Aficionados of high school soccer get a chance to kick off the new year with an early bang, as Alisal visits Watsonville for what is set to be a scintillating match between the two storied and nationally ranked schools. Kickoff for J.V. is set for 5:00 p.m., while the Varsity match begins at 6:45. Both games are at Watsonville.
Topdrawersoccer.com has the Wildcatz ranked at #10 in the nation, while the Alisal Trojans sit ten steps down at #20. However, as sports fans know, rankings can be grossly miscalculated. The Trojans are holders in the Gabilan League, winning 3 out of the 4 league championships since the super league was created four-years ago. The Trojans have also enjoyed consistent dominance over Watsonville. In eleven meetings going back to 2010, Alisal has been victorious six times, including a 1-0, win over the Wildcatz in the 2010 CCS Championship. In the process, the Trojans have only lost twice to Watsonville. However, league dominance has not translated into State Section Titles for the Trojans, as Alisal has fallen in the first round of the playoffs in the last three-years, while Watsonville has earned a Co-Champion piece of the last two State Section Championship.
The past is the past, of course, and both schools are dialed in for the January 3rd match. Alisal has done it’s best to construct a solid preseason schedule, traveling to Los Angeles in December to take on the nation’s best schools, and they did not disappoint. Alisal beat perennial powerhouse Paramount, 3-1. Two days later, they traveled to Loyola, who just weeks earlier had been ranked #1 in state and #2 in the nation. The Trojans beat the Cubs, 1-0. In their final match in L.A., the Trojans took on another Catholic powerhouse in Cathedral. The Trojans dominated the Phantoms but managed only a point in the 0-0 draw. In all, the Trojans have compiled a 5-2-1 preseason record.
With wins over North Salinas and Aptos, to name a few, Watsonville’s preseason schedule has been light in comparison. Nevertheless, the Wildcatz remain undefeated and have not conceded a single goal in an impressive 400 minutes of play. Offensively, Watsonville is led by senior Francisco Gonzalez, an experienced and intelligent attacking player who has netted three goals in their preseason run. For now, the Catz will lean on their defense and will seek to continue their solid defensive form against the Trojans. Not to be outdone, however, Alisal, too, has been solid defensively, having not conceded a goal in over 320 minutes of play. The Trojans have been led by senior captain Eduardo Miranda. Miranda has been impressive in his final year, and with the supporting cast of Manny Figueroa and Alfonso Hernandez, Alisal has proven difficult to breach.
In short, Tuesday’s match should be doozy, as it is packed with league, championship, and CCS implications. A win for either school can secure a spot in the driver’s seat, putting early pressure on the other teams in the Gabilan League and even pave the way for a number one seed in the Open Division of the CCS playoffs.