If the Downey High soccer coach looks as if he could be joining his players for a postgame trip to the ice cream parlor, you wouldn’t be far off.
There aren’t many high school varsity head coaches in any sport who can match the youth or passion of 20-year-old Misael Torres, and whatever he’s doing with the Knights is paying off.
After going 0-5 in the preseason, Downey announced its intent to compete for a Modesto Metro Conference title two weeks ago by tying Modesto, and followed that up Thursday with a 1-0 home-field victory over Davis.
“We got more physical and I’m making them do that,” Torres said. “We’re going at a faster pace and we practice with a lot of intensity so that we can go that same way in games. The passion for the game had to come before the tactical, and I want to win with heart.”
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Pedro Martinez scored in the 63rd minute for the Knights (3-6-1, 3-1-1 MMC), touching the ball into the left side on a crossing pass from Kevin Correa. The goal stood up despite Davis (9-6-1, 3-2-0) outshooting Downey 22-11.
As indicated by the shot totals, the Spartans dominated the pace and control of the game, despite playing on the artificial surface. But a large number of the Davis shots were launched from long range and were pretty easy stops.
According to Spartans’ coach Erika Watson, that was by design.
“They’re interested in building, building, building, and then they don’t shoot,” Watson said. “There are so many times when a goal can be scored from the 40 if the keeper is off-balance and the defense isn’t there. Breakaways are beautiful, as are six or seven connected passes. But if you shoot from the 40 and make the net shake it’s still a goal.”
And with each shot stopped, the greater the confidence gained by Downey keeper Alejandro Trejo, a senior making his first varsity start in goal.
“I felt a lot of pressure, but I wanted to keep my team in the game,” said Trejo, who looked very comfortable in the net. “I was playing in the midfield and I didn’t want to be a keeper. But after a few games I felt like I should step in. We haven’t had a clean sheet (shutout) all year, and that means a lot to me to do it in my debut, and at home.”
With one game left before the midpoint of the MMC season, Modesto remains on top at 4-0-1, with Gregori joining Downey at 3-1-1. Davis suddenly finds itself in fourth place heading into its first league battle this season with Modesto on Tuesday.
And all of that leaves Downey in complete control of its own destiny, something only the Knights themselves would have considered possible only two weeks ago.
“Preseason was to learn, and so far so good in league,” said Torres, a four-year Knights’ varsity starter and three-time MMC champion under Ulises Gonzalez and current Downey assistant principal Chris Chiles. “It’s the players. They’re doing it.”
Yes, but they’re doing it with faith in their coach, even though he could pass for a teammate.
“He was a senior when I was a freshman and he has a lot of passion for the game,” Trejo said. “I looked up to him and I wanted to be the same kind of player he was. When I heard he was going to be our coach I was excited.”