates.
“A lot of us have played together since we were small kids,” Riquer said. “To all meet up at Cabrillo and combine what we know together… it just all clicked as a family because we all come from the same background.”
Cabrillo has been preparing for the CIF Southern Section Division 2 championship on Saturday against Arlington all week, and we stopped by training on Wednesday to talk with Riquer about everything on and off the field…
Question: So, you learned to play from your dad? Was he good?
Answer: My dad was an amazing soccer player growing up, and he taught me everything I know. He was a Sunday league monster.
Q: What kind of player was he?
A: He was different. It depended how he felt that game. When he played middle he just calmly controlled the game and tempo. If he was playing striker he would be showboating with bicycle kicks out of nowhere.
Q: So you just learned to play at the park?
A: I never played club, only Sunday league. I didn’t grow up with experienced players around me, so I learned to work around that and humble myself with those situations.
When I was in middle school and saw all of these club players wearing their club uniforms to school, I was kind of jealous. But then when I played against them and I saw how much better I was in a more spiritual way… I had more heart in the game. I felt more pride than them.
Q: Does your dad give you advise at your games now?
A: I can hear him from the field. He’s that loud. When I come out at halftime he tells me to just shoot it. ‘Show ‘em what you got!’ But I tell him Noyes wants me to play calm. He told me since I was little that no matter who your coach is, ‘The best thing a player can be is a disciplined player.’
Q: You take the long free kicks for Cabrillo. What is you dad’s best advice for taking free kicks?
A: He told me, ‘Don’t think about the wall, don’t think about the goalie, just pick your spot and don’t change your mind. Just go for it, and don’t be scared. Take that chance.’
Q: Is he coming to the championship game on Saturday?
A: Yeah. He’s inviting all of his Sunday league teammates too.
Q: Have you always played defensive midfield?
A: No, my dad was always my coach in Sunday league and he told me that to be a great player you have to know what to expect from every position, from goalie to striker. So I’ve played everything, but only defensive midfield at Cabrillo.
Q: Have you always been one of the bigger kids on your soccer teams?
A: Yeah. I was the kid the other parents complained about because they thought I was older. I got used to it.
Q: Do you still go to the local park for games?
A: Yeah, I’ve coached my own Sunday league team with 6-7 year old kids for the last two years. Growing up I would go to my dad’s games and the parents saw me playing with their kids. I actually started making money privately training those kids. My dad told me I should take a team.
Q: What do you enjoy about coaching?
A: I like to see them have fun. When you grow up and go to high school you forget about having all of that fun. Seeing these kids smile takes me back to when we didn’t worry about stats or a CIF championship. You were just having fun, one game at a time where you would get to see all of your friends.
Q: You’ve played very calm and consistent this season, but last year you got benched because of two red cards. What happened?
A: I would get really frustrated and I lost my head a couple times in the game. It was my first real year on varsity and I would get frustrated with myself when I wouldn’t do well. I was taking that frustration out the wrong way.
Q: How did you change?
A: I learned it the hard way. I went back to the Sunday league and was like ‘Okay, I’m going to play hard, make other kids get mad at me, and I’m going to learn how to not respond.’
That’s how I learned. In ghetto league people don’t care, and they’ll try to fight you, so I learned to not respond to them. I would just walk away and that’s how I taught myself to calm down in games.
Q: What did it feel like to win the CIF semifinal last weekend?
A: When that final whistle blew, in my mind I was just shocked. No matter how much I believed in this team, I just never though I’d be able to experience a CIF final. We’ve been talking about it all year, and it felt like a dream come true.
Q: Who is the funniest player on your team?
A: Chris Tejada. That’s my best friend. We’re together all day, and we can be talking and no one knows what we’re talking about. But we’re not similar at all. I’m big, he’s small. The only thing we have in common is our sense of humor. We go to his house and watch a lot of the old Dave Chappelle (stand-up).
Q: Who is your most artistically talented teammate?
A: Jafet Castillo Ortega. He has an electronic drum set and makes some really cool beats. I found that crazy. He’s so goofy, I never thought he’d take something like that seriously.
Q: What is your favorite subject in school?
A: AP Government or Economics. I’ve always been interested in politics and how to manage money. (The world today) is not all that great, but it’s going to get fixed. Somehow. I turn 18 on March 8, and I’ve been waiting to vote. I’d rather not complain about what’s going on, I’d rather be the one trying to change it. Voting is the way we can change that stuff.
Q: What is your favorite movie of all time?
A: A movie I saw in second grade called Shiloh. It was the first dog related movie I’ve ever seen, and I love dogs. I’ve always loved animals. I’ve had a cockatoo, a turtle, a cat, a rabbit… and I’ve always wanted a hedgehog. They’re so small and it would be so funny to see them running around.