The Pasadena City College men’s soccer team made head coach Francisco Cantero’s debut a successful one on Friday in a 2023 season-opening 2-0 victory at Moorpark.
Cantero is the first PCC head coach to direct victories in both men’s and women’s soccer since Cherif Zein coached both teams from 1998-2009. Cantero, who played at PCC in 2009-2010, was the Lancers women’s head coach in 2018-2019 and now serves as an assistant to current women’s coach Terryn Soelberg as well as his new men’s directing duties.
In the opener, returning sophomore midfielder Juaning Balmelli got loose around Moorpark’s left back and fed transfer forward Alejandro Concepcion (played at Pacific Union College last year) for a 1-0 lead. Concepcion finished a shot from six yards out in the 23rd minute.
In the 54th minute, frosh midfielder Eduardo Sanchez (Stern Mass HS) pulled in a deflection of a Raiders player and rifled a left-footed blast into the corner of the net from the top of the 18-yard box for an insurance score.
“We are expecting a lot of great games from key sophomores like Osmar Rojas, Balmelli, Angel Nolasco and Concepcion,” Cantero said of the team’s outlook. “Juaning played a great game v. Moorpark, constantly attacking and always being dangerous to give us scoring opportunities. Overall, it was a good team performance for our first game, but we had some key chances that we were not able to put away that kept Moorpark in it.”
PCC controlled the ball for much of the 90 minutes, outshooting Moorpark, 15-6.
The opening day starting 11 for PCC consisted of Rojas, an All-South Coast Conference Second Team midfielder who tallied a team-high eight assists last year along with five goals, Concepcion, Balmelli, Nolasco, a key defender, and freshman in goalie Matthew Gilmore (two saves, 77 minutes in opener), defenders Andrew Perez (Covina High) and Emanuel Escobar (Schurr), and midfielders Jose Perez (Gabrielino), Jorge Cedillo (Blair), Jorky Aguirre (Charter Oak), and Alexander Petrossians (Glendale).
“Our back line had a good showing, especially Escobar, Perez and Cedillo, who played a more defensive role in the opener,” Cantero said. “Rojas, Aguirre and Petrossians were very strong in the middle, covering a lot of ground.
“We have a huge freshmen class who can adapt to the college game right away. Players like Perez, Martin Ceja (midfielder, Schurr HS), Perez, Cedillo, Escobar and our goalie Gilmore will all get heavy minutes as the season winds on.”
Gabriel Ponce (PHS) played the last 13 minutes in backing up Gilmore.
Rounding out the first-year class are defenders Alek Kaprielian (Glendale, All-CIF Division 4 selection), Caleb Abad (Crescenta Valley), Chris Amador (Montebello), Steven Palacios (Schurr), and Joseph Parra (Bonita), midfielders Miguel Medina (Blair) and Emiliano Escobar (Schurr), and forwards James Baker (Alhambra), Kevin Posada (Muir), Anthony Silva (Pasadena), Angel Ballesteros (Schurr), and goalie William Southam (John Marshall).
PCC next plays at Victor Valley College on Tuesday, Aug. 29 at 2 p.m. The Lancers first home match is Friday, Sept. 1 in a 1 p.m. contest v. Southwestern at Robinson Stadium. On Oct. 3 at 4 p.m., Pasadena starts South Coast Conference play at LA Harbor.