High Schools: Prep soccer taking hit

Corona del Mar High's George Larsen coaches four CdM students on a boys' soccer team that isn't a part of the school.

The four students played for Larsen last season with the Sea Kings and CdM enjoyed success. The Sea Kings were one win away from competing for a second straight CIF Southern Section title.

This season, the foursome is still with Larsen, but playing for the under-18 academy team he coaches with the Rancho Santa Margarita Pateadores.

These four students would've been the best players this season at CdM. The reason why striker Mason Case, defender Jack Gorab, goalkeeper Connor Gaal and defender Greg Allen aren't suiting up for the Sea Kings for their senior year is that they have chosen to participate with the Pateadores.

"It has to do with what U.S. Soccer wants and it wants [its] top kids doing throughout the calendar year," said Larsen, referring to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. "It's really not about whether or not [U.S Soccer likes] high school or things like that. Jurgen Klinsmann has come in [as the national men's coach] and said, 'I want [it like this].' You can [play high school soccer], but you're not eligible for the academy. It's a rule. You're not allowed to play in two circuits at one time."

Larsen said the reason for the change is that the U.S. wants to develop its young soccer talent the same way the European academy system does.

"You've got two or three percent [of the players] in the country playing against each other on a regular basis," Larsen said. "They want that tiered structure. The academy, in terms of youth soccer, is the top of the pyramid, and they want those kids playing. Jurgen said, 'I want them playing a 10-month season minimum.' The schedule has encroached upon high school soccer.

"Before you'd have the fall league, then high school, and then you do the state cup play and into national through the spring and the summer, and now they're going to … a yearly league schedule with playoffs and championships later in the year."

Larsen said the academy now starts in September and goes all the way through into May.

Case, Gorab, Gaal and Allen, who all earned All-Pacific Coast League and Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team honors last year, aren't the only students at CdM not playing for the Sea Kings.

Larsen lost another standout, midfielder Grady Howe, who played last season for the Sea Kings. Howe returned to the Los Angeles Galaxy academy team.

The losses have affected the Sea Kings. The Sea Kings are younger, and in their first three matches of the season, the Sea Kings already have two setbacks, half as many losses as they had the past two seasons combined.

Larsen said striker Jack McBean, a former CdM standout, has made the U.S. national under-22 soccer team.

McBean, who signed a professional contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy as a high school sophomore, turned 17 Thursday.

"His first [Galaxy] game was against Manchester City in that friendly, and a few weeks ago, the last game before the playoffs, he got his first MLS start and scored the only goal for the Galaxy, becoming [at 16] the youngest player in the history of the Galaxy to score a goal."

Corona del Mar and Estancia were ranked in the CIF Southern Section Division III-A boys' basketball preseason poll.

The Sea Kings (5-4), ranked No. 4 in Division III-A, have faced a robust early schedule, playing four opponents ranked in the top 10 in their respective divisions. They were third recently at the Westminster tournament.

Estancia is ranked No. 13 in Division III-A.


Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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