By Audria Ruscitti
SWC’s Sports Information Office
CHULA VISTA Standing a half-foot above the other players, Antonio Romero watches the ball rush towards him. “Go Chico!” shout his teammates. Amidst a frenzy of legs and feet, Romero kicks the ball to safety, preventing the opposing team from scoring. He celebrates briefly with captain Johnny Borja and keeper Armando Juarez as they toss around a water bottle; then it’s back to the game.
Defender for the Southwestern College Men’s Soccer team, Romero is a tremendous asset. He is a leader by example and the team respects him, said head coach Robert Flores. “He isn’t out there yelling for people to do what he can’t.”
With only three returning players since last season, it has been a challenge to find a common goal, said Flores. But, since every player came from the local high schools, the team has grown up together. “It identifies the players are coming from the community,” he said.
A freshman from Southwest High School, Romero has deep roots in the soccer community. Romero has been competing since age seven, playing in various youth soccer clubs through out the South Bay and Tijuana. “I always had it in me. I always played soccer,” said Romero.
Borja has known Romero since junior high, and said his game has remained consistent. “He’s a key player everywhere he goes,” said Borja. He added Romero has a tremendous foot, and he is a tough competitor, winning 90 percent of balls in the air. “He’s very hard to beat,” said Borja.
“[We have] an extremely successful defense, played in large part by Antonio,” said Flores. As of last Wednesday’s game against Mesa, the Jaguars have recorded five shut outs and have only allowed 11 goals. In fact, Romero has even scored five goals against opposing teams.
“I’m a defensive player, I’m not supposed to score goals. But hey, they’re welcome,” said Romero.
The team has a lot of talent and the players practice hard everyday, Romero said. “When it’s time to get serious, we get really serious and work really hard.”
The Jaguars’ (3-1-1, 5-6-3) goal to bring home a championship is within reach. Currently they find themselves second in the Pacific Coast Conference standings, trailing Mesa (3-0-2, 8-1-3), but Romero almost wasn’t a part of that.
“I wasn’t planning on coming this semester,” said Romero. He had friends on the team, and they pushed him to come to school. He said he wants to play next year and then transfer.
“Coaches always look at winning teams,” said Romero. “If we actually have a really good season and win the championship and go to regionals…” at least three players could get looked at by universities. “I want to go to a university. That’s my goal, as long as I get to play there,” he also added that once at a University he would parlay his scholarship into a teaching degree.
Romero said he also wants to coach. “I like kids too,” he said. “I think I could work with younger people.”
The Jaguars coaching staff wants the players to carry on academically, said Flores. “The secret at this level is not so much what you have today, but what you have tomorrow.”
Flores said the players are very goal oriented, and they have a good chance of winning this year’s conference. Winning is the team’s main thought on the field, said Romero. “Everybody’s hungry for a championship this year.”