Soccer Champions : La Salle Secret: Work, Win

Times Staff Writer

The development and history of the United States is deeply rooted in the Northern European belief in the "work ethic."

The Puritans, Masons and Pilgrims who first set foot in New England believed that hard work wouldn't hurt anyone.

This belief holds true at La Salle High in Pasadena, where the work ethic is credited for the school's back-to-back CIF-Southern Section 1-A soccer championships and a string of Santa Fe League titles.

Coach George Taylor, beginning his fifth year at the helm, has produced a modest dynasty at La Salle, located below the foothills in East Pasadena. Taylor teams have won four league championships while going undefeated in Santa Fe play each season, in addition to the two CIF crowns. Last year the team was 22-3-5.

Perfect This Season

This season the Lancers are 10-0, outscoring the opposition 56-2. La Salle, which starts 10 seniors, is an overwhelming favorite to win its fifth straight league championship and another CIF title.

Taylor, 45, born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England, is the team's leading advocate of the work ethic. He said he has applied his life experiences to the players he coaches. "I came from a very poor family," he said. "I went to school with holes in my shoes and patches on my pants.

"I came to America, the land of opportunity, but I've had to work hard to get where I am. If you want something, you have to work hard to get it, and these kids work hard for it."

There are four components to Taylor's coaching success at La Salle: positive attitude, desire to succeed, skilled players and physical conditioning. "A lot of times, kids come out and expect to kick the ball around," he said. "We don't do that here.

"These guys, right now, work out as much as the professionals do in Europe. They're out there (practicing) every day, except when they play."

Junior varsity player Simon Cooper, 15, said Taylor puts the team through an extensive conditioning program before the season.

"At the beginning of the year, we do nothing but run," he said. "(We do) lots of miles of running until we get in shape. We do a minimum of three (miles), but sometimes three to five."

Taylor confesses, "One minute thay hate me, the other minute they love me."

A byproduct of Taylor's success is senior midfielder Dave Palic, 17, of San Gabriel, the CIF 1-A Division player of the year last season.

"If I said, '(David) run into that post,' he'll run," Taylor said. "He eats, sleeps and drinks soccer. . . . That's his No. 1 priority."

Record for Assists

Palic led the Lancers to a 3-0 victory over L. A. Baptist to capture the 1-A title last season. Although Palic's main responsibility is to control the ball and set up his forwards, he scored eight goals last year and collected a La Salle school record 58 of his team's 79 assists. Palic's 58 is unofficially the second highest single-season total in CIF-Southern Section history.

Palic said he came to La Salle, a Catholic boys school with an enrollment of about 450, for religious reasons. "But soccer was (also) one of the main reasons.

"Mr. Taylor is an excellent coach. He sells his concept of soccer very well. That's why he's a good real estate man." Taylor, a real estate agent in Arcadia, said he sold $3 million worth of property the last four months of 1984.

Palic said Taylor is a soccer tactician. "He knows strategically a lot about soccer. "He likes to have the ball on the ground and spread the field of play."

Although soccer is a physical sport, Taylor said the game should be played in its simplest terms.

"It's a very simple game," he said. "If you don't have the ball, you get into an open space to receive it. If you have the ball, you got to be thinking ahead to where (you're) going to put it.

"The most important part of the game is not necessarily scoring goals but being able to distribute the ball."

Several of Taylor's players have gone on to play soccer in college, including Los Angeles Rams place-kicker Mike Lansford, whom he coached during a five-year coaching stint at Arcadia High.

La Salle assistant coach Brian Weisner is also one of Taylor's former players. Weisner, who holds "C" and "B" soccer licenses touting coaching expertise, works with the team from a technical standpoint.

"The technical part of the game is where Brian excels," Taylor said. "That's where we have a balance: He's technical and I'm not."

Weisner teaches the mechanics of passing, dribbling and shot-taking.

Despite all the league titles, Taylor has been trying to get the Lancers out of the Santa Fe League and 1-A soccer for three or four years.

The CIF did move La Salle and the entire league up to 2-A this season, but Taylor wants to see the Lancers play in the 4-A Pacific League because it would be more competitive.

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