Picture an entirely new engine in the shop before being placed into a car and utilized at its top speed. Espinosa is watching, evaluating and double-checking what works, what doesn’t and tweaking the parts accordingly.
The Cougars appear to be aligned with the proper process toward clicking on all cylinders.
“That’s the great thing about preseason. We get to see what we have to work on,” said Espinosa, whose Cougars are 1-2-1 in the early portion of the season. “This is new to me and new to them. We are establishing a system of rules and discipline on this team and the players are adapting. We are all getting to know each other, and the preseason allows us to do that. I’m excited to see how we play over the next couple of games.”
In their first three games, the Cougars were outplayed in a 3-1 loss to Live Oak last Tuesday, rebounded two days later to outlast a physical San Benito team 1-0, and on Saturday, rallied late to force a 1-1 tie versus Gunn.
Those tilts and subsequent results are all different and have uniquely tested the Cougars. One thing has been constant, though.
“The effort is there, which is huge,” Espinosa said. “Everyone has stepped up.”
That couldn’t have been better illustrated than returning starting midfielder Angel Trejo filling in for injured goalie Ivan Reynoso on Saturday.
“He made some amazing saves that kept us in the game,” Espinosa said of his senior, whom he expects to contribute game in and game out. “He’s worked really hard and the effort he puts in is what we want.”
Espinosa preaches organization – play and possession with fluidity and crisp passing – and ironically that begins in the back with the defense anchored by returner Giovanni Troini.
“We have a back line of Giovanni, Jacob Liberatore and Isaiah Delgado that has become more organized since the Live Oak game,” Espinosa said. “We are moving a lot of people in and out of the midfield to fit in who we want playing where. And I think we have that figured out now.”
While the defense and midfield have seemed to have sorted out the possession part, finishing around the net has lacked at times. The Cougars have managed just one goal in each of their first three games, getting goals from Trejo, David Anaya and Josue Salgado.
“We are still looking for that right combination up top with the forwards,” Espinosa said. “Hopefully we get that settled this week.”
Trejo was in net once again Monday for the Cougars fourth cap of the season against Pacific Grove but goals remained no- shows in a 2-0 loss.
“We held the possession advantage, (but) couldn’t finish our opportunities,” Espinosa said. “(Pacific Grove) countered well and with speed.”
The Cougars face Valley Christian on Wednesday and Lincoln on Saturday, both on the road.
• CHS, which enters its second season of varsity play, finished fourth in the Monterey Bay League last year, behind third-place Pajaro Valley, runner-up North County and league champion Watsonville.