Unity achieved in Los Banos soccer

sports@losbanosenterprise.comJuly 25, 2013 

For years, the soccer community in Los Banos has been scattered, with teams playing under the umbrella of Livingston Fuego, Merced United and clubs in Salinas and Madera.

But a new club, Athletic Club of Los Banos, is working to bring the soccer community together under one banner as a USA Soccer club.

"When I coached soccer at Los Banos, you'd keep hearing, 'Man, this town needs a club, this town needs a club.' We've got all these teams playing for different people, you've got Sam Ruelas had his group, Jose Curiel has his group," said AC Los Banos president Michael Perkins. "We had all these different teams, and everybody was playing in different places — Madera, Salinas, adult league, Livingston, Merced — we had all these teams playing with different organizations, and we could never get everyone to kind of sit down at the table together."

In June of 2012, Perkins and a few others got together to see if they could put together a club for their hometown.

"We got everyone together, and they said yeah, this is something we think will be good for Los Banos," Perkins said. "So we started moving forward at that point, we applied for US Soccer, we did all that stuff."

The new club, nicknamed the Terremotos, begins play in the NorCal Premier League, the local premier league for USA Soccer, on Sept. 7, and begins play in the Cal Cup the next day. But first, the club will host a San Jose Earthquakes youth camp Monday through Thursday.

Acceptance into USA Soccer was easier said than done.

"That really is about proving you are going to be a stable organization, and that you're — it's kind of hard to explain, but basically you have to have the bylaws and the constitution showing that you're a functioning organization, you have tax-exempt status, which we have," Perkins said. "Then they interview you to make sure you're not making waves, you're not breaking off from another organization against their will, that you're not just causing issues and being a renegade club."

The club has bylaws and a constitution, and a board made up of Perkins, vice president Lenin Prado, secretary Deserie Perkins, treasurer Mario Gonzalez and NorCal rep Jesus Gomez. ACLB has teams coming from Livingston Fuego and Merced United, and good working relationships with both organizations helped AC Los Banos in the eyes of USA soccer.

But ACLB was denied acceptance into the NorCal Premier League at first because it lacked a director of coaching. A phone call to California State University, Stanislaus men's soccer coach Dana Taylor paid dividends — for starters, Taylor is the head of the San Jose Earthquakes development academy for the San Joaquin Valley, and it was Taylor who facilitated the Earthquakes camp.

But Taylor's son, Brady, is a sophomore defender for Stanislaus, and now also holds the position of ACLB's director of coaching.

"Brady is very involved in the coaching aspect of things," Perkins said. "Several of our coaches went up to Turlock on the 12th and 13th for a coaches training with Brady and Dana, and he sets the vision. We've had coaches' meetings where he's giving down the curriculum he wants, and over the summer, he'll be going through drills and how to coach the drill, and putting the coaches in the drills so they know them inside and out, so that we can teach it and demonstrate it at a high level."

The current lineup of teams for AC Los Banos includes U7 and U11 under coach Mario Fregoso, U8 coached by Manuel Castro, U9 and U10 under Perkins, U12 under Jose Mandujano and U14 under Mario Gonzalez, with Prado putting together a girls' program.

And one of the biggest things for Perkins is making the program attainable for most families — all coaches are volunteers, and pay for training out of pocket, though Perkins hopes to raise capital for that through fund-raisers.

"A lot of these clubs we go against, a lot of these parents are paying $1,500 or $2,000 in a season, and our vision was different," Perkins said. "We wanted something affordable, something that wasn't going to be an arm and a leg to parents."

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