Competitive, entertaining, unpredictable — Sonoma County League boys soccer promises a memorable second half of the season.
While favorite Analy is holding form atop the league standings, little separates the other six squads. Consider that Piner, at the bottom, has a win over resurgent Healdsburg. Despite a down year, one of Sonoma Valley's victories came against second-place Petaluma.
"So far, the league is very competitive. Most game scores seem to be very close," said Analy coach Peter Meechan.
Even with the loss of Casa Grande and Windsor to the North Bay League, there has been little dropoff with the addition of Elsie Allen and Piner to the SCL.
"It seems like anybody can jump up and win any day," said Petaluma coach Greg Lamansky. "We definitely are beating up on each other."
Perennial power Analy is on pace to repeat as league champion and secure a high seed in the North Coast Section playoffs.
What makes Analy so tough is strong team play and experienced players from front to back.
Returning All-Empire forward Agustin Reyes leads another deep, skilled Tigers team. Also back in the starting lineup are goalkeeper Alex Coronel, defender Shaq Burton, midfielders Isaac Moore and Cassidy Rosales, and Juan Sanchez, also a forward.
The best Petaluma team in several years could get the program back to the section playoffs after a five-year drought.
"This team is very hungry," Lamansky said.
The Trojans' formula for success has been sturdy defense and just enough offense. Staying composed and improving ball possession are Petaluma's goals in the season's second half.
Anchoring the defense is center back Luke Rivetti. Midfielders Tarwinder Turewal and Francisco Guerrero work hard to organize Petaluma at both ends of the field.
Most improved is Healdsburg. With much of the starting lineup back from a year ago, the Greyhounds are making a strong bid for the section playoffs.
"We're a very cohesive team that supports each other regardless who might be on the field. There's a lot trust among each other, and that gives the team a lot confidence," said Healdsburg coach Herbert Lemus.
Speedy scorers Jordan Vega and Jose Avila are joined by midfielder Nicolas Camacho to lead Healdsburg up front. Midfielder Jose Herrera and defenders Alejandro Patino and Eduardo Olvera are good at winning balls and getting play going back up field. Goalkeeper Daniel Dillon has been playing well.
League newcomer Elsie Allen has been a difficult opponent. While young, the Lobos possess and share the ball well.That the Lobos have split the first six league contests is largely a result of letdowns that opponents have taken advantage of.
"We need to get more rhythm and confidence," said Elsie Allen coach Sergio Lopez. "It's just a matter of playing all 80 minutes."
Three year starter Christopher Huerta directs Elsie Allen's play on both ends of the field. Forward Jose Garcia is a skilled scorer. Center back Eddie Oros leads an improving defense.
Longtime league power Sonoma Valley has struggled some this season. Still, a strong second half could get the Dragons back into the section playoffs.