The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Rams making adjustments

Portales boys soccer team has new coach, new district

 

August 23, 2018

Eric Murray

Eli Viera, in gray, does a header above his teammate, as Landon Grawrock, right, looks on. Portales starts its season on Saturday against NMMI.

PORTALES — The 2018 season will be trial by fire for new Portales boys soccer coach Juan Mendez, as he tries to get acquainted with his team. Mendez, who recently took over the program, earlier this month, previously did youth soccer coaching in Portales.

The 2012 grad was a senior on the Rams’ 2011 team that made it all the way to a state title game. Mendez hopes to bring that kind of culture to the present-day Rams. “Just like any other coach, it’s to bring the championship home,” Mendez said.

“Especially with my team making it the farthest (in school history). That’s kind of one goal I have for them, is to beat it and have something for future generations to look forward to.”

This year’s squad is led by the likes of Lesther Oliva Andrade and Josiah Tellez. Andrade, a senior, and Tellez, a sophomore, should be the two biggest offensive threats on a team that Mendez feels pretty good about on that side of the ball.

Defensively, however, is another issue. Right now, Mendez is trying out a number of midfielders, and like his high school days, he’ll be running a 3-5-2 formation. Mendez said that this formation really helped against bigger schools, but he said Portales will also use the more traditional 4-4-2 formation often seen in high school.

Portales recently had its “Midnight Game,” which is a team scrimmage. There, Mendez got to really see what he’s working with right now. “With the game (last) Saturday, we kinda saw some stuff that we need to work on, and we’ve just been working on (correcting) that stuff,” Mendez explained.

Last year, the Nathan Dodge-led Rams finished 10-10 and went 3-5 in District 4-4A play. However, this year’s group — which loses five seniors, including Andrew Villegas and Julian Tellez — will have all new district opponents to contend with.

Gone are Hope Christian, Moriarty, NMMI and Ruidoso. In their place is Lovington, Goddard and Artesia, which makes for a more geographically-sound district. For Mendez, however, his teams did not face any of those teams when he was in school, which keeps up with the “trial by fire” theme.

Nonetheless, getting the Portales job is a “dream come true” for Mendez, and he’s very excited to get going. Now all he has to do is see if the principles he’s instilled in his players come to fruition during the upcoming season and beyond.

“One of the big things I told them is we have to work together. You gotta work as a team, on and off the field,” Mendez said. “The big thing that I stress to them is that I only have two hours with them, so there’s no way I can work individually with them — or everything I want to cover with them.

“The big thing is doing the extra work at home. Dribbling, running — soccer is all about conditioning. If you don’t have good conditioning, then it’s a tough sport. Being accountable for that, and being a small town, there’s not much to do, so it’s easier for them to get in trouble. The big thing I’ve been instilling is to keep each other accountable.”

Portales will open the season with NMMI this year. Saturday’s opener will be at 3 p.m.

 

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