What a difference a year makes. Coming off a middle of the pack finish in the Blossom Valley League’s West Valley Division a year ago, the Live Oak High boys soccer team has legitimate expectations to take the division championship this season. The Acorns returned several impact players from the 2017-2018 team who are a year better and playing in a cohesive manner.
“We’re looking pretty good,” said Andres Rosales, who was the West Valley Division Goalkeeper of the Year last season. “We need to keep on talking and communicating, and hopefully we can step it up and make it to CCS and go far if we get there.”
With Rosales, sophomore striker Caleb Ojeda, senior midfielder Jesus Duran, and senior defender Connor Dietz all returning, the Acorns are poised for a huge turnaround. Live Oak went 1-1-2 through its first four games of the season, with Ojeda scoring six goals in that span, including a hat trick in a 5-4 win over Santa Clara in a Dec. 19 match. Santa Clara plays in the Santa Clara Valley’s De Anza Division, one of the premier leagues in the section.
“That Santa Clara game is where we really showed our talent,” said Ojeda, who had a standout season on the football team in the fall. “To come up with a result like that against an A-league team, you can tell we’re going to have a better season. Last year, I don’t think we won a game (in non-league before the league season started). We were also coming off two straight losses before playing Santa Clara.”
The Acorns led 2-1 at halftime before blitzing the Bruins for three consecutive goals coming out of the halftime break. Two of Ojeda’s three goals came after he blew by the Santa Clara defense and received perfect through balls from Duran, and Ojeda’s other score came when he displayed a Midas touch on a volley off a throw-in.
“Jesus gives me amazing through balls that I just have to tap in past the goalie,” Ojeda said. “The ball gets played up from the defense who wins it in the back and then up top. … I’m definitely a speed guy. I’m not the greatest skilled player, so I use my speed to get past defenders.”
Rosales has a versatile skill set and will use varying styles depending on the opponent. If the Acorns are facing a kick and chase squad, the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder will stay up and be aggressive to beat oncoming forwards to the ball. If Live Oak is facing a skilled team that utilizes a lot of quick passes, Rosales knows he’ll have to communicate effectively with his teammates—especially his backline—for the Acorns to play to their potential.
“I’ll have to get the defense ready and we’ll need to be on the same page,” he said. “My defensive line says I only talk when I get mad at them, which is kind of true. But I have to get on them and get on myself so we can all be at our best.”
Rosales knows he’s communicating well with his teammates when “I can give them another set of eyes on the back post” on set pieces or corner kicks.
“If I don’t do a good job of communicating, that’s how we get scored upon,” he said.
Agile, athletic and possessing cat-like reflexes, Rosales can make the routine save and the game-changing ones as well. Playing the sport since age 4, Rosales switched from a field player to goalkeeper in the eighth grade upon realizing he didn’t have the prerequisite speed to excel in the field. Rosales will rely heavily upon Dietz—a standout defender—to organize things in the back and make plays.
When he’s not in goal for Live Oak, Rosales plays for the De Anza Force Soccer Club. In the last club season, Rosales played for the Force’s 17-and-under team that won its league and got promoted to play in a higher National Premier League division for the upcoming season. Rosales got to play for the Force’s Academy team that competed in the prestigious San Diego Surf Cup Tournament in November.
“It was one of the best experiences of my life,” he said. “I’m going to try to bring everything I’ve learned in club and help Live Oak win as many games as possible.”
Ojeda also started playing soccer at a young age, but he took a break from the sport starting in the sixth grade to focus on football. However, Ojeda picked up soccer again in his freshman year and hasn’t looked back since. Possessing a goal scorer’s sense and a knack to be in the right position at the right time, Ojeda will have to make adjustments as defenses start gearing their attention toward him.
Ojeda, who scored around seven goals last season, is up for the challenge. In much the same way he made adjustments on the football field, Ojeda has the ability to do the same on the pitch. With a nice blend of returning players along with some key newcomers who played on the junior varsity team that won a division title a year ago, the Acorns seek to make a major move up the standings this season.