First-year Lathrop boys soccer coach Alfredo Reynaga didn’t need to look far for a program to model his after.
This past fall season, Weston Ranch garnered its first Valley Oak League and Sac-Joaquin Section championships with a core group of players that compete together year-round for the Central Valley Monarcas Academy. Recently, Sierra assistant coach Ronnie Green established the Manteca FC Bayern Munich under-16 squad to give players from the Manteca area an opportunity to continue playing at a high level outside of the high school season.
Lathrop frosh-soph coach Michael Morgan and Reynaga are following a similar blueprint but thinking more locally. Meet Lathrop United, an under-19 squad made up solely of Spartans. The team is part of the California Youth Soccer Association’s District 8 Jim Frazier League, which kicks off its five-week regular-season schedule today.
“The Frazier League is not necessarily high-end competition, but it’s a chance for the guys to play together after the high school season is over,” Reynaga said. “It’s also something to bring the kids together and get a little bit of camaraderie going. Some of them are playing for competitive clubs but I’m trying to build a foundation for Lathrop.”
The Spartans finished 3-10-1 in the always-tough VOL but was showed well against nonleague opponents, finishing 10-14-2 overall. The program is losing 12 of its 18 varsity players to graduation, but it has a promising group of underclassmen returning. Among them in sophomore defender Gary Sandhu, who plays for Manteca FC Bayern Munich and Lathrop United. He will participate in four games this weekend, two for each team. Reynaga’s son Xavier, an eighth grader at McParland and future Spartan, is also part of the Manteca FC team.
Reynaga has senior standouts Ulysses Almanza and Jose Castellanos on Lathrop United. As the only two seniors on the team, he hopes the tandem can help provide leadership and “help set that foundation.”
The Frazier League, which is in its 20th season, includes 10 other teams from Manteca (two), Merced (two), Stockton (two), Tracy, Modesto and Calaveras and Tuolumne counties.
Affordability was a big draw for Reynaga. Some year-round competitive clubs require its players to practice in other cities and travel even farther games and tournaments.
Reynaga said Lathrop United may participate at more competitive levels down the road, but his main goal now is to establish continuity with the high school program. Lathrop completed its fifth varsity season this fall, and Reynaga is already the fourth different head coach to lead the Spartans.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Reynaga said. “I want to see what we have first, see the number that comes out on a consistent basis. I know the kids are taking it serious because they were the ones pushing for this and that’s definitely a good sign. If they continue to show that then we can talk about it in the future.”