By David Wilson
Acting head coach Adam Reeves’ first offseason as head coach is well underway and has included two wins against Division I opposition in spring play and training different formations.
After a run to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II West Region title game, men’s soccer is preparing for the new season starting in the fall.
Reeves was the associate head coach under Yossi Raz last season and took over when Raz accepted a head coaching job at UC Irvine this past February.
“I think it’s been a smooth transition just because he was here already,” junior forward Luis Najera Jr. said. “We’re just adjusting to new things, different things he’s implementing ” I think we’re adapting pretty well.”
Junior forward and last year’s top scorer and Division II All-American Sergi Monso described Reeves as more “relaxed” than Raz in his demeanor with the players.
“I think that he’s going to get to that point where he is going to yell at us,” Monso said with a smile.
A focus of this offseason has been working on playing a three at the back formation.
According to Reeves, the team has played with three defenders at times over the last two years but felt that the system fits the group of players at his disposal.
“When the staff looks at the strengths of this team we have some tremendous strengths which we need to be able to make the most of,” Reeves said. “We feel that playing with three at the back will allow us in other areas of the field to strengthen and get those players on the field at the same time together.”
The change in shape poses different challenges for players further up the field.
“As a center-forward it just makes me want to protect the ball a little bit better because having three in the back, we’re a little more vulnerable in the wide gaps,” Najera Jr. said.
Najera Jr. was second on the Broncos scoring list with six goals and an assist.
“As the holding midfielder, it’s demanding because I have to make sure our team is connected and make sure the forwards in front of us are not leaving without the team pressing behind them,” junior midfielder Kevin Martinez said. “Sometimes I have to fall into the backline to make sure we have enough numbers back there so we’re not each one on one.”
Reeves stressed that the shape of the team does not change their style of play.
“We are a very possession oriented team, but with a purpose. We want to go forward, we like going forward, we want to exploit weaknesses in the other team,” Reeves said. “You can’t do that without the ball” We want to create waves of attacks where we’re pressing behind our first attack and can win balls back in good areas.”
Cal Poly Pomona lost six players to graduation last season including team leaders defender Leonel Espinoza and midfielder Eshel Chardon.
With no new freshmen joining the group, two transfers will be added to strengthen the squad: junior center midfielder Jimmy Villalobos and Alex Flores from Santa Clara University, who has four years of eligibility with CPP.
“They’re big shoes to fill,” Reeves said. “I don’t know if anybody is necessarily filling them to where I want. It’s a constant work in progress. At this age, it’s tough to come out of your shell and be a vocal leader.”
Reeves described that a “leadership committee” consisting of four players had been formed to “pull the group in the right direction” but hesitated to reveal them by name.
“The team knows, but I don’t want to put undue pressure on them,” Reeves said. “They have enough on their shoulders as it is, and they have a lot of pressure from me to continue to push the group.”
With the new season a little more than four months away, the team has played two games in spring against Division I schools, beating UC Riverside 1-0 and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas 2-0.
“There was a lot of things I saw where guys were put in situations so that come the fall I can know if I can count on this guy or not,” Reeves said. “We’re on track.”
The Broncos have four more games to play before three points are on the line come fall.
David Wilson / The Poly Post
Head coach Adam Reeves and Luis Najera Jr. during a recent training session.
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