By GERARDO RECINOS
Coach Rory Gentry’s possession-based attacking style of soccer has what he calls “checks and balances” that players must make to perform smart passes.
Much like a government, the structure of his team’s style of play is also reflected in the style of leadership his captains use to motivate the team, as well as the way it functions as a whole.
“The guys don’t want a repeat of next year,” said Gentry of the team’s stronger start to the season. “My three captains, Jose (Diaz), Blake (Johnson) and Dillon (Lee) all really compliment each other very well.”
Johnson, a senior, is considered the more quiet of the three, but the one most ready to be thrust into the role of leadership. From his holding midfield role he serves as the pivot that leads the team on the attack, and organizes the defense. He is the longest standing member of the team, playing on varsity since his sophomore year.
Lee, a junior, is the fiery member of the trio. He frequently will be found chasing defenders around the pitch from his forward role when he is without the ball, and battling with multiple defenders on it.
Diaz, a senior goalkeeper, has come back after an injury and has made an improvement the gaffer says is “night and day” what he saw from him last year.
The Bulldogs will need all three of those guys and then some to re-focus the direction of a program that qualified for North Coast Section playoffs every year since 2009. Alhambra has never made it out of the first round of the NCS playoffs.
After a 2013 season where the Bulldogs faltered late in the season more due to overall team attitude rather than talent, Gentry inherited a very young program from Mark Eitelgeorge.
“All you can say about last year is that it was an anomaly,” Gentry said of a 3-15-2 season.
Players this season are stringing together passes that they weren’t even looking for last season. Rather than trying to play a 50-yard ball from the back, players are building from the back and working the overlapping runs down the touch line, something Gentry says will be a point of attack for the team.
“We talked about it after our game Saturday (Dec. 12, 2015),” Gentry said. “We’re trying to keep that misdirection happening so they (defenders) don’t know who to track.”
The Bulldog defenders put together an organized shift on Monday, Dec. 14, something he insists they will need to do throughout December and the Diablo Foothill Athletic League season. As is the case throughout the team, center backs Oscar Domingues and Ryan Fretwell balance each other out when it comes to character and style of play.
Domingues has the ability to adjust and see the game in front of him, and is considered the leader of the back line by Gentry.
Full back Hunter Bradford (sophomore) and Andrew Olvera (junior) both are players that Gentry feels will be key going forward.
Marlon Boulongui, who returns to the team after a year on varsity in his sophomore season, adds a bit of pace up top to compliment Lee and Reagan Cole, a freshman who Gentry is really high on.
“He (Cole) is going to be a big player in this league very soon,” Gentry said.
While the goal is always to reach the playoffs, the Bulldogs will be aiming to give teams a tougher task when it comes to taking on the Alhambra boys.
“We’ll be going up to Dublin Friday (Dec. 18) and they won’t beat us 6-0 like they did last year,” Gentry promised.