TOUGH SOCCER LOSSES
AFTER BRUTAL ASSAULT OF STARTING GOALIE DE ANZA DONS OUT IN SEMIFINAL
December 5, 2016
The De Anza College men’s soccer team finished the season with a strong record, but lost its goalie in an assault Nov. 11, and subsequently lost the semifinals Nov. 22.
The team, led by Albert Munante with 15 goals, and Jose Varon with six assists, had a 13-3-6 record and finished second in the South Coast Conference. This is their third year under head coach Rusty Johnson and fourth consecutive in playoffs.
According to sophomore defender Milton Carlos Garcia, the team won multiple awards this season. Players were nominated for awards such as the All-American Award, First Team All-State, First Team All-Region and Second Team All-League.
“The season was one of the best seasons I’ve had in my entire soccer career,” Garcia, 19, said. “From the bond with the coaching staff, all the way to the bonding with all my teammates.”
Of the 13 wins the team amassed, a few in particular stood out to players, including sophomore defender Adrian Gil.
“Our best games were probably against Santa Rosa (3-0) and Foothill (4-0). We just went out and everything went our way, and we really did not give them a chance to get back into the game,” Gil, 21, said. “Against San Francisco City College we went down a goal in the first half and ended up coming back to win the game 2-1. It was a close game and [the] referee wasn’t calling the game too well… but we came back and showed a lot of character.”
In one of the team’s last games at Evergreen Valley Community College, the team ended 1-1. It was after that game that goalie Edgar Benitez was assaulted by unknown assailants, putting him in the hospital with career-threatening injuries.
He suffered a broken nose, and a fracture in the eye region, said De Anza Athletic Director Kulwant Singh. “He’s seeing doctors and is on the road to recovery,” Singh said.
“My understanding was that he was assaulted by three spectators. They were not players, or anyone on the Evergreen soccer roster as far as I know. They were in civilian clothes,” Singh said.
Benitez filed a police report the next morning, and the incident is being investigated by San Jose-Evergreen College Police. Several De Anza players have been interviewed.
“Edgar can no longer play on the men’s soccer team because of the severity of the injuries.” Singh said. “It wasn’t going to be safe or healthy for him to continue playing. It’s really unfortunate because Edgar was coast conference goalkeeper of the year.”
Head coach Rusty Johnson said the playoff loss to Taft College was tough on the team. Singh believes part of why they lost is because they didn’t have Benitez.
“It never feels good to lose during the playoff,” Johnson said. “These guys put so much effort into the game that to not have success on a critical day is tough. It hurts.”
He said the loss is toughest for the sophomores, especially since some of them played on the team that went to the final four in 2014.
“It’s difficult, for a junior college – we lose half our team every year,” Johnson said. “We go out and recruit and we work hard, we bring in the best players we can so we’ll have a great team next year as well, but it’s just tough when you’ve spent so much time putting the pieces together with eleven guys on the field.”
Despite the loss, the team is still proud of its accomplishments and the overall skill the team exhibited during the season.
“I would’ve liked our season to have gone longer, but I’m proud of how we did this year and I believe a lot of the freshmen really stepped up when they had to and everyone understood their role as a member of our team,” Gil said. “The fact that we were leading the state in shutouts and goals allowed kind of proves how badly we wanted to keep the ball out of the net.”