COSTA MESA — Kaiser Elementary's first-year coach Michael Vrbas has enough trouble getting his own named spelled correctly in the newspaper. Now he will have to make sure his son Conrad has the same consideration, as the youngster took the first touch after the starting whistle and scored the first of Kaiser's four goals against Pomona in a boys' third- and fourth-grade bronze division game of the Daily Pilot Cup Wednesday.
The final was 4-0 and despite tremendous effort from Pomona, Kaiser had control from the start. After the younger Vrbas scored on the first possession, dribbling the ball from midfield seamlessly without any other feet touching the ball, and scoring his only goal of the game. The very next possession belonged to the tallest player on the field as he was assisted by the smallest player on Kaiser's team. Caden Garrido, a Kaiser midfielder, scored off an assist from Jonathan Sparks. Sparks said he could see a scoring opportunity open up before his eyes as Garrido came streaking down the field.
"I saw Conrad was outside, and Caden was opening up in the middle, so I kicked it to him," Sparks said.
First-year Pomona coach Conrad Gonzalez tried to encourage his team despite a very quick 2-0 deficit. As a former professional soccer player in Guatemala, he leaned on his experience as a player in having to overcome a strong team. He also understood, after his team had to settle for a 0-0 draw in the previous day's game, they would need a victory or be eliminated from the tournament. There were moments, particularly in the first half, that Pomona gathered momentum, but when Kaiser added a third goal before the end of the first half, it seemed to put the game out of reach for Pomona. However, the players played hard through the whole game, leading player Vrbas to remark, "It was challenging… like driving through rocks."
Once the second half was underway, it was Garrido who put the fourth and final goal in the net and led Kaiser off the field at the end of regulation and through a tunnel of loving spectators.
Coach Vrbas is in his first year coaching in the Pilot Cup, and despite having only two alternates to use as substitutes through the game, he believes his team can advance deep into the tournament and play on Sunday. They practiced five times last week and scrimmaged Kaiser's silver team, a game they were victorious in and offered them a lot of confidence coming into the tournament.
"I am super proud of them, that's all I can say." Vrbas said. "Definitely not making plans for Saturday, except soccer, Saturday and Sunday."
And about his own son scoring the first goal in the first 25 seconds of the game, "That was just ridiculous. He went all the way, took it to the house. Obviously very proud, that's why I have him up there."
Although the first two goals came admittedly easily according to the younger Vrbas, the rest of the game was very challenging and the win rewarding. Although he freely admitted the best part of playing in the Pilot Cup is "that you don't have to do much homework." Something Garrido was surprised to discover.
The Kaiser Knights face Andersen Friday at 6:45 p.m. to determine whether they advance or not.