Four of the five area boys’ soccer teams were able to extend their seasons by advancing to the CIF Southern Section playoffs last season. Just one program made it beyond the first round.
Flintridge Prep was the lone team to win a league championship, while Crescenta Valley, St. Francis and Glendale all qualified for the postseason in 2019 and Hoover came up just short in its quest for the playoffs.
Each squad appears to have the pieces in place to take a shot at appearing in the postseason in February and all of the teams will return their coaches.
Four of the squads will reside in new divisions after the CIF Southern Section realigned its seven divisions in October.
Here is a closer look at the teams.
Flintridge Prep enjoyed another impressive season, winning its third Prep League title in a row. Flintridge Prep finished 14-7-1, 5-1 in league before reaching the second round of the Division VI playoffs, falling to host Pacific, 3-0.
Another league championship and playoff appearance could be again within reach for Flintridge Prep, which will return most of its core under the guidance of coach Esteban Chavez.
“We definitely want to win league again and we like our group,” said Chavez, who also coaches the school’s girls’ team. “It’s just about consistency as far as standards and our players have a lot more experience.
“If we can continue to be consistent, then I like our chances at winning league. There are other good teams in our league, like Pasadena Poly. Our players are very capable of continuing to do good things.”
The Rebels will be paced by junior midfielder Silas Chavez, who finished with 14 goals and 17 assists to earn an All-CIF first-team nod last season. He will be joined by senior forward Simon Siskel, senior midfielder Nick Klatsky, senior defender Jason Kreimberg and junior defender Andrew Odom.
Flintridge Prep will be in Division VI this season.
Crescenta Valley came up just short of winning a second straight Pacific League title last season. The Falcons finished second in league behind Burroughs.
Crescenta Valley went 11-8-4, 9-2-3 in league and lost to Brea Olinda, 3-0, in a Division III first-round road match last season.
The Falcons will have plenty of seniors on board this season to provide stability and leadership on the field for coach Grant Clark.
“We came so close last season to winning league and that makes our guys hungrier to come back and try to win league again this year,” said Clark, whose team will now reside in Division IV. “We know we’ll have to try to chase and catch Burroughs to have a shot at winning league. There are also other good teams in our league.
“We have lots of seniors and there’s been good competition at practices. We’ll see who wants to play more than the rest.”
Crescenta Valley will be anchored by senior midfielder Talon Carvalho, senior forward/midfielder Eric Cho, senior forward Argin Baharian and senior goalkeeper Nick Shahbandarian.
A season ago, St. Francis had a young squad that featured eight sophomores and two freshmen in and out of the starting lineup. Now, St. Francis will be anything but young with six seniors. For good measure, St. Francis will have 14 returners.
It’s left veteran St. Francis coach Glen Appels eager to see how the Golden Knights grow with an eye on moving up in the competitive Mission League.
“We’re looking good and we have another year of experience under our belts,” said Appels, whose team went 10-9-4, 5-4-3 in league for fourth place in league before falling to Newbury Park, 1-0, in a Division II first-round road playoff match. “We think that experience will help us and we are heading in the right direction.
“With league, it’s always going to be hard. It looks like it normally does with all six teams competing for four [automatic] playoff spots.”
St. Francis will be bolstered by senior goalkeeper Luis Granados, who recorded five shutouts and averaged close to 11 saves per match en route to receiving All-CIF accolades last season.
St. Francis, which will now be in Division I, also returns senior defenders Ethan Gould, Michael Gallegos and Smir Sheikh and senior midfielders Carlos Monserratt and Max Weideman-Escobedo.
Glendale found itself in contention for the Pacific League title before coming up short and finishing in fourth place last season. The Nitros went 11-9-3, 8-4-2 in league and lost to host Schurr, 4-2, in a Division IV wild-card match last season.
The Nitros are back at work looking to win their first league title since the 1980s.
“It’s time to go out and try to win league,” Glendale second-year coach Brandon Weisman said. “We were in first place in league for a while and we weren’t able to finish. So, we have to learn how to finish this season and I like our chances.
“The pieces are there to contend and we’ll be returning a lot of our starters.”
Glendale brings back senior goalkeepers Hrak Tahmasian and Edgar Ovasapyan and junior midfielders Anri Sahakyan and Vincente Sanchez.
Glendale will be in Division V this season.
It turned out to be a rebuilding season last year for the Tornadoes, who finished 5-9-8, 4-6-4 in the Pacific League for fifth place.
This season, Hoover should be experienced in the midfield and forward positions, while looking to rebuild its defense.
Hoover coach Jason Umansky said the Tornadoes are up to the task to head in the right direction.
“I think it will be an interesting year,” said Umansky, who begins his second season at Hoover. “Ideally, we’d like to make the playoffs. It’s going to have to start on the back line in order for that to possibly happen.
“In league, Burroughs and Crescenta Valley will be right there. Everybody else will be fighting for those last two automatic spots for the playoffs.”
Hoover, which will stay in Division V, will be led by senior forward Kevin Mirzakhanian, senior centerback Julian Ruiz and senior midfielder/defender William Morales.