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Lakewood Soccer

PREVIEW: Lakewood Boys’ Soccer

The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.

It’s hard to imagine only losing three games in a season and missing the playoffs.

That’s exactly what happened to Lakewood boys’ soccer last year when the Lancers went 7-3-7 to finish fifth in the Moore League. Two of those losses came against Millikan and Cabrillo in the final week, so this Lancers squad that only lost two players to graduation is extra motivated.

“We have unfinished business,” senior Diego Perez said. “We gave it our all (last year), but it’s about staying focused and hungry. We’re still together and working as a team. I believe we can win the league.”

“I was really pleased with how we performed last year because (the players) started believing in themselves and that they can compete with everybody,” Lakewood coach Alex Diaz said. “We’re trying to change the culture and not be a team that’s an easy win. Just to challenge, compete and do what we do best while sticking to our game plan.”

Diaz said the compact shape and defensive transition tactics that he preaches helped his team keep games close last season, and the strategy remains the same with senior defenders Angelo Funes, Diego Perez, Elijah Ramos and David Sandoval all returning. They’re all four-year Varsity players as Funes and Perez take the center back positions while Ramos and Sandoval will be fullbacks.

“They’re a really experienced and aggressive group,” Diaz said. “This has been the most aggressive group I’ve had. You can have all of the talent, but if you’re not aggressive, I don’t think it matters. Whether we have the ball or are defending, we’re going to be an aggressive group.”

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Diaz said that the familiarity with his teammates and Diaz’ consistent coaching style has helped this team maintain the momentum built last season.

Junior goalkeeper Diego Ortiz is back for his third season as a starter. Diaz said he’s matured a lot and has been more vocal in practice. 

The other key to Lakewood success is the connection between senior midfielder Alan Gonzalez and sophomore midfielder Brian Pioquinto.

“They’re impact players who keep us organized and compact on and off the ball,” Diaz said. “If those guys can keep us disciplined we can go a long way.”

Lakewood also has one of the most naturally talented strikers in sophomore Michael Gutierrez. He had a phenomenal freshman campaign, and got great experience with ECNL and Youth National Team Camps in the offseason while getting faster and stronger.

Senior Jonathan Romero and junior Andy Zerate will flank Gutierrez and try to be crafty while holding the ball to support the attack.

“That bad taste of not making the playoffs because of the games we didn’t take care of… That’s what is motivating them now because they were so close,” Diaz said of his squad. “They know they can compete if they put in the work.”

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.