After a couple disappointing seasons, including a 2-14 campaign in 2018-19, the Liberty boys’ soccer team is looking to bounce back under new head coach Jesus Gomez.
Gomez, who played for coach Sal Acevedo at Freedom, guided the Lions to a win in its season opener against Amador Valley, followed by a 2-2 tie against Dublin.
The strong start has helped the players gain confidence in their new coach’s system and boosted their confidence, something Gomez prioritized when he took over the team.
“From the moment I took over the program, I told them our mission is to get into (North Coast Section playoffs),” Gomez said, which includes many of the best teams throughout the Bay Area. “Originally, they didn’t believe it. But they’ve seen the success on the field, and they’re all under the impression that it’s doable.”
On Monday, Jan. 13, Liberty suffered its first loss of the season at Clayton Valley Charter. Clayton Valley, considered to be one of the top teams in the area, won a 1-0 match that Gomez said could have gone either way. The team lost another match the following evening to Pittsburg by a score of 2-0.
Moving forward, Gomez says the team is on track for improvement. He credits his team captains with helping to create a cohesive environment where everyone on the team is bought in to the team’s mission.
Senior Ryan Tolero, junior Israel Ortiz, junior Shea Gombert and freshman Gabriel Juarez were selected by their teammates to serve as team captains. Gomez credits them, along with goalkeeper Chance Moreland, with leading the team both on and off the field.
“The team is filled with a bunch of committed players,” he said. “They’ve created an environment where they’re all together, and that’s one of the big reasons these boys are building chemistry with each other and creating a great brotherhood.”
Before taking the job at Liberty, Gomez was on the coaching staff of the De Anza Force, a nationally recognized youth soccer club. He also worked for Impact Soccer Club in Brentwood. He had an opportunity to join the Freedom coaching staff, where his two younger brothers play, but felt drawn to Liberty due to its untapped potential — he wanted to help build the program from the ground up.
Gomez says he’ll continue working to improve the mentality of the players and teach them to work as a more cohesive unit.
“I spoke to Ryan Partridge, the athletic director, and he wanted me to change the environment here,” he said. “That was the goal from the moment I took over: to change the mentality and create an environment that every player was a part of, which was lost in these past few years. There was a lot of potential, but for whatever reason, things didn’t go quite well.”
Gomez’s goal is to compete for the Bay Valley Athletic League title. To do that, he says he wants to maintain a competitive environment and continue to build chemistry among the team.
“I set the standard high,” he said. “They know if they want to be part of the team and see the field, they will have to demand more of themselves.”