The National Federation of High Schools mandates that a prep soccer field be from 100-120 yards in length and from 55-80 yards in width.
Such dimensions allow for plenty of room with which an offense can attack the opposition, but putting the ball in the 8×24 foot rectangle that serves as the goal is, after all, the goal.
For opponents facing the Perry Bluejays, seeing senior Jorge Soto standing between the pipes the past three seasons has meant their chances of moving the scoreboard are only slightly better than nil.
Soto has been nothing short of brilliant in past two seasons for Perry. Last year the Bluejays finished as state runner-up in Class 2A, falling to perennial power Norwalk, 1-0, in the championship game.
The Warriors beat Soto once after scoring 14 goals in the four games leading to the meeting with Perry. Soto allowed just one goal in each of Perry’s three games at the state tourney and during his junior campaign surrendered only 12 goals in 20 games as the Jays finished 16-4.
Along the way he posted 11 shutouts — a “clean sheet” in soccer parlance — including blankings in seven of Perry’s last eight wins entering the state tourney.
The Jays are currently 9-2 and Soto has allowed one goal in regulation (Perry’s other loss came on penalty kicks after two scoreless overtime periods).
“Some people shy away from pressure, but I don’t mind and I actually like it when it all falls on me as the last line of defense,” Soto said. “There is no better feeling than stopping a shot and seeing the look on the other team when they realize it is going to be hard to score.”
Soto began playing goalie when he was eight or nine years old and said he did not feel comfortable at first.
“It took awhile to get used to it, but once I did I decided I was going to be the best I could be,” he explained. “My coaches have been a great help and I appreciate the confidence they have shown in me.”
Perry head coach Gary Overla said Soto’s development into a top “keeper” took some time, but that he now has “complete and total faith in Jorge.”
“When he was a sophomore he played back a little and did not like coming off his line, but that has completely changed,” Overla stated. “He has worked hard with coach (Scott) Pierce on his footwork and his instincts are pretty sharp.”
Aggressively playing the angles and getting to the ball quickly have been a hallmark of Soto’s success in net.
“You have to learn the difference between taking too many risks and not being aggressive enough,” Soto said. “Part of that is experience, but part of it is attitude, too. You have to want to make the play, have to say ‘that is my ball’ and not be afraid to go out there and get it.”
Of course, no goalie is going to have success without plenty of help from the other players on the pitch, and Soto was quick to praise his teammates.
“I always thank the defenders, because they are the ones who limit the number of shots I see and 90 percent of the credit has to go to them,” Soto said. “My job is to stop the shots that get through, and with the guys playing in front of me that is never a lot.”
Cameron Martinez and Ian Velasco are the primary defensemen for Perry, with fullbacks Zach Stetzel, Alexis Macias, Jeffry Argueta and Alvaro Soto responsible for controlling outlet passes and possession of the ball in the middle of the field.
“Defense is a team effort,” Overla said. “I don’t care how good you are … that is a big goal, and if the opposition can set the ball up they are going to score. We have been able to limit those chances, but when we haven’t been able to Jorge has been there for us and has been a great last line of defense.”