By Ray Hamill — The College of the Redwoods men’s soccer team will kick off the new season on Thursday, when the Corsairs travel to Ukiah to take on Mendocino College.
And early indications are that this year’s team, which is built around a large group of local recruits, should be competitive.
The Corsairs, who will feature a squad of 18, have played well in their preseason scrimmages and are showing signs of playing smart, composed soccer.
“It was a very encouraging performance,” head coach Kyle Van Dyke said of last week’s scrimmage in Redding against Simpson, a four-year program. “It’s just been a really good group out there and they’re constantly improving.”
The head coach has five returning players on the roster, all of them locals, including Fortuna’s Geovaney Ramirez and Emmanuel Meraz, Eureka’s Octavio Romo and Jesse Bravo-Pimentel and Arcata’s Marek Clancy.
And all of them are expected to play a pivotal role this fall and provide some much-needed leadership, especially Ramirez and Clancy, who are entering their third year with the program.
Ramirez will anchor the lineup in midfield and has looked sharp in the preseason.
“He’s very strong on the ball and does really well at distributing,” Van Dyke said. “He’s our focal point in the center of the field.”
Newcomer Jesus Parra Leon, a Eureka High graduate, is also expected to play a key role after transferring back to the area after a year at Santa Rosa JC.
Likewise with Fortuna’s Braiden Barsanti, who has impressed along with Parra Leon in midfield and on the wing during the preseason scrimmages.
Roman Barnes, from Utah, also has looked strong this month and will be expected to have an impact up front.
“I would say we’re pretty balanced, and we’ve been making good adjustments when we attack and when we hold the ball,” Van Dyke said. “We’re good at staying organized and not getting too scrambled, and that’s something I’m hoping to build on.”
The coach has been encouraging his players to attack, but to do so intelligently.
“We play a pretty flowing style,” he said. “I’m not going to get mad at them for making a run up the field, and long as it’s communicated.
“We did really well at that (in the scrimmages) and it was really good to see.”
The Corsairs are also hoping to make some noise in what should be a competitive Golden Valley Conference.
“Our conference is always tough,” Van Dyke said. “Ultimately, I’m hoping we compete each day, and to get better day in and day out.
“If we improve a little bit every day, then the results will come.”
Van Dyke’s squad features 13 local players.
After the trip to Ukiah, the Corsairs will travel to play Contra Costa College on Friday, before returning to Humboldt to play their home opener on Friday of next week against Mendocino at 2 p.m.