Escondido, CA
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SP’s impressive soccer culture rolls on

When it comes to happenings on the Escondido prep sports scene, there’s one that can seemingly be counted upon on a yearly basis. That the San Pasqual boys’ soccer team will be damn good if not great. People have come to expect that the Golden Eagles won’t often be denied when it comes to getting it done on the pitch.
And despite having to deal with some significant injury issues and being severely tested by the gauntlet of a brutal non-league schedule, this season’s SP squad has nonetheless fashioned a commendable 2-2-3 record to date. Incidentally, those two setbacks have come against heavyweights Point Loma and Torrey Pines who have a combined 10-1-4 mark.
In their latest encounter versus talented neighbor Escondido High, the G. Eagles battled through some fatigue from previous encounters and a lack of their accustomed sharpness to earn a hard-fought 1-1 tie. SP’s goal came when Charaboy Iniesrta neatly positioned himself out in front and then artfully put home the rebound of a forceful shot by teammate Alexis Aparacio that had ricocheted off the post.
How good can this current SP club become? Well, longtime and highly accomplished head coach John Burson – now in his 16th year at the varsity helm – believes this team has tremendous upside. “We have both great player leadership and individual skills,” says Burson. “If we continue to work hard, then all the components and pieces are there for this to potentially be one of our all-time teams. I think we can compete with anybody.”
Because of factors such as injuries, attrition, the high intensity nature of the game and occasional player unavailability, Burson expects that everyone on his 25-man roster will see his share of action. But there’s a solid core of eight primary players, most of who will be on the pitch almost all of the time.
In senior captain David Kotoyan, SP has a versatile three-year starter who can play either left-back or center-mid. A dynamic athlete, Kotoyan can excel on the defensive side while also generating lots of offense with his enviable movement.
Another center-mid of note is Jason Espinoza, a speedy sort who is relentless.
Meanwhile, Alexis Aparacio is a gifted performer who will battle for loose balls and is a real threat when on the attack.
Then there’s center-back and captain Victor Valle, fast afoot and capable of smothering enemy forays.
And when it comes to the goalie, SP is extremely well fortified thanks to the 6-foot-4 Tanner Wrzeski. A four-year starter blessed with athleticism, a tremendous wingspan and great instincts, Wrzeski has been an absolute rock on the back end. Understandably, his standout play has generated plenty of interest from local colleges like USD and San Diego State.
Moving on, we come to junior Angel Ramirez, a midfielder who’s clean on the ball, effectively patrols the middle and looms as a real presence on the field. It’s not hyperbole to state that in some respects, it is Ramirez leading the way.
As for Isaac Lineras, this senior rates as a significant contributor to SP’s success because he’s a dynamic and skilled player who’s fast on the dribble and capable of finishing with either of his feet.
Finally, big Brando Oros is certainly worthy of mention. A superb goalie in his own right but with no place to play because of Wrzeski’s excellence, Oros has made an impressive transition to the center-back position where he’s shined. Adept at winning balls in the air and good at distribution, Oros has made a huge impact.
Though Burson would like to see his charges be a little bit more clinical and convert at a higher rate when it comes to promising scoring chances, he nevertheless knows the Golden Eagles have plenty going for them. In particular he points to his team’s versatility that manifests itself in being able to win in multiple ways – either by playing a technical game, using a counterattacking approach or simply by grinding things out.
Though the G. Eagles lost some important pieces from last season’s squad that advanced all the way to the Open Division finals before losing a heartbreaker in a shootout, the fact remains that the SP returned a majority of that squad. As a result, pursuing big goals remains the objective. “We know what it takes when it comes to those high-pressure situations,” says Burson. “We’ve got lofty expectations when it comes winning the Palomar League and doing well in the CIF (playoffs).”
One factor that will always work to SP’s advantage is the defining culture that has long since immersed itself into the program. A culture in which Burson empowers his veteran players to teach their younger teammates about a dedicated work ethic, how to behave, how to carry themselves and what it means to wear a Golden Eagles uniform. A sustaining culture whereby everyone becomes fully invested.
In many ways, life holds very few guarantees. But as it relates to Golden Eagle soccer, you fully expect that it will be first-rate and topnotch. The culture won’t accept anything less.

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