Most high school sports programs had a relatively quiet year due to COVID-19 shutdowns, but St. Anthony boys’ soccer was busy.
The Saints reached the CIF-SS quarterfinals for the first time in school history last year after replacing its head coach midseason. The school also announced plans to break ground on a new $9 million athletic field complex at Clark Field, and last week athletic director Chris Morrison announced the hiring of Aaron Rodriguez as the newest head coach.
“(Rodriguez) stuck out because of the local ties he has,” Morrison said. “We wanted to build on our success with someone local and young who will grow with the program.”
Rodriguez spent last season coaching with the Cabrillo girls’ soccer program. This is his first high school head coaching job. He was raised in the Catholic school system, and said that’s part of the reason he applied for the job.
“They’re coming off a great season,” Rodriguez said of St. Anthony. “So I want to add to that with a little bit more possession and first-touch dynamic play.”
The Saints will be able to do that in the future because of the field turf coming as part of the new athletic facility.
Rodriguez played at Riverside Community College and Cal Baptist University before starting his coaching career with the Salsa Women WPSL semi-professional soccer team. Rodriguez is now the Director of Coaches at Los Angeles Salsa F.C.
Some of the St. Anthony players had a Zoom meeting with Rodriguez last week.
“The next time I see the players we’ll be on the field,” Rodriguez said. “As soon as we get out there we’re going to start working super hard trying to get the boys back into shape. And obviously, we want to make sure we’re having some fun while we’re doing it.”
“We feel his experience and energy are great assets for our program,” Morrison said.
Rodriguez is the third head coach in the last year for the Saints because Matt Dold started last season at the helm, but left midseason. That forced Morrison to find an old friend, Ruben Gonzalez, to take over immediately. Gonzalez returned to his other job at Cerritos College, and Morrison said he got 50-60 applicants for the job.
“I was surprised because that’s a lot,” Morrison said. “I think we have an advantage (hiring a new coach during COVID-19 shutdowns) because he can start meeting the kids and once everything opens back up, he can start practice like everyone else.”