Academy Notebook: U18s set to kick off season

The squad, led by coach Marquis White, hosts Crossfire Premiere on Saturday

The 2013-14 U18 Earthquakes Academy team will see many new faces on the pitch this season, but there will also be some key returners who have been tried and tested, and who responded.

Led by Elisama Padilla and Alex Liua, the Quakes offense will be returning two of their top three scorers from last year’s wildcard playoff squad. There will be some big shoes to fill, however, as No. 2 scorer Jesse Garcia has moved on, as well as goalkeeper Austin Black and defensive stalwarts Trevor Long (Cal) and Edwin Lara (Quakes).

That said, this year’s squad shouldn’t have to go far to find potential replacements for the lost production. JT Marcinkowski looks to take over as the main man in net this season after a summer filled with top-level training. Marcinkowski and teammate Amir Bashti spent part of their summer at the U.S. National Soccer Combine in Portland and will look to build off the experience they gained playing with the best in the nation. Between these two, they have played soccer on three continents and in six different countries with the National Team program. Marcinkowski will look to maintain his 2011-12 form, when he was voted United States Soccer Development Academy Western Conference U15/16 Keeper of the Year. Marcinkowski, Bashti and a handful of other Academy players have also benefited greatly from playing Reserve League games with the first team.

A majority of the “new” faces on the 18s aren’t very new at all, as many of them saw action with the 18s at some point last year, and then accompanied the team to Dallas for the wildcard playoffs. The team played well in Dallas, earning a record of 1-1-1, but aspirations were high and, as such, that result was considered a disappointment. The 18s went into the playoffs on a high note, winning 4 of 5 matches and finishing May with a 7-1 drubbing of Northwest Division rival Crossfire Premiere.

Finishing last season with a mark of 17-12-2 earned them 53 points on the campaign and slotted them as the 8th seed in the wildcard playoff round. This year’s team will look to blow those results out of the water, as expectations will be higher with such a talented group. The leadership at the top will be steady as ever with Marquis White and Stephen Wondolowski back for another run. Their familiarity with each other and with the players should pay big dividends throughout the year, as that stability lends itself to constant improvement and every player knowing his role.

The group of players making the jump from the 16s will be led by standout midfielder Josh Totte and forward Cylus Sandoval, both of whom tallied three goals last year. Accompanying them on the move to the 18s will be Darren Sinclair, Francisco Zepeda, Alex Valencia, Jeremy Romero and Edgar Benitez, all of whom played significant roles in the program last year and will look to make an immediate impact at the next level. There will also be a solid group of returning 18s players, led by SMU commit Bryce Clark, Wake Forest commit Dominic Scotti, Roberto Mendoza and Juan Velasquez

Some of the new contributors will include Brazilian Bernardo Carabelli, former Pinole Valley High School All League selection and League Defensive MVP Luke Dennison, and Dalton Pando, who has banked some U17 National Team experience. The Quakes will also receive a boost from a few transfers from around the USSDA scene, with the addition of former De Anza Force player Samuel Ebstein and also Elias Rieland, who came over from Real Salt Lake-AZ after its 2012-13 USSDA National Championship.

The 18s will kick off the season this Saturday at 10 a.m. as they host Crossfire Premiere, with whom they split last year’s matches. Sunday will be a great barometer for the squad as they host reigning division champion Vancouver at 11 a.m. at the Mustang Soccer Complex in Danville. The Quakes were held to just a single goal in the two matches with Vancouver last year.

- Richter Media