Dong-Gi Shin's first season at Costa Mesa High did not turn out as expected. The Mustangs never won a boys' soccer match in Orange Coast League play two seasons ago.
The reason why the team failed to record a victory in league had nothing to do with talent.
"We couldn't win because [we were] not helping each other and supporting each other," said Shin, adding that it bothered him that the captains on the team messed around. "We were blaming each other when [the opposition would] score on us. I couldn't do anything because I was a sophomore."
Shin wanted to speak up, but he had a problem coming up with the right words.
He did not speak English.
Shin was still adjusting from leaving his homeland, South Korea, for the U.S. He moved with his mother and sister, his father stayed behind.
Shin said he came to this country for a better education. Playing soccer was the last thing on his mind when he arrived on the Costa Mesa campus in the middle of his freshman year.
In fact, he said he detested the sport, the physical and verbal abuse coming from his coaches back home. Soccer played a role in his family's decision for him to have a change of scenery.
Shin had played soccer since he was 6 years old. The game was over for him when he entered high school. He was 5-foot-2, and he said no coach wanted him because of his lack of size.
"I quit soccer because I was really small," Shin said. "If you're small in soccer [back in my country], you can't play.
"My mom decided to move to America."
Shin remembers the date he arrived in the states as if it was the day he was born.
The date was March 24, 2008, and it marked the first time Shin was in another country. He was thrilled, and then the excitement faded.
All Shin had was his sister, Hea Jung, to hang around with on campus. He had no friends. He could not communicate with other students.
The one universal language Shin understood was soccer. He found out Costa Mesa had a team and he tried out his sophomore year.
Costa Mesa Coach Alex Cordoba said he is thankful Shin came out because the midfielder has developed into one of his leaders this season. Shin has also grown since he first joined the program, as he's 5-11.
Shin not only can carry a conversation in English now, but he can also carry his team on his shoulders.
The Mustangs are winning and much of the credit goes to Shin's play in his senior season. He leads the team with nine goals, and has Costa Mesa in second place in league, in prime position to reach the CIF Southern Section playoffs for the first time during his three seasons at the school.
Shin has led the Mustangs (7-8-2, 3-3-0 in league) to three wins in their last four league matches. The latest victory was on Wednesday and it is by the far the biggest since Shin arrived at Costa Mesa.
Shin scored twice in the Mustangs' 4-1 victory at Estancia, giving Costa Mesa its first win against its rival since Jan. 31, 2007.
The rivalry between the two schools is something Shin picked up on really fast. The day before the match, Shin talked about two goals.
"I seriously want to make CIF and then I really want to beat Estancia," said Shin, who contributed to both causes.
The second round of league play began Friday against first-place Godinez. There are four league matches left for the Mustangs to secure one of the league's three postseason berths.
Shin is going to make the most of his opportunity, in hopes of helping Costa Mesa qualify for the playoffs. He does not want his final high school season to end so quickly.
"When I was a sophomore, I was thinking like, "I still have two more years left,'" Shin said. "Right now, I'm like, 'Oh crap! It's my last year.'
"I really love Mesa because I just have good memories playing soccer here. I want to have a really good season here."
The season is turning out that way for Shin.
Hometown: Seoul, South Korea
Born: Dec. 5, 1992
Weight: 145 pounds
Sport: Boys' soccer
Coach: Alex Cordoba
Week in review: Shin scored two goals and assisted on another in helping the Mustangs win two straight Orange Coast League victories.