'Juanito' saves the day for West soccer

Jan. 26, 2012 at 10 p.m.
Updated Jan. 25, 2012 at 7:26 p.m.

Juan Gonzalez blocks shots during practice at Memorial Stadium on Wednesday. The first-year starter has recorded three shutouts in six games this season. He split time in net as a freshman with Zabdiel Vallejo.

Juan Gonzalez blocks shots during practice at Memorial Stadium on Wednesday. The first-year starter has recorded three shutouts in six games this season. He split time in net as a freshman with Zabdiel Vallejo.

His goalkeeping adventures started because he wanted to find a way onto the field.

Juan Gonzalez was more of a midfielder, but a few years ago, the Victoria West sophomore wanted playing time in the men's league he clandestinely was playing in, so he offered to fill the void in goal.

"I watched TV. I watched my favorite soccer team and there was a good goalkeeper, and I started watching him," Gonzalez said. "I went to the men's league and I wasn't very good, but I just kept practicing."

He hasn't looked back. These days, Gonzalez prefers to prevent goals rather than create them.

His teammates at Victoria West are quite appreciative.

Through six games, Gonzalez, dubbed "Juanito" by his teammates, has a 1.16 goals-against average, recorded three shutouts and even scored a goal for the Warriors. Not, bad for for a first-year starter.

"Everyone looks back on him because he's the one that is going to stop the goal. He doesn't miss a lot," said teammate Nathan Hermes said. "That gives us a lot of confidence. Knowing that you have a good goalie back there lets you know you will be able to shut it out and keeps the offense in a good mood to score."

Against Cedar Creek in the consolidation match of the Brenham Select Cup last weekend, Gonzalez pleaded with head coach Bill Tally to let him take a penalty kick. Tally relented and the sophomore scored in a game West wound up losing 3-2.

"I told coach last year that I was going to try my best so I could start last year. .I am going to help you all as much as I can and you all help me. Those three shutouts, really helped the whole team out."

West is 2-3-1 and will spend the weekend in Seguin playing in the Seguin Matador Soccer Tournament. Having four games in two days will be a challenge for Gonzalez and the rest of the Warriors, but they believe they are up to the task.

"I will just talk to them," Gonzalez said. "We will take it game by game. Hopefully we will come out and win as many games as we can."

Hermes, a sophomore like Gonzalez, said the team's resolute defense is attributed to their communication. Victoria West uses a system with three defenders - one less than most high school teams - which sometimes puts more pressure on Gonzalez and the rest of the defense.

"That leaves the center defender to communicate with Juan," Hermes said about the Warriors defense. "You have a ball coming back, you have to let him know if he's going to get it or not because if you have a miscommunication, you can have a ball go in the goal real quick."

Gonzalez might be the last line of defense, but doesn't mind the ball at his feet. In practices and match warmups, he is just as comfortable as his goalkeeping idol, the Mexican international team's Guillermo Ochoa, when it comes to the ball at his feet.

Not only did Ochoa's unorthodox style make Gonzalez a fan, but the fact that Ochoa used to play for Gonzalez's favorite team, Club America, didn't hurt.

Unfortunately, another similarity between Gonzalez and his favorite club has been a tough series of results of late. The Warriors had three straight shutouts to start the season, but have lost three straight games. America has drawn its last two matches in the Mexican Primera Division.

Tally said Gonzalez is a bit of a jokester and keeps things light hearted, but, on the field, his teammates know he means business and implicitly respect him. There is no question about who is going to be in goal for the Warriors.

"He's a real leader. Sometimes, he's very vocal, and others, he's real quiet," Tally said. "But he does so much on the field. He makes saves in big games, so he has built up that respect from his teammates. They know that he goes all out."

At the Brenham tournament, Hermes said the team was able to room together and spend time with each other away from soccer. Though, the results haven't come on the field, Hermes and Gonzalez believe that experience, as well as this weekend's tournament in Seguin, will help the Warriors as they approach district play.

"Just having fun times with my team, and we're taking it game by game."



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