There was a time when the core group of the Santa Barbara Soccer Club’s Boys Under-18 team suffered through 8-0 and 9-0 losses when it ventured down south for weekend tournaments.
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That was when they were 10.
That core group has since blossomed into premier players and, together with talented players from around the tricounties, they now beat those clubs that handed them lopsided losses years ago.
“The tables have been turned completely,” U18s assistant coach Jesus Landeros said.
Last month, the SBSC U18s captured the California Youth Soccer Association’s So Cal State Championship and qualified for the U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regionals in Albuquerque, N.M., the week of June 16. They’ll be joined in New Mexico by the club’s U16 team, which is seeking a third straight national title. Rudy Ybarra is the coach for both teams.
Presidio Sports is pleased to recognize the SBSC U18s as its Team of the Month.
The U18s have some of the best high school seniors and juniors in the Santa Barbara area. They include Robbie Landeros (San Marcos), Pepe Barron (Santa Barbara High), Robert Soto (SBHS), Jumoke Hutton (SBHS), Ricky Arroyo (Carpinteria, SBCC), Julio Rubio (Dos Pueblos), Geoffrey Acheampong (Cate), Damian Nunez (Laguna Blanca) and Ryan Bickett (Laguna Blanca).
From the county are Abu Danladi (Dunn School), Miguel Padron (Pioneer Valley), Ricky Reyes (Lompoc), Juan Robles (Hancock College), Daniel Gail (Santa Ynez) and Noah Blacker (Santa Ynez).
Players from Ventura County include Damian Calderon (Nordhoff), Auggie Andrade (Nordhoff), Conor Daly (Nordhoff), Erik Ambriz (Santa Paula), Randy Mendoza (Santa Paula) and Joe Hernandez (Ventura).
The players are skillful and talented, but Landeros is quick to note their success is a credit to the excellent coaching they’ve received in their time with the club.
“One of the key aspects of the kids’ development is they’ve had some of the best coaches in the area,” said Landeros, citing Matt Winecki, Lloyd Biggs and current coach Rudy Ybarra “(The players) been very fortunate to have consistently good guys teaching, massaging and expanding their game.”
Ybarra, in particular, has been instrumental in the club’s recent success.
“The man knows the game inside and out, and he’s able to pass that on to the kids,” Landeros said of the former Santa Barbara High coach. “It’s one thing to have talent, it’s a whole other thing to know what to do with it and recognize what’s going on in a certain game. That’s what Rudy brings to the table. Rudy is a proven winner at every level.”
Danladi is the marquee player on the squad. He was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year and has a scholarship to UCLA.
But the SBSC U18s have proven they can win without Danladi.
“Everybody gets caught up with a player like Abu,” Landeros said. “He is a player at another level, and I expect him to play professionally. However, this is a special group of players. There is talent up and down the roster. One of the things that was nice for them was to go through this most recent competition without Abu. It just reiterated to everybody: ‘That you guys are solid. Obviously, you’re a special team with him but you’re excellent team without him as well.’”
The team is so deep in soccer talent that it’s allowed Ybarra to move players into different positions without any problems.
Robbie Landeros is a perfect example. He was an attacking midfielder at San Marcos. On the club team, he plays center back along side Randy Mendoza. The pair has been outstanding. The defense allowed only six goals during the National Cup.
The outside backs are Hutton and Arroyo. Barron, a 20-goal scorer at Santa Barbara High, also has played at an outside back position.
“At the level we play, these guys can all play,” Landeros said. “It goes back to using the talents you have on the team to make it a strong team. Rudy sets up the formation in accordance to our opponent.”
Acheampong runs the attack in the midfield. The other midfielders are Rubio, Calderon and Andrade, who will be joining Robbie Landeros at the University of Seattle in the fall.
Barron, Danladi and Padron are the forwards.
Landeros said Padron stepped up big at the National Cup.
“Miguel had an outstanding National Cup,” he said. “He’s just a dangerous guy. Teams tend to focus on Abu because he gets all the attention, but when Miguel gets on the board it’s very likely he’s going to get a hat trick.
“That’s the strength of the team. It’s not one guy we rely on. It’s a team game.”
Presidio Sports accepts nominations for its Team of the Month award. Please send nomination and background information on the team to firstname.lastname@example.org