Soccer: Dynamic midfielder Jimenez a catalyst for Mustangs

Gilroy's Andres Jimenez makes a pass during a drill at practice Thursday.

A sophomore who leads his team in goals and assists is a rare find in high school soccer. Attacking midfielders who match highlight-worthy finishing skills with a passion for the game don’t exactly grow on trees, either.

Meet Gilroy High’s Andres Jimenez.

“Soccer is second after school, but I’ve been playing soccer since I was 3,” Jimenez said. “It’s always been my favorite thing to do since I was 3. I just love it.”

And the Mustangs love Jimenez’s production, as his five goals and three assists have sizzled over Gilroy’s 5-3 start.

“Andres is a kid who generally works hard without you having to motivate him,” Mustangs coach Armando Padilla said. “He’s really a self-motivated kid who wants to be one of the better players on the field. He doesn’t say much, but he kind of shows it with his play and character. It’s just going to be a great tenure here for him. He can really make a name for himself here.”

Jimenez began to make a name for himself last season, when he was named the Tri-County Athletic League Freshman of the Year. Jimenez honed his long shots over the offseason, and he returned to Garcia Elder Sports Complex this year with a new bag of tricks.

Jimenez gave a sign of things to come in the Mustangs’ season opener, when he had one goal and one assist in a 5-0 home win over rival Christopher on Nov. 29.

He continued to turn heads in the second round of the Homestead Cup, tallying two goals and one assist to highlight a 3-0 victory over Santa Cruz on Dec. 8.

And he’s doing it all less than halfway through his prep career.

“A lot of plays go through him,” Mustangs forward Mario Rubalcava said. “He’s a great part of the team. He’s always standing out in a crowd and just a great player.”

Rubalcava has been another key ingredient in Gilroy’s fast start. The senior has four goals and two assists, and teammates are glad the newcomer to high school soccer is wearing Mustang blue.

“He’s got the best finishing, I think, out of this whole team,” Jimenez said.

A pair of corner kicks from Rubalcava led to goals by Jimenez and David Solorzano in a 2-1 victory over Menlo-Atherton on Dec. 15.

“He’s really coming through,” Padilla said of Rubalcava.

Junior Emmanuel Cruz has three goals and two assists for the Mustangs, and senior David Valencia has scored three goals.

Senior goalkeepers Carlos Jimenez and Angel Velasquez have helped the offensive fireworks stand up by combining on four shutouts.

Gilroy has weathered a tough schedule, with its first two losses coming against perennial powers Homestead and San Ramon Valley.

Padilla hopes the difficult slate has prepared the Mustangs for the Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division.

Gilroy opens league play against visiting Watsonville at 5:45 p.m. on Jan. 8.

“If we want to be a contender in our new league, it’s going to take a lot of focus and concentration, and to be able to execute the things that we do in practice,” Padilla said.

The Mustangs know that there is plenty of work ahead, but the talent is there for a memorable run.

“I just want to win. I want to be champions,” Rubalcava said. “If everybody gives their heart, there’s nothing we can’t do.”

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