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Canyon boys soccer: The mentalist

The smarts of goalkeeper Wilson have Canyon on the verge of SCV boys soccer history

Posted: March 1, 2010 9:40 p.m.
Updated: March 2, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Canyon goalkeeper Andrew Wilson is a three-year varsity captain who understands the strategy behind the game of soccer.

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Canyon boys soccer head coach Khris Savage has to laugh when he hears kids in his classes describe his sport as “you guys just kicking the ball around.”

Savage says the team has a playbook that includes more than 40 sets, each having its own covert designation, the same way a quarterback has an audible system.

And just the same, the defense has to be able to recognize where an attack is coming from and understand that attack in order to do its job.

There’s a cerebral aspect to the game that casual observers might not pick up on, Savage explains.

But that aspect is why goalkeeper Andrew Wilson has been so successful this year, right along with his team.

“I try and be vocal. If you hear me, I’m screaming the whole time,” Wilson says. “My voice is usually gone after games. They know how I play and I know how they play. I think that’s why our defense moves and plays so well.”

As a fourth-year varsity starter and three-year captain with a GPA in the 4.5 range, the Foothill League’s reigning Player of the Year has a combination of poise and intelligence that makes him the unquestioned leader on the team.

Those talents have already helped take Canyon to the CIF-Southern Section Division III semifinals — and Savage says it could take the team even further.

The Cowboys (12-1-2) will travel to square off against Paramount High in the semifinals at 3 p.m. today.

And while every soccer team relies on 11 players for success, Savage doubts the team and program would be where they are today without Wilson.

Savage rains praise on the example Wilson sets for the team’s younger players, and he talks about Wilson’s importance in dealing with team issues.

In years past, Canyon has lost players at crucial points in the season due to academic ineligibility.

Wilson’s lead-by-example persona has helped ease concern in that area, as it has in others.

“We didn’t lose any kids to grades, he’s taking care of that already,” Savage says. “We know we don’t ever have to worry about his grades and we want the kids (like him) that are really committed.”

Wilson’s classroom performance is so impressive that he had to take Savage’s soccer physical education class as pass/no-pass, because his advanced-placement class work is on a 5-point scale and a 4.0 from Savage’s class would have lowered his GPA.

Wilson demonstrates his commitment on the soccer field, too.

Even though his talent makes him a guaranteed starter, Wilson shows up early with a group of teammates who do extra conditioning and shooting practice.

“He’s there every day early, which is rare as a fourth-year player,” Savage says.

Teammate Jordan Markovich says Wilson has kept the Cowboys in countless games with his cool demeanor and ability to keep things in control, which Markovich believes is one of his best values.

“Andrew is a beast,” Markovich says. “He keeps us in a lot of games and makes a lot of saves. A lot of times, his making the big save and coming up big put a spark back in us, and motivates the team.

“He’s a smart kid, he’s always ahead of the game. That’s his strength, is to be able to stay back there. He just sees the game really well.”

Those skills have helped Wilson earn 14 shutouts this season, including two at the La Canada Tournament.

The Cowboys beat La Canada 1-0 and tied 0-0 against El Camino Real, which was highly touted at the time.

“Once we went to the La Canada tournament is where everything turned around for us,” Wilson says.

He selflessly attributes the team gelling so well to Erick and Eddie Corona, defenders who moved up to varsity for the tournament and have remained with the team since.

While the Coronas are important to a team that aims to control the pace of games with its defense and passing, Wilson is probably being a bit modest.

After all, he’s only allowed five goals all year since the preseason tournament. In 10 league games, he gave up just two. 

Canyon striker Mohammed Roknipour says Wilson has been the hero several times, especially in the team’s playoff run.

“I think he saved us (in the first round), he saved two penalties against (Anaheim),” Roknipour says of the team’s 7-6 penalty-kick victory over Anaheim after a 2-2 tie in regulation.

The talented striker remembers missing his kick and putting his head in his hands, feeling awful about potentially ending his team’s postseason run.

“I missed a penalty and (Wilson) came to me and said, ‘Don’t worry about it. I’ll get it,’” Roknipour says.

Wilson stopped the next two shots and earned another win as the Cowboys advanced.

It’s hard to translate Wilson’s contributions to the team in a sport where statistics are typically modest.

It’s also tough for Wilson to put into words why someone who wants to be a pre-med student at UCLA next year willfully slings his body into perilous situations as a goalkeeper.

“From all of the people I’ve talked to, they all say keepers have to be a little insane,” Wilson says. “I guess I could see that, because you’re jumping in front of a ball as hard as someone can kick it.

“And yeah I take a beating, but I have fun doing it.”

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