By Steve Breazeale
Getting organized and cohesive on defense was a main focus of the San Clemente High School boys soccer team heading into the new season. Through three games, the Tritons have shown that their offseason preparation is paying off.
The Tritons have allowed only one goal in three contests in 2015 and hold an overall record of 2-0-1.
With new faces dotting the field, San Clemente is beginning to mesh together and will be put to the test this weekend as they play host to the 2015 Lotto Sport Western Showcase Dec. 10-12.
The tournament, which will be held at Thalassa Stadium over three days, features a strong group of teams from Southern California and Arizona.
All eight of the teams in the field are currently ranked inside Top Drawer Soccer’s winter FAB 50 national high school rankings.
San Clemente, currently ranked No. 31 nationally by Top Drawer Soccer and No. 6 in CIF-SS Division 1, will kick off the tournament against No. 25 Watsonville on Dec. 10 at 2:30 p.m.
Servite, the No. 1 squad in CIF-SS Division 1, and No. 4 Loyola round out the group of teams from Southern California.
The Tritons return nine players to the pitch in 2015, six of whom saw considerable playing time last season.
Due to senior and academy league departures, the Tritons’ defense began the season as a question mark, but junior goalie Cameron Dickie said he saw those questions evaporate when San Clemente took the field for its season-opening match against Newport Harbor on Dec. 1.
Dickie said the Tritons defense had to handle five Newport Harbor corner kicks that day and the defense was able to clear every one. The game ended in a 0-0 draw.
“Corners were a weak point last year and we had a few too many in the first game but we dealt with all of them,” Dickie said. “A lot of us didn’t play together last year but we kind of gelled as soon as we got the back four (on defense) solid.”
Newcomers Francisco Caudillo and sweeper John Granados have made an impact on the back line, according to head coach Mike Pronier, and will soon be joined by impact juniors Chase Paulson and Trevor Denney. Both Paulson, who was handling kicking duties for the Tritons football team, and Denney, who is nursing an injury, have not played a game for the soccer team yet.
In year’s past the Tritons have had the luxury of relying on prolific, 20-goal scoring types up front. Pronier does not believe San Clemente will have that output from just one player this season. Instead, the Tritons will field multiple weapons, like junior Michael Saba and senior Barrett Croft, who have a knack for finding the back of the net. San Clemente has scored four goals in three games and all four goals have come from different players. Saba and Croft have each netted one.
“I think with that diversity up top we’re going to be really dangerous,” Croft said. “(Opponents) can’t just man-mark one guy and have our entire offense shut down. We can just always rely on everybody and trust everyone.”