SCL boys soccer preview: No clear front-runner in league race

Analy's Shaq Burton, right, will help anchor the Tigers' defense this season. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

Analy’s Shaq Burton, right, will help anchor the Tigers’ defense this season. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

It’s a wide open field as the Sonoma County League season approaches with no clear front-runner and four teams that have a legitimate shot at being crowned champion.

Petaluma, Sonoma Valley, Analy and Elsie Allen all have formidable clubs this season. The Tigers and the Trojans have the most talent and experience. Piner, Healdsburg and El Molino don’t figure to be in the hunt due to small rosters and lack of depth, but they do have some talented players and play with resolve.

The SCL breakdown:

ANALY

The Tigers won league in 2012 and are strong again with eight seniors and six returning starters among their 20 players. For 23-year coach Peter Meechan, meshing players at different skill and experience levels will be critical.

“We have to integrate quite a few new players into the squad so it will take us some time to gel,” Meechan said. “Our depth is OK. Our experience varies widely from experienced club players to novices.”

The Tigers are led by Saul Valencia and Shaq Burton on defense and Cassidy Rosales at midfield.

Analy lost a North Coast Section quarterfinal to Terra Linda 2-0 last season.

“Our goal is to contend for the SCL title and make the playoffs,” Meechan said. “The league is balanced this year and I would expect a fair amount of teams to do well.”

PETALUMA

The Trojans will have to overcome the loss of 13 seniors from last year’s second-place squad that lost to Rancho Cotate 2-1 in the first round of NCS.

The Trojans have four seniors and four freshmen on their 17-player roster.

“The senior leadership we do have is very strong,” nine-year coach Greg Lamansky said. “For the freshmen, the skill is there but they aren’t used to the speed and physicality of varsity soccer.”

Oliver Barajas, named to the 2012 All-Empire team, will run the offense as a midfielder/striker. Midfielder Francisco Guerrero will help key the Trojans’ attack, and Tarwinder Purewal will anchor the defense.

“These guys are showing the younger guys what it takes to play at the varsity level,” Lamansky said of his veteran team leaders. “We need to play the ball with pace down the sidelines. We are too young and small to play down the middle. We need to use the wings.”

SONOMA VALLEY

The Dragons finished third and lost to Redwood on penalty kicks in the NCS quarterfinals. Of 21 players, seven are returning starters and six are seniors.

“I feel great about my team,” 22-year coach Pedro Merino said. “I would like to think that Sonoma has one of the better teams. Petaluma and Analy seem very close, but their type of soccer is different than ours as we play possession.”

Sonoma will be led by a trio of seniors: Midfielder Brian Ruiz, defender Andy Chavez and forward Alejandro Echeverria.

Merino said his team’s strengths are depth, team chemistry, passing and utilizing players without the ball.

ELSIE ALLEN

Coach Sergio Lopez’s team, led by Carlos Melendez, should compete with Analy, Petaluma and Sonoma.

“Do not discount Elsie Allen,” Merino said.

PINER

The Prospectors will be led by arguably the best player in the SCL, striker Marco Barragan.

“He dribbled right through us last season,” Lamansky said.

HEALDSBURG

The Greyhounds will be a tough out at their intimate home stadium, Rec Park.

“(Playing at) Healdsburg is always tough,” Meechan said. “They have emotional crowds and it is always a tough environment.”

EL MOLINO

A small roster limits the Lions’ prospects but they could play spoiler.

“El Mo always plays with a lot of heart,” Lamansky said. “They beat us 2-1 at El Molino last year and they deserved the win.”

 

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