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Cano Doing Whatever It Takes at UCI : Colleges: New Anteater soccer director doesn’t mind getting a little dirty to boost his program.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Marine Cano knew he would be wearing a lot of hats when he took the job as director of soccer/head women’s coach at UC Irvine.

OK, maybe he didn’t think a painter’s cap would be one of them.

Cano has been running six hours of two-a-day practices with the women’s team, staying atop progress on the men’s team, putting on clinics for youth groups, speaking to every Rotary Club that will listen, recruiting, scheduling, planning strategy and lugging paint around.

Cano and a friend are spray painting a royal Anteater blue over the green outfield fence at the former baseball stadium that UCI soccer calls home.

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“It’s going to look great after we finish and put a big Anteater and some of our sponsors’ logos up there,” he said, stepping back to survey the work.

“I would never consider this kind of thing beneath me. It’s all part of what we’re trying to do here. Everything is for the program, for the players.

“This has been the busiest time of my life, but it’s also been very exciting.”

Cano coached men’s and women’s soccer at Cal State Dominguez Hills for nine years before accepting the Anteater job last December. And he arrived in Irvine with the attitude that he would give all he had and hope for a few drops of support in return.

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“My job here is not to take, but to give,” he said. “Hopefully, all the speaking engagements and clinics help make friends.

“We want to get a lot of people out here to the games. I want this place to be a festival of soccer for the community, from newcomers to the game to soccer purists who want to come here to see a good game and a bona fide program.”

Cano seems to have the personality to make it at Irvine, where sports programs survive on a coach’s wit and wile as much as won-loss record.

Fund-raiser? He’s a tireless, self-appointed ambassador of soccer good will. Enthusiastic? His license plate: MR SOCCR. Self-starter? Well, nobody told him to paint the fence. Motivator? Does decibel level count?

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“He’s a real yeller,” said Tracy Ann Manz, a freshman forward who was the Pacific Coast League most valuable player at Estancia, “which is good because I need to be yelled at sometimes. I need to be pushed a little.”

Cano, who also has coached at El Camino College, UCLA and Cal and is director of a nationwide program--Marine Cano’s Mr. Soccer Schools--seems to have a pretty good handle on how to handle different players.

“The motivational styles (of Cano and former Coach Ray Smith) are very different,” said Shawna Berke, Irvine’s all-time scoring leader. “I think Cano will do a lot for my confidence level. He’s more of an individual motivator.

“I struggle with my confidence every year. There’s always a point where I get down on myself and I think he’s really going to be able to help me. He’s a really good communicator.”

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Cano, a former goalkeeper on the U.S. national team, is clearly confident in his favored style of play--an aggressive, counter-attacking approach--and he has the players believing, too.

He has moved Berke, a senior, from an outside midfielder, a position she has played for more than seven years, to an inside midfielder spot and let her know that she’s expected to be more vocal.

“He’s challenged me and put more pressure on me,” Berke said. “I’m going to be involved in almost every play.”

While Cano stresses offense, any idea that high-scoring high jinx would take the place of defensive fundamentals has already been quashed. So far, the Anteaters have been working extensively on defense.

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Lori Muzzinigro, a senior mid-fielder who is a co-captain with Berke, is impressed with Cano’s style, his strategy and his ability to implement that strategy. “The adjustments have been pretty smooth,” she said.

Muzzinigro, a soft-spoken girl next door off the field and a fierce competitor with a collection of yellow cards to prove it on the field, is Cano’s idea of a role model.

“When I was playing as a youngster, I remember a coach telling me that soccer is a man’s game,” Cano said. “Well, in this case, it’s a woman’s game.

“We’re going to go after teams. We’re not going to sit back and wait. We won’t play dirty but we will be very, very tough. We’ll tackle. We’ll win balls in the air. We’ll be diving head-first to score goals.”

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Despite his worker-bee schedule, Cano still suffers pangs of soccer withdrawal after the high of the World Cup. Two-a-day practices have been soothing, but he’ll be completely cured when the season begins next weekend. Coach Derek Lawther’s men’s team debuts at 4 next Saturday against Gonzaga in the new-blue Anteater Stadium. Cano’s women’s team plays host to Cal State Hayward at 1 p.m. Sept. 4.

“The World Cup gave a lot of people an injection of soccer adrenaline,” Cano said, “and hopefully we can keep it going. Southern California is the hotbed of women’s soccer. Five players on the national team are from here. Everybody recruits here.

“My goal as a coach for our players is to beat someone very good this year. A good record is one thing, but proving that you can beat someone in the top five or six is getting there. We’ll probably have at least three chances to do that this season, with Portland, Washington and Cal (Sept. 9 in Berkeley).”

The Irvine women were 12-8 last year, only the second time in their 10-year history they have managed a winning record. But they lost only one starter from last season’s team and Cano, the quintessential optimist, is brimming with positives these days.

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“Taking this job was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “I love challenges. I guess that goes back to my playing days. I always played best under pressure.

“And I really enjoy it here. It’s an atmosphere I’ve longed for as head coach. The place is beautiful and the players are very keen on doing something, for themselves as individuals--and that’s OK--and for themselves as a team.

“My job is to get them ready.”

Well, that and painting the fence.

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