A year after guiding the most-experienced team in his 16 seasons at Los Altos High, boys soccer coach Vava Marques finds himself with perhaps the least-experienced squad of his tenure.
The Eagles lost 14 players to graduation last spring, leaving Marques with only four returnees this winter.
“We’re a very young team,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of seniors or kids who played (varsity) last year.”
The Los Altos roster comprises four seniors, 13 juniors and six sophomores. Of the seniors, only midfielder Eylam Fried played significant minutes last season.
Yet having all that experience a year ago did not translate into wins. Los Altos went 4-10-5 overall and finished fifth in the SCVAL De Anza Division.
Marques expects to do better this season, though he’s not promising a Central Coast Section championship.
“We’re an OK team – we’ll be in the middle of the pack (in league),” he said. “We’re hoping to go over .500 and get to CCS. Maybe we can squeeze into third place and get an automatic (playoff) berth.”
The Eagles opened league play last week with a 3-1 loss to Palo Alto, a team Marques considers a title contender, along with defending champ Mountain View. Los Altos trailed 2-0 at halftime of the Jan. 8 home game. The Eagles scored early in the second half on a shot by Kunal Patel, assisted by Max de Visser.
Marques ranks Patel and fellow junior forward Farzan Fallah as the team’s top players on offense.
“They’re very fast and can beat players one-on-one,” the coach said. “We hope they can open up (chances) for someone else or they score themselves.”
Goals have been difficult to come by for Los Altos, which has mustered just 10 over seven games. In their six non-league matches – which they split – the Eagles only twice scored more than one goal.
Los Altos lacks a dominant scorer, getting goals from several players.
“We’re balanced,” Marques said.
The team’s strength is on defense, according to the coach. The Eagles have surrendered 12 goals, posting shutouts against Pajaro Valley and Menlo-Atherton.
Fullbacks de Visser (a junior) and Nicky McConnell (sophomore) spearhead the defense.
“They’re tall, aggressive and good on the ball,” Marques said. “They’re good leaders, too.”
Juniors Ricardo Juarez and Chris Lytle split time in goal.
“Ricky is shorter and Chris is taller; they’re pretty even,” the coach said. “I’ve been happy with them.”
Midfielders Fried and Matt Schonher, a junior, are co-captains of the team.
“They’re doing a good job,” Marques said.
Schonher, who also plays football, “is stronger this year and will help us,” the coach added.
Although Los Altos hasn’t looked that strong lately – dropping four consecutive games after a 3-0 start – Marques sees plenty of potential in his youthful squad. He pointed to the Dec. 11 match against Menlo-Atherton – a 3-0 home victory – as proof of what the Eagles are capable of doing.
“It was a very intense game against a very good team,” Marques said. “We matched their intensity and were extremely composed. It was the best game we’ve played so far.”
Los Altos’ next game is slated 3:30 p.m. today at Santa Clara.
2013 boys soccer: Los Altos High School - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier