A large incoming group of 22 freshmen will make or break the fortunes of the 2019 Pasadena City College men's soccer team. Third-year head coach Gerry Mora is carrying a large 30-player roster overall but is going to be reliant on the newcomers to learn the college game on a faster curve than other seasons.
PCC opened the year on Tuesday with a tough, 2-1 loss at Chaffey College, a team that the last few years was part of the South Coast Conference but has since moved on to be reconfigured into a brand new Inland Empire Athletic Conference. Pasadena trailed 1-0, but missed a penalty kick in the 65th minute when frosh forward Carlos Navarro's attempt hit the crossbar.
The Lancers though did tie it in the 77th minute on a second penalty kick as rookie midfielder Ernesto Angulo (El Monte High) netted the team's lone goal after being fouled in the box by a Chaffey defender. Chaffey, however, would score the game winner in the 82nd minute on the second goal of the game by Miguel Correa as he sent a shot past PCC sophomore goalie Steven Sandoval (four saves).
"We had the majority of the possession in the first half, and we had our opportunities," Mora said. "The missed PK came back to haunt us unfortunately, but we saw a lot of positives for a first match."
Returning from the 2018 Lancers are starting goalie Sandoval, who had a 2.13 goals against average last season with a 5-4-5 record and 82 saves in 16 games, starting 6-foot-2 defender and recently named team captain Edson Pulido (two goals, 17 games), forward Edwin De Jesus (goal, assist, 12 games), 5-11 midfielder Emmanuel Becerra, 6-foot defender Adam Ure, and 6-2 backup goalie David Quinonez. Experienced midfielder Joseph Cortez returns from the 2017 Lancers and midfielder Christian Ibarra is a transfer from Rio Hondo College.
"This season, we have three strikers that can finish, which was something we needed more of last year," Mora said. "Carlos Navarro (El Monte) is a strong, fast player who earned his spot this summer by creating opportunities for himself. In the center midfield, we have Jason Bautista (Pasadena High), who is a very technical and smart player that can lead the team. Additionally, Becerra is a returner who is a playmaker with a lot of potential offensively. Our wingers are two freshmen in Marco Villegas (Baldwin Park HS) and Danny Vargas (Arcadia High). They have a lot of energy going box to box. Pulido will be a top defender and he is a leader on and off the field. Sandoval gives us an experienced goalie who can hit long balls and has been improving on his distribution.
"Overall, we have a great balance of height and speed as well as creativity and finishing. We have the right balance all around where we can have a good rotation out of the bench."
Mora's opening-day starting lineup featured Sandoval, frosh defender Kevin Huertos (Marquez High), Pulido, 6-1 freshman defender Favian Esparza (Sierra Vista), Ure, Cortez, Bautista, Angulo, Villegas, Vargas and Navarro.
Martin Manzanilla, a Pasadena Star-News All-Area First Team selection from Marshall Fundamental, is a freshman forward who may jump into the offensive mix.
Other players who saw action in the opener were freshmen defenders Mauricio Rodriguez and 5-11 Jared Hernandez, both from El Monte High, first-year midfielder Johnny Jimenez (Sotomayor), and 5-11 forward Andres Velasquez (CIS Academy).
PCC no longer will be playing in the South Coast Conference North Division as the conference is back to one whole, 9-team conference with Chaffey now out. The SCC also will have for the first-time a SCC Championship Tournament where the top eight teams will slug it out for the conference title over three games for each squad after everyone plays an 8-game round robin slate.
The Lancers are looking to make the postseason for the first time in 2016. PCC hasn't won the SCC championship since 2004.
On Friday, Aug. 30, Pasadena returns to action at Moorpark College in a 2 p.m. game. The Lancers home opener on the brand new artificial turf, now regulation-sized Robinson Stadium is set for Tuesday, Sept. 3 when they play Long Beach City College (a non-conference game agreed upon by the two teams) at 2 p.m. The first SCC game is on October 8 in a 4 p.m. contest v. Mt. San Antonio.