LONGMONT — The Skyline boys soccer lineup features more styles and backgrounds than Men’s Warehouse. That confluence of approaches to such a versatile game as soccer is beginning to produce results for the Falcons in 2012.
The Falcons don’t have the traditional blend of players who have played together, or against one another, for years on various club teams. Instead of coming to the Falcons from respective clubs, most of this year’s players came to the program from the odd pickup game in the streets around Longmont.
“Most of us came from playing in the parks and hockey rinks and stuff, just in the streets,” junior midfielder Jesus Cervantes said. “Some of the kids have trouble playing by the rules where in other places they can do whatever they want.”
Cervantes, whose father played professionally in Mexico, has a background in both organized and unorganized soccer. With the bulk of the Falcons roster being unfamiliar with organized soccer, though, he said things like drills and learning strategy have been a struggle for the team.
But what the street players, who regularly play against adults uninhibited by a referee’s whistle, have brought to the Falcons is toughness. For the Falcons, one of the smallest teams in Boulder County, toughness is key.
“Some of the experience you gain over there, you bring with you over here,” Cervantes said. “You can get a little tougher because there are bigger people and they’re tough. We need a lot of tough people on our team.”
Still searching for balance, the season didn’t start well for the Falcons (4-2-1). Opening with Niwot and Northridge, they began 0-2 without a single goal.
It wasn’t until the Falcons narrowly beat cross-town rival Silver Creek 2-1 on Sept. 7 that things started to come together on the field. The Falcons rode the momentum from that victory to a tie with Vista Peak and a 4-2 win over Longmont, another city rival. They added victories over Frederick and Roosevelt this week.
The stretch marked the first time since head coach Luis Chavez took over in 2010 that the Falcons had beaten either Silver Creek or Longmont. Chavez said the Falcons are winning because they are all open-minded, coachable and willing to learn from one another.
“I really enjoy the fact that the ones with experience, the ones with not so much experience and the ones without experience, they all help each other rise up to the occasion,” Chavez said. “We still have some gaps but those gaps have been compensated for and well-covered.”
The Falcons are still working on getting everyone on the same page. For some, like junior goalkeeper and forward Jesus Aguirre, one of the toughest challenges in transitioning to prep soccer is remembering the rules.
After all, Aguirre said, they don’t worry much about off-sides at Centennial Park.
“I’ve learned a lot, like 95 percent, in the streets,” Aguirre said. “In the streets, you can play wherever you want. Here, you need to follow the rules. Sometimes, I forget some rules.”
The Falcons club players, like junior center back Jonathan Timms, help act as an example of discipline and structure for the street players. On the other side, Chavez said, while club players tend to be more controlled and conservative, the street players exhibit more dominant skill in many situations.
“They’re used to being tripped, kicked, pushed, you name it,” Chavez said. “It’s almost like being street smart. When it comes down to being aggressive and physical, the street guys can go out there and go all out.”
Timms, who plays for the Colorado Storm North soccer club, said he’s been playing club soccer his whole life and has only seen that one side of how the world’s most popular and versatile game is played.
“The way they play is a lot different than the way we play,” Timms said. “They do a lot more skills and they take a lot more chances than we do in club. So, it’s been a good experience to teach me how to play that other side.”
Timms said he normally would never consider taking a defender one-on-one. But playing with the Falcons has taught him to pick his moments. Taking a chance and embracing a one-on-one situation, he scored his second goal of the season in a 9-1 win over Frederick on Monday.
Whoever rubs off on whom, the blending of street smarts and club discipline is translating into success on the field for the Falcons.
Follow Brad on Twitter: @BradCochi