The Los Angeles and San Diego area get a lot of publicity and promotion in the high school soccer world, and rightfully so. The Bay Area has received much fanfare as well, and it is deserved.However, one area has not…
The Los Angeles and San Diego area get a lot of publicity and promotion in the high school soccer world, and rightfully so. The Bay Area has received much fanfare as well, and it is deserved.
However, one area has not received as much, and teams in this area are starting to level the playing field, and that area is California’s capital, Sacramento.
The first ever Capital City Showcase, hosted by the defending Division I NorCal and Sac Joaquin Section champions Whitney High School, featured powerhouse teams from all over the state, as 12 of the top 26 programs in the state attended the event.
And when it was all said and done, teams in the Sacramento area shined as bright as any of them. Here is a look at how some top teams and players performed.
Every team was missing players, as it is that time of year. And perhaps the Bells weren’t missing the most players, but it would be hard to argue they weren’t missing the two most impactful. They were missing Keagan Rhodes Keagan Rhodes D CA , one of the best defenders in the state and a Santa Clara commit, as well as the incredibly creative and dynamic midfielder Kasdan Blattman.
Despite that the Bells drew 0-0 with a very good Davis team, and then lost 2-1 to a Rio Americano team proving to be one of the better teams in the entire state.
“I am really proud of our boys for their efforts in the Showcase,” Bellarmine coach Conor Salcido said. “We were missing Keagan and Kasdan and they are obviously huge players for us, so we called on guys who probably didn’t think they’d see much action and they did great.”
Bellarmine did get great performances from two of their other Division I commits as senior captain, keeper and UC San Diego commit Nic Thiele and senior captain, forward and UC Santa Barbara commit Kavi Krishnan performed very well.
“With Keagan and Kasdan out, they took their new leadership roles to heart and rallied the team around them and their stellar play,” Salcido said.
The Bruins may have lost 4-0 to Jesuit and 3-1 to Whitney, but they did what they set out to accomplish and that was to get all 25 players playing time. Teams use Showcases and tournaments for different purposes, and Branham’s was a noble one. Most of the rotation was down in the shutout loss to Jesuit.
In that match, forward Eli Derazizyan, a junior, and midfielder Ivan Marquez, a senior, stood out. They both were able to use their skill and technical ability to hold the ball against very athletic defeners.
Against Whitney, the Bruins put up a good fight with a very clinical team that finishes well. Branham got down 3-0 and pulled a goal back when Ethan Lo scored off Sean Kim’s long throw-in. In that match, Joaquin Jaregui, a senior midfielde,r did a good job against the outstanding Whitney wing players, and central defenders Kim and Malik Begic, both juniors, defended well. Lo, a junior, was also good in the center of the pitch.
Branham is a young team and sophomore Toma Li and Rocco Dressler, along with freshman David Kim held their own and showed promise.
The Blue Devils stayed unbeaten, and did not play anything less than top notch opponents. They drew 0-0 with a Bellarmine team considered one of the best, if not the best, in all of Northern California, and then beat Redwood 3-2, the defending North Coast Section Division II champs.
Davis remains unbeaten after seven contests, moving to 5-0-2 on the season.
“So far I am very happy with how things have gone,” Davis coach Alex Park said. “We’ve been tested in this early part of the season, and we can definitely improve.”
Davis was missing a bunch of its starters for this Showcase, but played exciting and competitive soccer against high-quality opponents.
The midfield really stood out for the Blue Devils as seniors Caleb Yoon Caleb Yoon M CA , Ayush Tuladhar Ayush Tuladhar F CA and Nick Montano played very well in the middle of the pitch. Yoon controlled things as the No. 6, Ayush was box-to-box at the No. 8 and Montano was a threat going forward as the No. 10.
The attack was led by senior forward and Sacramento State commit Simon Vaca-Lorenzi Simon Vaca-Lorenzi F CA while Lucas Liu Lucas Liu F CA and Rigo Guerra Rigo Guerra F CA also stood out. Liu, a senior, has not committed yet but will be playing college soccer somewhere, and Guerra, also a senior, returned this season from the Sac Republic Academy.
Defenders Evan Isidor, Andrew Yang Andrew Yang D CA , Colin Morris Colin Morris D CA , Emanuel Tames-Kalmowitz and Logan Lacoste Logan Lacoste D CA were also very good rotating in and out of the back line.
The Marauders had a good showing, winning one and drawing the other, despite missing their two starting central midfielders. They topped Branham of San Jose 4-0 and then drew with a very good Sanger team, 1-1.
Jesuit is a team that starts only a few seniors, and not only are they young, but had several players missing and others playing out of position. Despite that it performed well and improved to 5-1-3 on the season.
“I like this team a lot,” Jesuit coach Paul Rose said. “This team has a lot of potential, and we performed well in a Showcase that is going to get us ready for what is coming down the pike.”
Two defenders stood out for the Marauders, as senior Crayton Suder and junior Carlie Black, both central defenders, showed great ability and leadership, helping to allow only one goal in 160 minutes. Keeper Andrew Perry Andrew Perry M CA , a junior, played a role in that as well, having a good run of two games and only allowing one goal.
Diego Perez, a junior attacking player, scored two goals in the Showcase Michael Guilherme Gilles, normally a No. 9, played the No. 6 to help fill in the midfield and did a very good job.
Andrew Sandmeier, who usually plays as a wing back, played the No. 8 position and scored the equalizer against Sanger while James Andrew James Andrew M Jesuit Sacramento | 2024 CA , was very good in the attacking midfield role.
The buzz about Rio Americano is picking up. The Raiders flew under the radar just a bit at the beginning of last season, then won the SJS Division II title, and wound up going 14-3-2. This year, they weren’t going to sneak up on anyone, but they are maybe better than anyone expected.
The Raiders are being talked about as one of the best in the state, especially after a 2-1 win over Bellarmine College Prep, a team that many considered one of the very best teams in the whole state of California. The Raiders also beat Reedley, a very good team from the Central Valley, 3-0.
“I thought we did really well and it was great to play some different competition,” Rio Americano coach Antonio Sutton said. “It was a great event overall and it will do wonders for us. We are trying not to live in last year’s success, but it did get us invited to this Showcase and our guys were mentally prepared to perform.”
The Raiders dug in and gave two very gritty performances to improve to 8-1 on the year. Their only loss came in tournament action against Inderkum. They also have a non-league win over Jesuit.
Rio Americano was led by two college commits in midfielder Quinn Mahoney Quinn Mahoney F Rio Americano (CA) | 2023 CA and keeper Nate Heron. Mahoney is committed to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and is a very technical, creative and clever midfielder who can also score. He has a great strike, is good under pressure and has great vision. Heron is headed to Cal State Humboldt and is a big, imposing keeper who is very good in the air, outstanding under pressure, stops shots and is a great communicator.
However, this team is not all superstars or made of up of players who are going to be littering the Division I college landscape. These are hard-working players who are performing this well because of their desire to play for their teammates.
“One thing about this year’s team is that they’ve bought into the blue collar mentality,” Sutton said. “They’ve bought into doing the work and they don’t give much up. They play as a collective so well.”
Part of that collective and making things happen at the Showcase were strikers Max Brito and Andy Collins, midfielders Daniel Barreto and Isaac Carrillo, and outside defenders Donovan Rafferty and Kyle Norris. Norris also featured as a forward on the right side.
The Apaches had a tough task to start the Showcase, facing the hosts and defending Division NorCal State champs in Whitney. They lost 2-0, but felt they played well against a quality opponent, and did well despite making costly mistakes.
“I thought our boys played well against a very tough opponent,” Sanger coach Alex Gutierrez said. “We knew coming into the game that the result would come down to which team made the least mistakes. We defended well as a group, had our chances throughout, but ultimately made one mistake in the last 10 minutes that gave Whitney the advantage they needed. Overall, we were glad to see our boys working hard and working together.”
The central defenders stood out in this one as senior Izaiah Kulow and junior Fredy Hernandez did a great job of containing the Whitney forwards for the majority of the game and leading the Sanger back line.
Junior midfielder Sebastian Blanco also had a great game, doing an excellent job playing inside against Whitney’s big, physical midfielders. Blanco did a great job moving the ball and being the primary attacking midfielder.
There was no drop-off for the Apaches in the next one, playing another of Northern California’s finest in Jesuit, and the Central Valley school held its own in this one as Sanger came away with a 1-1 draw.
“We made some tactical adjustments and moved a few players into new positions coming into this game and I thought our boys did a fantastic job of carrying out the game plan,” Gutierrez said. “We really felt like we were in control for the majority of the game. We scored a key goal early in the first half, and created many chances throughout the game. Credit to Jesuit, they are a well coached team with quality players at every position and they ultimately scored the game tying goal in the last three minutes of regulation.”
Senior forward Aaron Carrillo stood out in this one. He played a fantastic game against a talented and physical group of Whitney defenders. He made great forward runs, he held the ball high up the field and created chances in the final third.
Junior midfielder Santana Mercado, a captain, worked hard all match long, recovering balls in the midfield and pushing the game forward. Mercado is a workhorse and does everything asked of him.
Blanco had another great match match, playing a vital role in the midfield. He did well in finding space to receive the ball, moving the ball inside and creating chances for the forwards. He scored the lone goal for the Apaches from a free kick.
“I was very happy to have participated and competed against top programs in the state,” Gutierrez said “As a team we took big steps forward and learned a lot about ourselves. We’re now looking forward resting up and preparing for our conference schedule in January.”
After an even first half with Sanger, Whitney came out and took control of the match as the Wildcats outshot the Apaches 9-2 in the second half, with five of those shots being on frame. After a scoreless first half, Darius Dukes Darius Dukes M CA finally broke through as the senior midfielder slotted a ball behind the back line for senior Ryan McAdam to run onto. He rounded the keeper and was able to pass the ball into the back of the net.
Whitney doubled its lead when Dukes beat a defender around the left corner, driving at the goal before playing a diagonal ball back to sophomore Cody Wagner Cody Wagner M Whitney | 2025 State CA , who redirected the ball for the second goal.
Kaden Johnson stepped in goal for Whitney, stopping three shots and preserving a clean sheet while junior center back Jake Tyberg and sophomore center back Ruben Ramirez Ruben Ramirez M CA played very clean games, not allowing Sanger to mount a dangerous attack. Right back, senior Nico Duffey also played a very strong game and was very dangerous in making runs up the right flank.
Whitney closed out the Showcase on Thursday with a 3-1 win over Branham of San Jose. The Wildcats came out applying pressure early on and were able to get on the board early through a Danny Yoon goal. Ryan McAdam helped create the goal when he took a diagonal switch off his chest in the box, which he laid off perfectly to Yoon who slotted the ball past the keeper for the 7th-minute score.
Jake Tyberg doubled the lead in the 25th minute when he headed home Nate Cochenour’s corner kick just after halftime. In the 48th minute, the precocious sophomore Wagner gathered a loose ball before taking touches from the right flank into the middle of the pitch, finding space and scoring with a 20-yard strike inside the far post.
Whitney had 14 shots, to two for Branham. Branham was able to score in the 55th minute, the only goal Whitney allowed in the two matches.
Yoon and Wagner were excellent on the wings, applying pressure all night to the Branham back line. Cochenour controlled the midfield and the pace of the game.
“We had good moments, but our fourth game in seven days, especially during finals week, definitely started to catch up to us,” Whitney coach Joel Williams said. “We are off until Friday, December 30, which will be great for the boys to get a bit of a break and heal up before we start play in the competitive Sierra Foothill League. We definitely saw a lot of growth during the past few weeks, but we still can be so much better. I am looking forward to see how the boys continue to progress over the next couple of months.”