Junior striker Javier Hernandez dribbles the ball up field.

Arteaga in Mexico until end of Dec.; Goji brings depth to
GILROY – The Mustang soccer machine has run into a string of bad luck in the early going – most recently hitting the cross bar seven times in Saturday’s 2-1 first-round loss to Sequoias in the Homestead Tournament.

“It’s a team effort. We need to do well as a team. We’re still trying to jell,” head coach Albert Marquez said. “We just need to finish more. At this point, it’s to early to worry. We’re going to get better.”

In the loss to Sequoias, the Mustangs had a golden opportunity to tie the score late in the second half. But sophomore Alfonso Mata hit the crossbar on a penalty shot to add some insult to injury.

“We were very unlucky versus Sequoias. They are an excellent team,” Marquez said. “We had our chances. We made a couple of mistakes and let them score two goals. We just couldn’t finish. We kept hitting the crossbar.”

The Mustangs were looking to rebound with Tuesday’s non-league home game against Independence. But the game was re-scheduled at the last minute for next Tuesday, Dec. 10. Gilroy will play Independence twice in one week – first in the Homestead Tournament and then again in a non-league game.

Instead of packing up yesterday, the Mustang varsity squad played an intrasquad game against the junior varsity unit to “work on some things and work on our positioning.”

“We started off well on offense, but we’ve slowed with our goals,” said Marquez, whose squad has yet to match its four-goal output in its opening tie against North County. “Our defense has tightened up.”

The Mustangs also have a new addition to their defense with the eligibility clearance of senior fullback Hideyuki Goji from Japan.

“That helps us out on defense,” Marquez said.

Up next, Gilroy will travel to Santa Cruz for a Dec. 5 match-up. Santa Cruz is undefeated with impressive wins over both Alvarez and North County. Gilroy tied both of those schools in its pre-season contests.

“That’s going to be a real challenge,” said Marquez, looking ahead to Santa Cruz. “We’re a little banged up. We’ll see how it goes.”

The Mustangs will have to do it without senior captain Horacio Arteaga – who will not return from his brother’s wedding in Mexico until Dec. 28.

“We switch a little around. We’re still solid,” said Marquez of replacing Arteaga in the starting line-up. “If we have to base our team around one player, then we’re in trouble.”

In the early season, senior fullback/wing Oscar Garcia has been a pleasant surprise since moving out of net – where he started last season.

“He’s really playing well on the field this year. He’s done some really nice stuff,” Marquez said. “We’re getting better. We still have a ways to go.”

Last season, the Mustangs were one win away from a league title before falling to North County and handing the championship to Alvarez. Gilroy then went on to drop its first-round CCS Playoff game to Watsonville.

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