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Napa Soccer Academy

Erik Vargas, right, scored for the Napa Soccer Academy's under-16 team during its friendly against Santa Rosa United this past weekend.

Submitted photo

Napa Soccer Academy began preparation for the upcoming spring season with its 2001, 2002 and 2003 teams playing their first friendlies of the year. After many of the boys enjoyed successful high school seasons, the focus shifts to the highly competitive NorCal Premier League action.

With the recent departure of Eduardo “Lalo” Blancas to the LA Galaxy, the 2001 squad – coached by NSA Director of Coaching Gabe Rood – looks at the spring season as opportunity to get the boys to become better as individuals.

“Anytime a top player moves on from NSA, we will have a period of adjustment,” said NSA Director of Communication Ed Vargas. “The key will be for the team to make that period of adjustment short and continue to compete.”

Oscar Loyola is a fixture in the 2001 team’s attack, while Diego Aguilar and Chris Gutierrez are counted on to solidify the midfield. Mario Barrajas, Enrique Lopez and Sebastian Gloria look to organize the defense. The team lost its friendly to a physical Santa Rosa United squad, 2-0, this past weekend. United scored in each half to avenge three straight losses to NSA, which now begins preparation for State Cup and NPL action.

Napa’s 2002 team also played host to Santa Rosa United in the U16 division. This North Bay derby has become a game of the week attraction for league officials. It was fast-paced from beginning to end, with NSA striking first on a right-footed, well-placed shot by Erik Vargas. With the game seemingly under control, a lapse in concentration allowed the visiting squad to even the contest and the teams setted for a 1-1 draw. The ’02 squad, now coached by Eric Branagan-Franco, looks to bounce back from a tough fall season will turns its sights on State Cup action and a return to the NPL Champions League.

“I’m counting on key players this season, such as Sucre Herrera, Erik Vargas, Christian Ceja, Angelo Dominguez, David Sierra and Elias Garcia,” said Branagan-Franco. “The player development has been key. Now it’s time to put it all together.”

The NSA’s 2003 U15 team also returned to action, posting a 6-1 victory over host SF Elite. Cesar Molina opened scoring in the early minutes of the match, and was quickly followed by a Gerardo Perez brace. Ivan Chavez, Emiliano Hurtado and Roan Goertz rounded out NSA’s scorers.

“The ’03 group will look to continue to develop and compete for the prestigious NPL Champions League crown,” said Rood. “We are very fortunate to have such a deep player pool with the 2003 group that we’ve even added some of our top ’04 players to the mix.”

The only team not to get on the pitch this past weekend was the youngest in the NSA system, the 2004 squad. This up and coming group has energy and talent coming into spring, and is focused on being competitive and needing to be at their best to have success. League play will continue to be the focal point of player development, while winning in State Cup action will be secondary.