Category Archives: soccer

Is that you, Messi?

santa-monica-christian-school-soccerThe singular sensation of watching Erhan Meric, who led Lighthouse Christian Academy to a 6-3 victory over Pilgrim Lutheran yesterday, is that one is witnessing the sublime soccer of a type of Messi.

He has Messi’s slight frame, his shyness and unselfishness. Erhan’s never boisterous, not given to braggadocio.

But when the ball falls to his feet, expect to hear an exquisite symphony.

Erhan, a senior at Lighthouse, is unobtrusive on the field. He lurks in open spaces and projects the image of the most unthreatening player.

But when he carried the ball up the right and single-handedly threaded his way through three defenders to slot on goal in the early minutes of the game, he put on notification the other team — indeed, the whole league — that he is not a man to be underestimated.

Erhan scored three and set up one. His header off a Beckham-perfect free kick brought the fourth goal in the second half in the Glendale Sports Complex.

And the good thing about this years Saints varsity team is that Erhan is not the only star. Actually a lot of technically skilled players combined yesterday to overwhelm Pilgrim Lutheran.

“We had good passing and good pressure,” said Coach Jack Mefford. “It was an exciting start to a promising season. We have a lot of new additions who know how to play soccer from the Bowens who grew up in Africa playing soccer to Shun (Fukushige) and Aki (Akihiro Oku) who played in Japan.”

Marcus Scribner, a sophomore, proved a bunker buster on offense, putting his football physique to good use against defenders. He scored two goals.

“Marcus’s two goals show how much he has matured because he struggled to finish last year,” Mefford said.

Aki, a junior, scored one, and Shun launched the goal-scoring free kick – a work of art – that connected with Meric’s head and past the hapless goalie. Read the rest: Saints soccer Santa Monica.

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Girls rule, boys drool

a-beginner-makes-a-goal-in-varsity-co-ed-soccerIn her first year of soccer, Jamie Roman didn’t play in a single game. She sat on the bench and smiled.

In her second year of soccer, coach threw on the easygoing junior against the league’s toughest team, Einstein Academy, on Feb. 3.

And she almost scored a goal.

Jamie is no Tomboy, but she joined varsity soccer at the Lighthouse Christian Academy just to get involved. LCA coaxes kids to participate in activities they would never do in regular school. With only 45 students, the Saints scour their enrollment list to fill rosters.

“At first I just joined for my friends,” Jamie said of her experience last year. “Then I saw how fun the conditioning was — that pain in the moment. I wanted to see if I could run.”

She looked perfectly content with exercising and playing at practice — and being side-lined during games.

“I wanted to play last year, but I was shy and lazy, so I missed the opportunity to play,” she said. “I had a lot of good laughs on the sidelines. But it was kind of embarrassing that I would go to all the games and wear a uniform and not play.”

The 2016-17 season was different. A few players were disqualified because of grades, whittling down eligible players for the starting squad.

Sometimes high school coaches put their least experienced players as forwards because it’s the position where they can do the least damage.

(The defensive line is critical because once the opponent gets past, it’s just the goalie that can save the day. You want to fight and maintain position in the middle of the field. So where does the newbie go? Up front.)

In her breakout game, Jamie got offsides a kajillion times. She had to learn how pass the last defender without the ball and how to sprint into the danger zone as soon as her teammate struck for a pass to her.

Nerves killed her.

“I was nervous,” she said. “I was so paranoid that I’d mess up. I was afraid they would yell at me if I messed up.” Read the rest at co-ed soccer.

Second straight playoffs for Lighthouse soccer

saints-soccer-tall-and-proudFor the second straight year, Lighthouse Christian Academy entered soccer playoffs — a decided break from a long past of never making post-season play.

But the Saints mechanics ran rough on Feb. 15 against delToledo High School, which dismissed LCA with a resounding 0-6 defeat.

For about a week, Lighthouse players were thinking their third-place standing in the league ruled them out of playoffs when they rather suddenly received the news they would get at least one more game to see far they advanced.

lighthouse-christian-academy-soccer-santa-monicaThe Saints season peaked in a shock defeat of last year’s league champs 2-1. In that game, players were passing, fighting and concentrating. The victory against Newbury Park culminated a winning streak of three and gave the Saints the intoxicating sensation of invincibility that lasted only a couple days.

The next game Jan. 27 against Einstein Academy brought LCA back to reality with a humbling 0-6 thrashing. The prior passing went up in smoke with predictable results.

The Saints finished league play 5-3. Against the better teams, LCA — which has 1-and-a-half club players — can compete when they play like a team linking up with passes. Individual juking runs don’t work. But would players listen to coach and stick with selflessness?

If only players in our Santa Monica Christian school would apply the Bible to the soccer field: It is better to give than to receive.

In some games, passing became so scarce that when finally a through-ball was sent, the intended player wasn’t expecting it and invariably reacted slowly.

Now landing goals, not punches

from-south-central-los-angeles-to-a-christian-school-in-santa-monica

His shots went high and wide.

Junior Abraham Morales, who showed plenty of speed and skill, couldn’t put the ball into the net to save his life.

Then in the second half of the season, things suddenly came into focus for old blurry-shooter. He nailed a shot against Westmark from the left flank.

And on Tuesday, in the highest tension game of the 2017 season, when his team needed him most, Abraham proved in top form. He sunk two torpedoes to unnerve the reigning league champs, Newbury Park, in a game that ultimately Lighthouse Christian Academy lost 3-5.

“As a little kid I would just pass the ball around with my family members. I was a pretty short kid. I used to tell them, ‘One day I’ll make it big in soccer,’” Abraham said.

He’s big in our eyes, now one of the top scorers for the season and officially listed in the Lighthouse ledger of soccer history.

Because of soccer, Abraham transferred to Lighthouse. His middle school teammates jeered and bullied him for his flubs on the soccer field, a habitual provocation that drove him to yelling and even fist fights. The nastiness continued into his freshman year of high school in the public school system in South Central Los Angeles, where he lives.

“I told my mom, ‘Can I go to another school because I don’t feel right here?” Mrs. Morales found Lighthouse online.

Even though he was raised in a Christian home, Abraham thought he wouldn’t fit in at a Christian high school.

“I thought it was going to be super strict and all that,” he admitted. “I knew there was going to be some sort of dress code. I didn’t want to wear a uniform.” Read the rest of the story.

Exquisite soccer: selflessness

erhanThere are piano movers and piano players on the soccer field.

There are beefy guys who marshal girth at speed to jostle opponents off the ball and keep possession. And there are slight figures who ghost around and with exquisite touches on the ball to perform the magic that gets posted on YouTube.

Erhan Meric was performing a symphony of soccer delight in yesterday’s 7-1 victory over Westmark School in Encino. The Lighthouse Christian Academy Saints are now 5-1 in league play.

Erhan, who learned the music of soccer in Turkey before moving to America and enrolling in our Santa Monica Christian school, knows as much as an orchestra director. He’ll streak past defenders dribbling as if the ball were attached to his feet. He changes up pace suddenly. He doesn’t shy away from the one-on-one, in which he’ll thread the ball through the eye of the needle. He can strike from distance with power and precision.

He’s a bonafide virtuoso.

Against Westmark, Erhand notched two early goals to put LCA on towards a comfortable win.

And then after making two goals, Erhan did something extraordinary. He stopped scoring.

Other high school players would have capitalized on a weak opponent to set a personal record. Not Erhan. He desisted.

Instead, he dedicated his skill to setting up his lesser-skilled teammates for goals.

“I’ve scored a lot of goals,” the soft-spoken junior said. “I wanted my friends to score.”

An Erhan strike, not against Westmark.

And they flubbed. They tripped. They shot wide or high. It was a great opportunity for them to learn in a real life game.

There’s a word for a star who wants others to shine. It’s a word that can’t be used much in the world of sports.

Here it is: selfless.

Sports is thronged by bluster and brag, by trashtalk and mindgame. It is dominated by a deafening drivel of ME. And when the megalomania hits the field, the opponent becomes more than just the other team. It becomes the teammate who’s competing. Yup, when teammates compete among themselves to see who’s the best, usually the other team wins.

Soccer, like basketball, is only beautiful when there is passing. When one player jukes four players and single-handedly taps the ball into the net, that is gloating and unsportsmanlike. While a Messi or Neymar individual performance is sensational, high schoolers go selfish and try to be the all-star, almost never do they make the final goal. Their selfishness undoes whatever prior work they put in to building up to the finale. The last touch of a scintillating run must be a pass because you pull too many defenders to you.

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LCA relinquish romantic role of underdog in win against Pilgrim School

alex-cervantes-santa-monica-christian-school-soccerLighthouse returned to its winning ways Tuesday with a 4-0 shutout of Pilgrim School.

There is something romantic, something poetic about slugging it out in a losing battle — if you don’t succumb to cynicism. Parents cheer on their players, who bravely mount a futile fight. Coaches teach the sport to beginners. You are playing competitive league, learning about teamwork, effort and excellence. It’s a game, so even if you lose, it’s better than doing homework. The odds are just overwhelmingly against you.

It is a poetry that Lighthouse Christian Academy, with historically low enrollments, knows well — on the football field, on the volleyball court and on the soccer field.

But on Tuesday, the romance of being the underdog didn’t belong Lighthouse. It belonged to Pilgrim, which staged an epic fight and skirmished rousingly but ultimately buckled before bigger guns.

The Saints saw themselves, for once, in the dominant role.

With the fleet-footed Turkish star, junior Erhan Meric, and with the big basketball star sophomore Justin Berry in goal swatting down shots like flies, with soccer machine junior Alex Cervantes and with danger-creating freshman Hosea Ashcraft serving up through-balls likes pancakes, LCA’s 2017 iteration is actually a menacing squad.

The Santa Monica Christian school’s team was powerful enough to compete against last year’s league champions, Newbury Park. On Jan. 19, they Saints shocked the big kids on the block, upending their hegemony with a quite unexpected 2-1 from tireless toiling, vision and belief.

Then with the rush of the mouse that roared, the Saints played against Einstein Academy Friday and saw their dynamism, their teamwork and their unbeaten record evaporate. It’s not far from the truth to say that Einstein crushed the overconfident Saints.

Tuesday was a chance to turnaround. To finish the article, click here.

High-flying (and prideful) LCA soccer loses to Einstein Academy in a reminder they will need to work to compensate for their lack of technical and tactical ability

lighthouse-christian-academy

With three consecutive wins, Lighthouse soccer was flying high — perhaps too high — when Einstein Academy knocked them down back into the Earth’s atmosphere with a stinging 0-6 loss on Jan. 27.

The players for the Lighthouse Christian Academy were ebullient as they entered their fourth league game undefeated. They were joking. They were confident cocky. They weren’t listening to coach. They weren’t concentrating.

After cooly beating last year’s high school soccer champs 2-1, what could possibly stand in their way?

Albert Einstein Academy for Arts, Letters and Sciences of Valencia had read the game record on MaxPreps and prepared for a formidable foe. “We thought we were going to have to give everything we had to beat you,” admitted the Einstein coach.

Instead, Einstein’s 10 club players and other assorted players faced a disorganized Saints team that hemorrhaged goals with a succession of mistakes. In the first half, Lighthouse held a deep defensive line on two free kicks, allowing Einstein players with powerful kicks to get within goal range with long airborn passes. The 50-50 ball needed only to be turned into the net.

Lighthouse managed the improbable win against Newbury, the reigning league champs, by working some slick passing. But on Friday, Saints players were selfish, attempting impossible penetration through a thicket of players with individual dribbling. At best, they would get past three and get caught by the fourth while an open teammate called for the ball.

Other mistakes were made by the Christian school in Santa Monica.

After a winning run that Coach Junior Cervantes qualified as “miraculous,” it was a crushing loss but not an undeserved loss. The pre-game glut of confidence was inappropriate.

As the Bible says, pride comes before a fall.

With only one club and one former club player… Finish reading the article.

How hyperactivity turned to a Lighthouse Christian Academy soccer win

santa-monica-soccer-private-high-schoolOften, Brandon Montes overflows fidgety energy in the classroom. He’s drumming on the desk, snapping fingers, sneering at classmates across the room, clowning around. Believe it or not, through it all he’s paying attention too.

On Jan. 19, 2017, of an extraordinary week of soccer, Brandon was paying attention and put his gush of energy to good use. At left defense he was alert to a ball opponents were clearing on a corner kick. It was headered wide, out of the danger zone. It was coasting safely towards the line.

But solid defensive tactic fell apart because of Brandon’s energy boost and attentiveness. The sophomore ran up and smashed a low shot through a muddle of players that apparently blocked the goalkeeper’s view of action. By the time he jumped, it was too late. The ball went into the net.

“Whenever I see a ball that close to the goal, my main idea is to shoot it,” Brandon said. “I saw the ball was going over. I ran up on it. I heard Junior say ‘chip it in the middle,’ but I wasn’t taking into account what he said because my first instinct was to shoot it.”

Brandon’s effort was richly rewarding. His first goal of the season (and that from a defensive position!) was the winner. The Lighthouse Christian Academy beat the Newbury Park Gators 2-1. Brandon’s goal capped off an equalizer from freshman Levi Photenhauer in the second half to give the Saints the unexpected victory.

“I tried to do what I was learning in practice: keep my head over the ball, to kick a ball with power low and on the ground instead of having it blast into outer space,” Brandon said.

Brandon has played some untiring and intelligent soccer this season. He fights for ever ball and doesn’t concede anything. He runs hard and fast.

“Whenever I see a ball coming towards me, I have to get it,” Brandon said. “If a ball gets passed me, I get extremely angry. I attack it by any means necessary.”

It was Brandon’s long switch from defensive position that set up Levi’s goal.

On Tuesday in a game against Westmark that our private high school also won, it was Brandon at center mid that sunk a billiards shot into the path of Marcus Scribner to notch up one assist.

“I look for whoever is open and try to make the pass,” he said. LCA won 7-2 on Tuesday.

On Wednesday in school, students fell into braggadocio, boasting about their heroics and jeering teammates who remained so far goalless. Brandon searched for the words to defend his play, which had sparkled more than that of some of the goal-scorers. He decided to not answer their boasts. He had played well. His actions spoke for him. He would answer them in Thursday’s match. Finish reading the article.

Energy won out over technical ability

Santa-Monica-high-school-soccer.pngThe Saints wore down last year’s league champs with some pitbullish defending and electric running.

Newbury Park showed technical superiority and greater speed for the first 20 minutes but could not break the deadlock bolt on the Lighthouse Christian Academy defense for high school soccer. Sophomore goalie Justin Berry leaped like Superman to deny some power shots.

“We had no answer for your energy,” the opposing coach admitted. LCA came from behind to win 2-1.

One defensive lapse before the half resulted in the Gator goal, a powerful shot from just outside the box from an unmarked player. Aside from that momentary lowering of the guard, the Santa Monica Christian school worked hard to keep their opponents marked and ground down their superior rivals with sheer exercise of willpower.

Senior Jelove Mira muscled and challenged every defender and every ball to reduce Berry‘s workload.

The Saints had reason to be encouraged, down only one goal at the half. Coach Jack Mefford reminded his team that last year Newbury came from behind to win the game and urged players to get revenge.

It was the five-shot energy drink freshman Levi Photenhauer who latched onto a ball on the right side of the field in the box to cross it in front of the Gator goalie, tying the scoreline at 1-1.

Though undermanned with no substitutes, the Saints breathed a second wind and chased balls, hassled opponents, bodied and pushed the limits of permissive aggression to frustrate the Gators. Junior Erhan Meric wrecked havoc and created danger running tirelessly all over the field. Read the rest of Christian school Los Angeles story.

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Would you recognize him?


Nobody pays any attention to this bum, despite having pretty good soccer skills — at least not until he pulls off his beard, mustache and wig. Then, everybody wants to pay attention to Cristiano Ronaldo, star for Portugal.

Would you recognize Jesus if He passed you on the street? When you treat kindly one of the least of my brethren, you treat Me kindly. — Jesus said.

How to score a signed Messi jersey if you live in Afghanistan

Aghan boy Messi jersey

Be exceptionally cute. And poor. Living in a dangerous part of the world. Murtaza Ahmadi’s brother took this picture of him and posted it on the internet. While death via the Taliban has hit most families around them, it still has not struck them directly, the brother says.

messi jersey

He was just a 5-year-old who loves soccer. The family, which subsists on farming, watches soccer as a distraction from the horrors that surround them. And Murtaza decided his favorite player was the Argentinian star who plays for Barcelona. So he wanted a jersey. He even cried.

But those jersey are too expensive for the poor (heck, they’re even too expensive for me). So his brother hooked him up with a plastic bag hand painted with colored sharpies. The kid was content. The kid was cute. His brother took the picture and posted it.

The internet went crazy, reposting and proliferating. People were asking: Who is this kid? Even Messi saw it and wanted to give the kid a real one. As a spokesman for Unicef, Messi through the charitable organization tracked him down and handed over the jersey (not personally).

Now my heart is warmed. I love Messi all the more for his kind gesture. I love this kid. The only bummer is that I still don’t have a Messi jersey myself.

Gold on and off the field, Kaka belongs to God

real-madrid-v-ajax-kaka-_2870368After Kaka impossibly threaded the ball through three Manchester United defenders and slotted for goal in the 2007 Champions League semi-final, he ripped off his jersey to show the world his T-shirt emblazoned: “I belong to Jesus.”

When his team, AC Milan, claimed the title — second in prestige to the World Cup, it was anti-climatic compared to Kaka’s sensational solo performance in the semi-final. He was just too quick and precise, always a nano-second ahead of defenders. In fact, when a stalwart defender came crashing in to shut down the attack with physicality, he wound up smashing his own teammate instead.

It was his most glorious moment in world-class soccer — and yet it was completely devoid of glory.

article-0-0071E53F000004B0-697_634x429That’s because for the Brazilian crack, glory is a thing belonging to God. Currently he plays for Orland City SC in the U.S.’s Major League Soccer. When his ball-kicking days are over, he plans to study theology and become a pastor. That’s when the real glory will start.

Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite became good at soccer because he was skinny and had to work harder than everybody else to excel. In 2001, he was catapulted to international fame when he scored two goals to win the Brazilian championship for his native Sao Paolo FC, which had never won a championship.

His little brother in childhood couldn’t properly pronounce his name and simply settled on “Kaka.” Graciously for the rest of us (who similarly can’t pronounce his name), the moniker stuck.

God and goals always went together for Kaka. Born into a devout Christian family, he experienced Christ in a profound way when he was baptized at age 12.

“Something supernatural happened to me. I cannot explain it, but after that experience I grew closer to God and began to know Him in a more in-depth way,” Kaka said. “My life changed and was never the same again.”

He won the respect of his teammates and fans by being a young man of integrity while witnessing boldly for Christ. He was involved in a Bible study and Athletes for Christ. Unlike many other stars who waver in the spotlight, Kaka has always held strong convictions. He married his childhood sweetheart, Caroline Celico, in 2005. Both had maintained their virginity until their wedding.

From Brazil, Kaka moved to Italy in 2003 to play for AC Milan for a transfer fee of €8.5 million. Within a month, he was a starter for the team. Read the rest of the story.

Editor’s Note: This story was written by my high school student, Adrian Brizuela, at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica. Of course, I edited and helped polish it. I’m proud of him. I hope he realizes that he is not only good at soccer.

More than just a winning streak at Santa Monica Christian school

Saints soccer santa monicaThe significance of this article is for Christians. Previously, the high school I work at (Lighthouse Christian Academy) formed its soccer teams haphazardly, as an afterthought among too many things to do. The new winning streak represents years of effort to actually build the program. This will attract students to our school and, consequently, to Christ.

With back-to-back victories, the Lighthouse Christian Academy soccer team has found its feet to rewrite recent history of missing playoffs.

Without normal forward Will Clancy, the Saints subbed Abraham Morales into the striker position, and the new LCA student rewarded coach’s confidence with two goals, to bring the 4-2 victory over Westmark School in Encino yesterday.

“I never pictured myself making a goal, let alone two,” the sophomore said coyly. “But after I made the first one I was determined to make the second.”

Morales was deadly on the left, scoring his brace within the first 20 minutes.

Lighthouse Christian AcademyWestmark scored next with some brilliant passing between two Lions stars. With the ball at the goal line on the left, one player found unmarked in the box his counterpart, who didn’t bungle the shot. It was 2-1.

In the second half, Turk Erhan Meric, a fleet-footed sophomore, ran up the right on a through ball from midfielder Colby Thomas to get behind the Lion’s defense and shoot powerfully home.

Again Westmark sent the ball to a player in the area, and he punctured the net. It was 3-2.

With the minutes ticking away, Lighthouse kept pressing to bury the match. Senior Shane Berry launched a throw-in into the area on the narrow field, and a Lions defender trying to clear the ball also controlled it with his hand.

Erhan Meric, a magician with the ball.

On the resulting penalty, Senior Adrian Brizuela, a powerhouse in the Saints midfield, blasted the ball past the goalie to remove the match from reach of the Lions. It finished at 4-2.

Coach Jack Mefford, who is also Lighthouse’s principal, credited the Saints’ progress with the time players have worked together. With a number of new students coming from schools other than its feeder middle school (Lighthouse Church School), the teammates needed to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

“They are working together. Especially this game, we just began to gel,” Mefford said. “They’re starting to know each other play with each other better. We’re growing in confidence.”

Tuesday’s victory came on the heels of a win Monday, improving LCA’s record to 4-1-3. The Saints are beginning to feel the excitement of possibly getting a playoff birth for the first time anyone can remember.

Abraham Morales was deadly in front of goal.

Abraham Morales was deadly in front of goal.

On Monday, Lighthouse beat 2-1 Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences from Santa Clarita for the second time. The Penmar Park game put on exhibition the Saint’s powerful defensive line, which has speed, technique and physicality.

Senior Tex Hagoski, at stopper, made crucial saves and passes despite playing with an injured foot. Since his preferred sport is football, he brings a fearlessness and muscle that will intimidate some forwards. Don’t underestimate his speed.

At sweeper, Abraham Kennedy has been a potent defender. Big and strong with a lifetime of soccer experience, Kennedy, a sophomore, doesn’t win balls by hand-crafting them. By mass production, he foils opponents’ attacks.

On Friday in the away game against Einstein, Kennedy led the charge to overturn a 0-2 deficit with a stunning rocket from 40 yards. After seeing the shocker, the Saints seemed moved to believe they could beat their opponents and rallied to finish 3-2.

There’s no surprise the sophomore Alex Cervantes, given his soccer pedigree, holds the left back position impeccably. What surprises is how well senior Shane Berry contains on the right. He’s not really a soccer player. His game is basketball. But his quickness and the similarities between basketball and soccer have helped him adapt.

LCA goals were produced by Brizuela and Meric, locked in a friendly competition to see who scores more by season’s end. They are tied at six goals each. Einstein got a late consolation when refs awarded a penalty kick for a foul in the box.

Also last week, the Saints came from behind to tie Newbury Park Adventist Academy.

With the newfound momentum, the Saints face Concordia in Sylmar Friday, their penultimate season game.

*Photo: Adrian Brizuela goes for goal against Westmark yesterday. Credit: Jamie Roman, who is a sophomore at the Lighthouse Christian Academy. Jamie wrote this article for the Santa Monica Patch here, and I edited it. I always re-post my students’ articles on my blog since I’m heavily involved in the final product.

Getting stronger mentally, Lighthouse soccer comes from behind to tie

Abraham-kennedy-1024x840
From the looks of LCA’s come-from-behind 2-2 tie against Newbury Park Adventist Academy Tuesday, the Saints are getting the mental toughness needed to step up their competitiveness.

“We had a good attitude when we went down 1-0,” said Captain Adrian Brizuela. “I was really surprised we kept our composure.”

Coach Jack Mefford started Brizuela in goal because he’s as brilliant as he is fearless between the posts. Preferring Brizuela over freshman Justin Berry was a strategic decision to lock down the final approach to goal.

Jelove mira Lighthouse Christian academy santa monica soccerBut in classic give-and-take, it also hobbled the Saints’ ability to advance forward with possession. Brizuela is an irreplaceable motor in the midfield, in tandem with new sophomore Erhan Meric, a crack from Turkey.

At half time, the Saints were losing 0-1 from a free kick when the Saints bungled a wall set-up.

In the second half, Newbury again struck on a corner kick when Lighthouse midfielders failed to get back to mark up. The shot sailed over the goalie’s head and was chested into the net on the far post. Newbury was winning 0-2, and they cackled as they sniffed blood.

The last time the Lighthouse Christian Academy faced Newbury in December, the Santa Monica Christian high school conceded four goals in the second half to lose a half-time advantage of 2-0. The meltdown resulted, in part, from emotional weakness.

LCA Saints soccer santa monica
Soccer is, after all, a psychological game as much as any other sport. Since it’s a low-scoring game, even one goal is enough to sink a knife in the heart of players. They slow down, they stop fighting, they stop pushing for goal. They pray for the final whistle to come, and they scurry off the field with their tails between their legs. But Lighthouse mustered a resilience not seen before.

Coach switched Brizuela into the midfield and the balance of the game shifted. Newbury couldn’t find an answer to the reconfigured 11 men on the field. And Berry owned the Lighthouse goal, applying the quick reflex he inherited from growing up in a basketball family.

With 25 minutes to time, Newbury defenders fouled Lighthouse striker, Will Clancy, in the area, and Brizuela didn’t fail on the penalty kick making it 1-2.

Within five minutes, Brizuela again performed his magic. On a throw-in from the left, Brizuela chested the ball expertly, spun and fired with no bounce into the top left corner. Newbury players were shocked.

Lacking the tough and speedy Tex Hagoski (out due to sickness) to hold the defensive line, sophomores Abraham Kennedy and Alex Cervantez worked overtime to stymie the Newbury attack. And the tie score remained.

In Southern California’s Omega League, Lightouse is now 1-1-3.

“Our defense really helped us,” Brizuela said. “Abraham and Alex really stepped up to the plate.”

Editor’s note: This article was original published here. Jamie Roman wrote it, and I edited it.

Small Christian high school in Santa Monica gets a boost from a Turkish student

IMG_8948An unexpected boon to Lighthouse Christian Academy soccer came from Turkey: Erhan Meric, a sophomore and magician whose feet perform tricks.

His life is just pure soccer, nonstop trying, for every Saints soccer match. The fleet-footed diminutive midfielder is making his mark. In four games, he has scored four goals. After four games, LCA is 1-2-1.

“I just picked up a soccer ball and played with my dad when I was young,” the wunderkind said. “From that point on, I’ve been practicing every day in order to get better and better.”

small christian school in santa monica soccer programErhan came from Turkey to study in an American high school two years ago with his mother, a businesswoman, in search of a better life.

“The first school I went to,” Erhan remembered, “wasn’t that good. Sure life was easier and soccer was fun, but dorm life was terrible and after my two friends left the school, I went in search of finding a better one. That’s when I came across LCA.”

Erhan came to have a look at the Santa Monica Christian private school.

“What I saw was amazing,” the quiet Turk observed. “Almost everyone was good friends here, and people were so nice, I thought this could be the school for me.”

Christian college prep and varsity soccerAs he joined the school and got to meet new people, he started talking out more and got out of his “bubble”.

Erhan joined the LCA soccer team and so far is one of our best players on the field, as he was on the #1 soccer academy in Turkey, Galatasaray S.K., and was practicing for all his life. Unfortunately, his twin sister, also at Lighthouse, didn’t go for soccer.

His goal is to become a pro soccer player. He said, “ Yes, I would love to become a pro soccer player. Why? Because you can make big money, meet nice girls, and overall, just play soccer.”

In order to achieve his dream, he has to work hard and motivate himself to win.

“Soccer is very tiring and a little risky, but all you need is motivation. You know what I do for motivation? Every time I wake up on the weekends or whenever I have free time, I sit by the TV and flip through all the channels until I find a soccer match going on. I watch them kick the ball, make goals and I just get so inspired by them. I say ‘Yes, I will achieve that goal, and I will win another game! I will try to my best and even when I fall, I will always get back up again’ ”

So as Erhan keeps playing soccer and trying harder and harder to achieve his goal, he will remember a quote in Turkish that keeps him from failing “Ben futbol seviyorum ve benim rüya vazgeçmek ASLA!” Find out what that means at the end of: high school soccer.

Editor’s note: This article, written by my journalism student Anthony Gutierrez, was originally posted on the Lighthouse Christian Academy‘s website. It’s a small Santa Monica Christian high school. My son is graduating from there this June.

This Iraqi kid loves Messi

messi bag jerseyToo poor to buy the real thing, this Iraqi boy turned a plastic bag into the jersey of his favorite soccer player, Leo Messi from FC Barcelona. How do you show your love for God?

Thanks to the internet, Messi saw it and is going to send him a real jersey. This will probably thrill him for 110 years.

The Bible says that Jesus was so impressed by the Roman centurion’s faith that He granted the miracle. Lesson: You can impress God (though we should distinguish: you can’t “earn” his favor — ok, it’s confusing, but the two truths work together in tension much like a guitar string is tightened across two frets). How do you show your love for God?

Led by a guy who likes to sleep

varsity soccer santa monicaWith two ties and a win last week, Lighthouse soccer is surging under a reluctant leader this season.

Adrian Brizuela has played soccer all his life, so it was natural for the LCA senior to be the point man for the ad-hoc team, but it is a role that he has not exactly sought.

“It’s hard for me to take the leadership role because I’m always goofing around,” the Santa Monica student said. “I never take anything seriously. I don’t want to seem like a boring guy. I want to seen as a laidback guy.”

santa monica high school soccerPlaying soccer has always been a way to escape reality for Adrian. “It helps me stay out of trouble and keeps my mind free from all the things going on in my life,” he said. “It keeps my mind clear from any temptations the devil throws at me.”

Although Adrian is seen as the MVP, he doesn’t relish the role. “ I don’t feel like the MVP, I feel like there is always room for improvement and I’m still getting there.”

Brizuela was born with a soccer brain. He’s played since age two. He’s also the highly-prized left-footer who can whip in crosses or strike from range.

Because he’s played club since age eight, Brizuela is the logical choice to lead Lighthouse’s team, which has total beginners and others with a smattering of experience.

He tells teammates where to position themselves, how to body and contain, how to pass. But he never shouts or gets mad. He’s sometimes disappointed with the performance though because he’s used to the high standards of club soccer.

“It is difficult because I come from a team where we have a lot of experienced players to a team where everyone is inexperienced,” he said.

In the classroom, Brizuela sits back and hopes the teacher doesn’t call on him. He’s not the leader. But on the pitch, he’s the frontman.

“I It’s a lot of weight on my shoulders,” he said. “It’s also a little bit fun. It’s cool that people want to see me as a leader, but it’s also like wow, am I read to step up to the plate?”

Soccer motivates him to study, he admits. “It’s helped me to come to school because you can’t play in the games if you don’t come to school,” he said. “I like sleeping in.” Read the rest of the story.

My high school improves its soccer record

Santa Monica soccer

Lighthouse Christian Academy capped an extraordinary week of soccer with a 2-2 tie against Ribet Academy yesterday.

The Saints’ erstwhile haphazard program is taking shape and coordinating better.

“They played hard and were more organized than ever,” said Junior Cervantes, who stepped in to coach for Jack Mefford.

With enrollment at 50, the small Christian school flounders around the bottom of the table. With just one or two club players and the rest of the team coaxed into playing after football season, it’s difficult to drill a championship team.

But with three games this week, the Saints tied Westmark in Encino on Monday, beat Concordia 3-0 on Tuesday and drew against the Frogs Thursday.

At such a busy time, the loss of head coach Mefford, out for emergency family issues, was inopportune in terms of soccer. But Cervantes, an LCA graduate and former club star, filled in without missing a beat.

Senior Adrian Brizuela was up to his old tricks and created danger throughout the game. He gives the impression of being a lackadaisical player to defenders until suddenly a solid opportunity materializes and he instantly pulls out his knife and begins slitting to goal.

Read the rest of the article.

Unselfishness wins

barca

Unity won the day for Barca.

Barcelona left eternal rivals Real Madrid in shreds Saturday 4-0 in a game that showed that individual prowess doesn’t win games.

The Catalans have not one but three superstars. And those three — Neymar, Messi and Luis Suarez — share the goals unselfishly.

Usually teams are built around and for one superstar who won’t stand for competition on his own team. (Kobe Bryant infamously ran Shaquille O’Neal off the Lakers years ago.)

suarez

Luis Suarez scored two and made assists.

Barca works because it works like a team.

Not Real Madrid. Marcello took a shot when his best option was to pass. The ball went wide, and his teammates got mad. He sought individual glory but brought collective disgrace.

By contrast, Brazillian magician Neymar shared as many balls as he fired. And Suarez, who pretty much defines goal-making precision, foots off as many or more killer assists. Messi, recovering from injury, came on as a late substitute and set up the fourth goal with a pass that would have made a brain surgeon taken note for its precision.

lionell messi and iniesta

No rivalry between players. Messi left and midfielder Andres Iniesta

The Bible says: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you want passes to you, then follow the Golden Rule. That’s what Barca did, and today the followers of the Golden Rule are the Golden Boys of soccer.

Note: I don’t own the rights to these images, and I’m not making any money on them.

Then all of a sudden, they look like a winning team

constanly improve

A stand-up-and-take-notice-goal. Kelly O’Hara beats her defender to the inside and karate kicks a cross into the net. Wow!

The US Women’s National Team has slogged through its world cup, scraping out scrappy victories. Their play was lackluster. They looked toothless particularly on attack.

Then whamo! Out of nowhere, they send Germany home with a command performance. Yesterday the women of red, white and blue picked their opponents’ pockets. Yes there were two bad ref calls that favored the U.S., but they were by far the superior team.

kelly o hara goal against germany

The Star from Stanford. Kelly O’Hara celebrates the goal that iced the victory.

Pundits credit a formation change-up from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3. But also each player was nearly perfect. Gone were the individual blunders of prior games.

The semi final victory sends the USWNT closer to championship.

The semi final victory sends the USWNT closer to championship.

They had been improving game after game. And when they needed it most against their toughest opponent, they conjured mastery of the game. They won 2-0.

This is a key to life: Keep improving. Keep working to do better. Keep eliminating errors.

Too hurried, too worried

Carli Loyd bests a Columbian player

Carli Loyd bests a Columbian playe

The U.S. Women’s National Team doesn’t look like a winning team. To be sure, they’ve got good defense, a good goalie, good passing. But once they get the ball up top, they invariably strike as quickly as possible. It looks as if they are trying to shoot because they’re afraid they’ll lose possession.

This straight-to-goal strategy can catch opponents off guard. But a good offense varies its methods. The quality of the players is such that they should be able to maintain possession in their opponents’ half, probing patiently and waiting for a slip-up to exploit.

Sometimes, I’m too hurried and worried. Sometimes I lose my self-possession. The best strategy in life is to remain calm, not get upset, to manifest the peace of Jesus that comes in the Spirit.

womens team

Celebrating a goal

I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. women lose this World Cup. I hope they manage to win regardless of flawed strategy.

The nice thing about Christianity is that one day you can blow it, and the next you can recover and keep on serving Jesus. Not so much is at stake. One day’s mistake can be rectified. Jesus is teaching us to mature every day. Don’t live life too hurried, too worried. 😀

*I don’t own the rights to these photos, and I’m not making any money on them.

Everybody else is playing slo-mo: Messi the dangerous

Here’s some more Messi hyperbole: He’s a superhero. Worldclass players just aren’t as fast as him. He sees his way out of traps faster. He sees and sends through-balls faster. He cuts surgically faster. He curls in shots faster.

Lionel Messi led FC Barcelona to its second championship this season with two goals. The first was a solo goal that befuddles four (even six) defenders. That’s half the Atletic de Bilbao team. In the end, Barca dizzied their opponents to secure the King’s Cup, after clinching the league the previous week. Now the only thing keeping them from a triple-crown with the European Champion’s League next Saturday is the mighty Juventus from Italy.


Seriously, Messi makes top professionals look like clumsy kids.

What they say about a soccer player of his caliber is that he is always “dangerous.” That is, he is creating danger for the opposition (opportunities to score goals). He does things that no one else can. (Well, he hasn’t walked on water yet.)

When you pray, you’re being dangerous to the devil.

Strong finishers

strong finishers

Luis Suarez is one of the strongest finishers in soccer.

Useless is the team that defends well, keeps possession, gets to goal, but then can’t put the ball in the net. Every team has the need for a strong finisher, someone who consistently strikes on target, someone who bamboozles the goalie.

The finisher may not dribble well, may not pass well, may not have great stamina. That’s not his job. His is to finish all the work up to the goal.

As Christians, we need to be strong finishers. It’s useless to a meteoric rise, a glorious carrying forth, only to die out at the end. God help me to be a strong finisher.