Almost from birth, soccer would be a way of life for Alfonso Montano Jr.
His father had taken his soccer career as far as the semi-pro level with the Los Angeles Simón Bolívar under-23 club.
Montano, a soft-spoken senior at Los Amigos High, said that his father started training him to play the beautiful game from the age of 6. He continued to do so as one of his club coaches with the Slammers FC.
Soccer comes first for the Montano family. The Lobos’ center attacking midfielder showed how much he loves soccer by quitting his job as carousel operator at South Coast Plaza for this season.
“I quit for this specific year because I knew that we were going to do something this year,” Montano said. “I wanted to give my commitment and my time.”
Montano had held the job for the previous two seasons, often having to leave in a hurry when practice got extended or at the conclusion of games.
Lobos coach Chris Sandro said that Montano made every effort to be around the team then, and there was little doubt in his mind that he was going to promote the senior to captain.
“When you step back and look, who leads when you’re not there,” Sandro said. “Who gets them going for the warmups? Who’s in the middle leading the stretches?
“Since I don’t want to actually just select someone, I want to see who is choosing to lead naturally, and I make them the captain.”
Sandro has a unique coaching style. Seemingly never at a loss for words, he manages every facet of the field. Montano appreciates the fact that his coach acts as a second set of eyes for his squad.
“He tells us during our game where to be and what to do,” Montano said. “It’s heads up because it’s a different perspective from outside the field.
“He can see the field better than us because we’re just focused in one area, whereas he can see the whole field. It gives us guidance.”
As a freshman, Montano won a Garden Grove League title at the junior varsity level. The Lobos went 9-1 in league.
Montano spent the last two years on varsity, and the team did not experience nearly as much success. In his sophomore year, the team finished fifth in league. The following season, Los Amigos placed third, dropping its CIF Southern Section Division 5 wildcard match 1-0 to Kennedy.
Los Amigos (13-2-1, 7-1 in league) has put it all together in Montano’s senior season. The Lobos have 16 seniors on the roster, and the other seven players are all juniors.
Big wins against Santiago (16-3-2, 6-1) and Loara (10-5-2, 6-2) in the past week have Los Amigos in the hunt for its first league title since 2013. Sandro considers that to be a drought, as the program has won nine league championships since the turn of the century.
“I think we have experienced enough frustration, enough of our own undoing, that we’re ready,” Sandro said. “We’re done with that. We’re ready to be tested. We want to be tested. We’re hungry.
“Saturday [against Santiago] was a huge test. It’s funny. I told everyone to be [at Los Amigos] at 10:30 a.m., and when I showed up, I saw zero kids, but I saw a bus.
“I walked over, and I got on the bus, and they’re all sitting there waiting for me. That doesn’t really happen with teenagers.”
Montano has amassed 11 goals and five assists. With the offense that he has provided in the midfield, Montano is playing like his idol Andrés Iniesta.
He discussed what appeals to him about the former World Cup champion with Spain.
“He’s just smart on the pitch, the way that he touches the ball, the way that he turns with it,” Montano said of Iniesta. “It amazes me to see someone with that high intelligence in the game.”
Montano also has the ability to think on his feet. He stated that trigonometry is part of his class load. When he was put on the spot in being asked for the sine of 30 degrees, he promptly responded, “One half,” the correct answer.
Los Amigos offered up a clinical performance in the first half to defeat Loara on Friday. If the Lobos can continue to play that way, Montano has hope that, regardless of level, he can bookend his Los Amigos career with league championships.
“I remember my freshman year, we were [junior varsity] league champs,” Montano said. “Hopefully, we’ll be doing the same [on varsity] this year.”
Born: June 15, 2001
Hometown: Santa Ana
Height: 5 feet 11
Weight: 170 pounds
Coach: Chris Sandro
Favorite food: Carne Asada Tacos
Favorite movie: “Goal!”
Favorite athletic moment: Montano scored a goal in the finals for his club team two years ago. His Slammers FC 16-and-under team beat Legends FC 3-1.